Goshen has a European bakery. A really, really good European bakery.
A lot of people already know that. If you go to Rachel's Bread on a Saturday morning, you'll likely wait in line for a baguette. If you get there too late, you won't get a chocolate croissant, though if the employees know you and you call in time, they may put one back for you. About half the week's sales come in those five hours the bakery is open on Saturdays.
Since 1994, Rachel Shenk has operated the bakery bearing her name. She'd lost her job as an archivist and decided to open the bakery. Her husband, Jim, stayed home with their children and she started baking in the basement of the Old Bag Factory.
She gained a following. When Dave Pottinger recruited her to be a charter vendor in the Goshen Farmers Market in March 2002, she moved and her fans followed her.
And the number of fans grew. A dedicated group of customers rely on her for hearty bread that is the antithesis of Wonder. People wouldn't wait in line for this bread if it wasn't so satisfying, so full of flavor.
Her sourdough starter isn't as old as her business, but it's nearly a teenager by now. The wild yeast in the air from nearly a decade of baking in the former lumber company makes the work of Rachel, now Jim and their four employees a lot easier than it used to be.
But at its heart, baking bread is one of the simplest things you can do and one of the most complex. And Rachel is a master. A few years ago, she and Jim, who makes guitars, put in a wood-fired oven. She bakes bread in it and he makes pizza in it. They use it for other things, including the entree of striped bass with prosciutto that they were planning to be part of Friday night's dinner.
At least once a year, Rachel thanks her customers with a meal. Those buying bread get an invitation in the weeks preceding. And Rachel prepares breads, spreads and puts out cheese. Last summer's bash was an amazing meal laden with wheels of cheese, desserts and rich, European fare.
Rachel's Bread usually offers simple breakfasts of fruit, fritattas and breads and lunches of soup, salads and sandwiches.
Bread is part of any meal there. And it's the bread and pastries that set Rachel's apart from other eating establishments.
The bakery makes around 20 types of bread and their availability follows a schedule. My current favorites are the cranberry walnut and the wood-fired baguette that is hearty. The Belgian breakfast bread is one of my go-to items for breakfast. I try to grab a day-old loaf of whole wheat honey when I can. And the flaxseed sourdough that Rachel favors right now is really nice as well.
In addition, the bakery has about a dozen pastries, including croissants made plain or filled with chocolate or spinach. I know that a chocolate croissant will never fail to make my wife very happy.