In 2009, Geoff Trenholme decided to make a life change. After numerous years of working in the corporate world and teaching high school mathematics, he enrolled in the Artisanal Breads and Pastries program at the San Francisco Baking Institute, a program offering hands-on training with industry experts, including Michel Suas.
Little did he know that the inspiration, knowledge and expertise he would gain at SBFI would lead him back to Wauwatosa, his wife Shannon's hometown.
This week marks the soft opening of Geoff's newest venture, the Rocket Baby Bakery. This labor of love pulls together Geoff's love for bread with his desire to start his own business.
The bakery, located at 6822 W. North Ave., gives a nod to the classic French boulangerie, sporting marble countertops, café-style tables and chairs and a black-and-white, hexagonal-tile floor. But, the Trenholmes hope that the bakery offers a unique experience to its customers.
"We don't want to mimic a Parisian patisserie," Trenholme remarks. "We're on North Avenue. We're American. We're doing Italian breads, German breads, Polish breads, things that are Danish, things that are not at all French. It reflects who we are and what we like."
What the Trenholmes like includes a wide variety of European-inspired artisan products, including classic French baguettes, country sourdough, medium Polish rye, classic white and honey wheat pan breads, ciabatta, croissants, cream scones, muffins and macarons.
When I asked, Trenholme told me that his current favorite happens to be the Polish country rye, a hearty loaf made with 33 percent rye flour and rye sourdough that rises overnight before it's baked into a tender, moist, flavorful loaf that's perfect for sandwiches.
"Bread is like craft brewing," Trenholme explains. "You can make fast beer that's simple and good to drink on a hot day. Or you can have something that's made slowly, in smaller batches, and you'll have a lot more going on. It's all about taking the time."
And Trenholme is all about the process. In addition to working with his colleague, Jesse Schumann, to perfect the art of sourdough, he relies on his Italian deck oven to really make a difference in the baking process.
"It's the modern technological equivalent of a wood-fired oven paired with steam injection," he says. "The French bakers figured this out when they were making baguettes. If you shoot a lot of steam into the chamber when you're baking, it keeps the crust from setting too fast. You get more volume in the crust, as well as caramelization. There's really no substitute for the process when you're making crusty hearth breads."
The Trenholmes also aim to "keep it local" by choosing area vendors to supply their ingredients. They'll be using Yuppie Hill eggs for their pastry cream, Sassy Cow dairy products, as well as other local products sourced through Outpost Natural Foods. They have also committed to serving locally produced Rishi tea, as well as Anodyne coffee.
"We're picking high-quality ingredients in selected areas where we think it really makes a difference. The Yuppie Hill eggs are twice as expensive as common eggs, but we tried them out and we were like, 'Oh my God,'" Trenholme says, quite nearly swooning. "Our pastry cream is just egg yolks and sugar and milk, but you could have sworn we added a flavoring to it. The yolks are so good."
The pastry cream will be used in eclairs, which will be sold at the bakery along with a number of other pastries and sweet treats, including macarons, a specialty item that Geoff's wife Shannon is perfecting.
"Macarons have so much power in their presence," she explains. "You can do so many different colors and flavors. There's so much flexibility for creativity. That's what really excites me. I think they'll surpass the cupcake trend at some point. In California, there are entire shops dedicated just to macarons."
Rocket Baby will begin offering basic breads and pastries. But, they also hope to develop a café menu in the near future, which will feature panini and heartier lunch fare.
"We really want to be a neighborhood place, so we're really focused on community," Sharon remarks. "We already get a lot of people who stop by just to say 'hi' and we love that."
For those wondering about the bakery's name, it was actually inspired by Trenholme's 2-year-old son, Rayden Kevin Trenholme, whose initials R.K.T. form the phonetic basis for the word "rocket." Incidentally, Rocket Baby's grand opening will take place on Rayden's third birthday, April 21, 2012.
Rocket Baby Bakery will be open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.