Thursday, June 23, 2011

Good Spirit Bakery & Café, Watson, SK

There are line-ups every Saturday morning in front of Good Spirit Bakery’s array of organic artisan bread at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

When I heard that Peyton Leavitt and Jonathan Lee had opened a bakery in Watson, I knew it was time to take a drive in the country. And I am very glad I did!

Farm-based business
Peyton and Jonathan own a farm near Naicam. They hoped to raise sheep and goats, but when that didn’t work out, they built a wood-fired oven and started selling bread at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

It’s a two-hour journey to Saskatoon from Naicam after a sleepless night spent making bread and that’s extremely tiring, so the couple started looking at other options and finally decided to open a bakery in Watson, 40 kilometers from Humboldt and a local hub for the region.

“We’re still a farm-based business,” says Peyton. “The farm supplies all the meat and eggs, and we’ve planted a huge garden that will soon supply us with fresh produce.”

The couple has worked out a division of labour. Peyton spends her days at the bakery, while Jonathan looks after the farm. Peyton bakes the bread for the Saskatoon market, and Jonathan sells it. But the transition hasn’t been easy. “We’ve always worked together as a couple,” says Peyton. “I’m really homesick for the farm.”

The baker’s son is also a baker
Peyton’s son, Asher Howe, loves good food, so cooking was a natural evolution. He made his first cookbook meal when he was 8.

Asher has been working in construction and renovation right across Western Canada. A few years ago, he decided he would like to contribute to the Good Spirit stand at the market and started making calzones and croissants on an occasional basis. But he loved his work and wasn’t’ ready to become a full-time cook until the opportunity arose to run a family bakery. Now Asher is on board full time and a vital part of the operation.

Charmaine, a Watson local, has become an invaluable addition to the team. Her muffins are so good that they are now her sole responsibility.

Opening a bakery
The first item on the agenda was a complete overhaul of the Watson Bakery. It needed new floors, new walls and a new ceiling. They added large windows on two sides of the building filling the seating area with light. The large old wooden tables, mismatched chairs and stained glass chandeliers, along with the wonderful aroma of fresh-baked bread, create an inviting space.

The large oven, with its many compartments, is out in the open. It’s in constant use all day long as the bakers turn out individual pizzas for the lunch-time crowd, batches of cookies and muffins and racks full of white, whole wheat and multigrain bread.
“We try to have fresh baked goods, still warm from the oven, available all day long,” says Peyton. “We don’t cook everything at once because we want it to be really fresh.”

Peyton and Asher have adjusted their menu to suit their customers. Customers at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market are looking for really healthy, artisan breads. The loaves are crusty and the flavours change every week. The residents of Watson are looking for something a little simpler so that they can make sandwiches for school lunches or toast for breakfast.

But the quality of the baked goods hasn’t changed. The loaves are made with 100% organic flour, honey, olive oil and sea salt. All the bread is started the night before so that it can rise slowly at a cool temperature. The pizzas are made with cold-fermented sourdough and mine was accompanied by a mixed salad topped with fresh berries. Prairie Sun Orchard ice cream is available for dessert.

Saturday brunch
Asher serves an all-day brunch every Saturday, and it sounds fabulous. There is a rotating selection of specialty omelettes, crepes (apple pie, strawberries and cream or spinach and goat cheese) and quiche served with salad, roasted herb potatoes and farm-fresh ham, bacon and eggs.

The most popular item on the menu is the huevos rancheros served with Asher’s homemade mango salsa. All the dishes are vegetarian with a meat option.

Coffee cake and croissants
As I was finishing my lunch, Asher pulled a fragrant coffee cake out of the oven and I took a generous helping home with me.

It was amazing – a rich sour cream, orange-flavoured cake layered with chocolate-almond streusel. It’s a long drive to Watson, but I may have to go back just for another piece of cake.

Asher prides himself on making authentic French croissants. It’s a three-day process as the dough sits overnight before the butter is folded and rolled into the dough four times, resting in the refrigerator between each process. On the third day, the dough is shaped into croissants and then left to rise one last time before going into the oven.

“The secret to great croissants is the layers of butter,” explains Asher. “If you rush, the dough layers aren’t as well separated so you don’t get the same light texture.”

History and crafts
The Watson and District Heritage Museum is housed in a beautifully-restored Canadian Bank of Commerce building, just around the corner from the bakery.

The historical materials are carefully arranged on two floors of the building and set the stage for a grocery store, a hospital ward, a family kitchen and more.

If you leave the bakery and turn in the opposite direction, you’ll find the Wood Bin Gallery with handmade objects created by over 50 local artists.

Location and hours
The Good Spirit Bakery & Café is located at 112 1st Street West, Watson, Saskatchewan, and is open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm and Saturdays from 10 to 4. You can call ahead (to order coffee cake!) at 287-3922.

Good Spirit Bakery, Saskatoon Farmers’ Market


Kiss Me Kate said...

You've just given me an excellent reason (or two) to take a day trip to Watson from Wadena. Some great food and a visit to the museum sound like a perfect excursion. Do you happen to know the hours the museum is open? I've looked longingly at it from the outside on a day when it was closed; wouldn't want to be disappointed again.

Penny McKinlay said...

If you look really closely at the photo of the museum, you'll see a sign stating that their hours are 10-1 and 2-5. There is a student working there for the summer. I don't know if they're open on the weekend. I was there on a Thursday.

Kiss Me Kate said...

I scouted out Watson yesterday (Saturday) afternoon and the museum appeared to be open, but the bakery had a Closed sign on the window. Oh well, next time!