“Bread, to me, is life,” says Jen Acuna, owner of Loafing Around. An avid boogie boarder, she brought her one-person bakery from Connecticut to South Kingstown last year to take advantage of the surf. Acuna shares that the most important ingredient in bread is the flour. “I’m passionate about supporting New England farmers who practice regenerative farming,” she says, noting that they source grains from the Northeast Grainshed Alliance.
“Lean, simple breads are traditionally flour, water, and salt,” she explains. “When you enrich it with eggs, butter, and sugar – like for hot cross buns – that’s a celebration bread.” A bit of a flavor scientist, her hot cross buns lean into warm spices like cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. For the crosses, she’s traditional all the way, preferring to use flour and water followed by a glaze. “[Hot cross buns] are very symbolic of the change of seasons and of new beginnings.” LoafingAroundLLC.com
In less than a year at their storefront location on Main Street in Wakefield, Food and Wine magazine anointed South County Bread Co. best bakery in the state. What began as owner Jeff Collins’ side hustle has exploded into a bakery with an enthusiastic clientele and lines that snake out the door. The JWU culinary grad made a pivot to baking after leaving a marketing job in New Jersey. There, he learned the trade under a World War II veteran who was head baker on a Navy ship.
Like the other items at SoCo Bread Co., the hot cross buns on offer for the holiday have their own spin. “We like taking the traditional and putting a modern twist on it,” says Collins. He plans on using their croissant dough – to which he adds some sourdough starter “to add depth of flavor” – and will include spices like cardamom as well as dehydrated raisins and cranberries. SoCoBreadCo.com
Carolena’s Bakery, which operates out of Gansett Poke in Narragansett’s north end, began last year as a pandemic project for owners Rick and Jenn Armstrong. “There wasn’t an Italian scratch bakery in the area,” says Rick, who uses his grandmother’s recipes for most of the bakery’s delectable goodies.
This is their first year making hot cross buns. Jenn explains the dough is similar to their popular cinnamon rolls, but she’s on the fence about adding dates. “I’m not a fan of fruit in baked goods,” she admits, but notes that if her customers want it that way, she’ll make it. “Our clientele is very specific. Sometimes they’ll bring in their grandmother’s recipe for me to replicate!” But it’s this sort of attentiveness that’s fueled their meteoric growth – they are moving into their own dedicated bakery and retail space just across the street (the former Eddie’s BBQ) in May. Carolenas.com
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