Baked & Boiled will bring bagels to Soulard in fall 2023
Over the past 18 months, Alex Pifer has built a loyal following for her Baked & Boiled bagels, selling first at Wild Olive Provisions in Shaw and latterly at Tower Grove Farmer’s Market. Now she’s ready to bring those bagels to Soulard with her first brick-and-mortar bakery, which is set to launch in late September or early October at 1801 S. Ninth St. in the former Sweet Divine space.
A career chef, Florida-born Pifer moved to St. Louis in the summer of 2020 after spending time in various locations around the East Coast and Midwest. After setting up in St. Louis, she worked at Farmhaus in Lindenwood Park as well as at Wild Olive Provisions. She had been experimenting with baking bagels from around six years ago, but only really started to get serious about bagels as a possible profession during the pandemic. “I've always been fascinated by breads because they're like alchemy, you come up with three things and you all of a sudden have this beautiful, fluffy mass of deliciousness,” Pifer said. “That was just something that I've always enjoyed.”
Like so many others, Pifer lost her job at the start of the pandemic. Noticing that bakers seemed like they were positioned to adapt more smoothly to the economic circumstances of the pandemic than people in other areas of the food and hospitality industries, she started leaning into baking for a living. “When we moved here, we realized there's plenty of bread here, but no bagels, so it came naturally,” she said.
Pifer expects Baked & Boiled to be open by the end of September. The bagels and the space itself are ready to go, but Pifer is still fine-tuning a few details and sourcing key items like coffee and cream cheese. “I want to make sure I have all my ducks in a row before we start going crazy,” she said. The 1,500-square-foot space includes the bakery itself, as well as space for two tables and comfy lounge chairs. A further three tables on the front patio will be available for customers who want to stick around to eat their bagels. Pifer said she didn’t need to make many changes to the space, apart from adding a few pieces of equipment specific to bagel production. “We got pretty lucky, it was pretty turnkey when we came in,” she said.
The selection of bagels at Baked & Boiled will be similar to what Pifer has offered at Tower Grove Farmer’s Market. That includes plain bagels, everything, sesame, poppy seed, pumpernickel, jalapeno-cheddar, cinnamon raisin, honey wheat and chocolate chip. Pifer also plans to offer seasonal selections – some of the first will likely be a rosemary-sea salt and a white chocolate-pumpkin bagel, which has been a hit with Baked & Boiled customers on its previous outings. “It has almost the texture of a donut,” Pifer said. “We didn’t want to do a pumpkin spice, because I feel like it’s been done, and I do love it, but I feel like that’s an option that’s already out there. So we wanted to try something different, and then a friend mentioned white chocolate-pumpkin, I ran with it, and it turned out great.”
Pifer believes in her product, describing what she does at Baked & Boiled as “very true to a New York-style bagel.” Producing the bagels is at least a two-day process involving cold fermentation, as well as both boiling and baking. Each of these steps is essential to the end result. “There’s a specific chew that you get in the bagel that gives it a different texture than bread, and that comes with boiling the bagel. And there’s that nice shine and thicker crust on the outside that accompanies it,” Pifer said. “That’s really what you’re looking for in a bagel.”
Bagels will be sold individually with cream cheese as an option, and customers can also take home bagels by the four-pack, half-dozen or dozen. Pifer said she hopes eventually to be able to make her own cream cheese, but for now they’ll be whipping a variety of cream cheese flavors. Pifer said she’s also working on bringing in a vegan cream cheese to cater to customers who don’t eat animal products.
Pifer said that one thing that makes her bagels a little different is a flour blend that is about 25 percent whole wheat, which adds a little more of a nutty flavor to the bagels. “There’s a bit more fiber and protein in them, but they don’t taste like whole wheat,” she said. “Other than that, they’re made traditionally, as they were made by bagel unions in New York.”
Baked & Boiled will be open five days a week initially, from Thursday to Monday. “I’ve noticed a lot of places in Soulard are closed on Mondays, which I’m sure is for a reason, but we’re going to try to cater to the downtown nine-to-fives,” Pifer said. Pifer sees the shop’s business hours emphasizing the mornings and lunchtimes, potentially opening as early as 6 a.m. on weekdays and closing by 1:30 p.m. Weekends will start a little later, possibly 7 a.m. on a Saturday and 8 a.m. on a Sunday, Pifer said.
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