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New Bakery Preps for Opening at The Plant

By Casey Cora | December 19, 2012 6:41am

BACK OF THE YARDS — The veteran baker stood next to her wood-fired oven and surveyed the space that will soon become her very own bakery.

“I am in it for the long haul,” said Lauren Bushnell, 38, co-owner of Peerless Bread & Jam, a startup bakery that will soon open its doors at The Plant, an innovative sustainable food production facility on the Southwest Side.

The $40,000 custom oven, designed by William Davenport of Turtlerock Masonry Heat, is more or less the centerpiece of the new bakery space, which will kick out items including cookies, bialys, pretzels and breads, after it opens in a month or two.

Bushnell started Peerless — named with a nod to The Plant’s former tenant, the shuttered Peer Foods — with help from her husband Lawrence Rock in May 2012.

An agreement with owners at Lincoln Park’s Floriole Café will let Bushnell bake there overnight and then sell her wares at the Green City Market.

Keeping with The Plant’s ethos, Bushnell — a veteran of Bucktown’s Red Hen Bread, Hyde Park’s Medici on 57th and Wisconsin’s revered Cress Spring Bakery — said her bakery will use firewood or natural wood briquettes to heat its oven, but she’ll explore the creation of a compound of wood and spent grain from The Plant's brewery to create fuel.

Also in the works are a plan to use produce grown at The Plant’s farms and the installation of a “heat exchanger” system to capture the oven’s rising heat and distribute it to flooring and hot water heaters.

About that oven, Bushnell said the learning curve will be high for such a showcase piece of kitchenware. There are several temperature gauges awaiting installation and it has yet go through it’s “first fire.”

But there is as much art in baking as there is science and Bushnell said she’ll experiment until she gets it right.

“There’s some things I know but I have a lot to learn,” she said.