• UO Journal: Bread Before Dawn


    Urban Outfitters is proud to present Urban Outfitters Journal, a new print publication that represents the culture and stories behind the UO Men’s brand, available now at select Urban Outfitters locations. 

    The early morning—between 3:00am and 5:00am—is a temporal no-man’s land; it’s the time when even the most devout night owls have surrendered to sleep and the early risers haven’t yet had their first cup of coffee. But, no matter where you are in the world, there is a group of dedicated craftsmen awake and baking.

    Baking at this dark, quiet time is a solitary task done in windowless back rooms as the world sleeps. Despite the isolation, bakers aren’t alone; They are united by the odd hours, the fresh, yeasty smells of proofing bread, and the blast of a 500 degree oven. In a city like Los Angeles, you’ll find people preparing and baking everything from donuts and tortillas to baguettes and rye. Whether in a large warehouse or at a kitchen counter, dedication to one of the world’s oldest crafts bonds the late night baker. 
    Words by Brad Barry
    Photos by Nicholas Haggard


    La Mascota — 2:15am

    Though the streets are dark, standing outside of La Mascota in East L.A., the efficient movements of Edward Salcedo and his bakers are visible in a shaft of yellow light escaping from the darkened storefront. His crew is made up of relatives and young bakers that have come to learn the bakery’s methods. His hands move quickly and methodically through mounds of risen dough as he rolls over two thousand bolillos, a baguette-like Mexican roll.  


    Salcedo has been flipping these same Mexican rolls for over 50 years, recreating the recipes passed down from generation to generation. It’s not hard to imagine this process—as well as the jokes and conversations that have become a part of it—continuing uninterrupted for generations to come. 


    Surrounded by stacks of colorful pan dulces and bubbling, oversized pots of tamales, Salcedo uses the same techniques that his father Ygnacio passed when he opened the bakery in 1952. The skills have remained in the family ever since.


    Ms. Donuts — 3:30am

    Ms. Donuts is a 24-hour glowing beacon on a dark stretch of street in Echo Park. Inside, the shop’s late-night employee Bonnara serves fresh donuts, though at this time of the morning, you’ll have to order through the side window. The selection is corner donut shop fare: brightly colored sprinkles, bear claws, and donut holes fill the florescent-lit counter case.


    Bread Lounge — 4:45am

    Nestled in the Arts District of downtown L.A., Bread Lounge is a cafe space connected to a large commercial bakery. Here, bakers work through the night to create the breads and pastries that will be shipped through the city to groceries, hotels, and local restaurants like Republique and Sqirl.


    Baker Ziv Wagner talks with pride about his ingredients; he points out the house-made zaatar that tops the kalamata olive loaf, the fresh apples for the kouign-amann, and the ricotta for their take on the cheese danish. Though loaves of bread quickly fill tray after tray as they are shuttled from the oven, each process has taken much longer. Lifting a sunflower-poppy-seed loaf, Wagner explains, “This is our quickest loaf — it only takes 12 hours.”


    For a baker, no two nights are exactly alike. “Wherever you are in the world,” Wagner says, “there are always changes and fluctuations in temperature and climate and ingredients. The dough is an active, living creature that can act different from day to day. To be a good baker, you have to adjust and give it special attention every single morning.”


    Mark Stambler — 6:45am

    Mark Stambler has baked bread at home for years, and in 2009 began selling his homemade loaves at local stores. In 2011, the Health Department shut down his home-kitchen-based operation, but Stambler spent 18 months learning to write legislation to get a bill passed. That bill went on to become California’s Cottage Food Law in 2013, making it legal to sell home-baked bread throughout the state. 

    Stambler has to walk quietly through his home so as not to wake his wife or son. He’s up every two hours throughout the night to tend to the fire inside his handmade brick oven in the backyard. He mills his own organic wheat and rye at the kitchen table, proofs each towel-wrapped loaf in the refrigerator, and bakes in his vintage-style two-door oven, or outside in his wood-fired brick construction.

    Stacked in wicker baskets on his kitchen table, his loaves have a tanginess and crackling crust. Through years of fine-tuning, he has created some of the best bread in the United States. 


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