Meet the bread baker behind your favorite local restaurants

Written for MyCentralJersey.com

There’s nothing like a bite of fresh, homemade bread – crispy on the outside, warm on the inside – to start off a meal at one of Central Jersey’s flagship restaurants.

Jackie Mazza, owner and founder of Knead Baked Goods based in New Brunswick knows that – which is why she puts a little extra TLC in all of the bread products that she bakes, including hand-rolled German-style pretzels, creaked wheat fat boys, olive loaves with citrus and herbs de Provence, challah and brioche.

“Bread is your opportunity to knock it out of the park,” the Somerset resident said. “Everybody loves bread and as a society we have just started to accept kind of crappy bread. So when you get great bread, you know it.”

Mazza, who currently does all of her baking out of Elijah’s Promise’s kitchens at 211 Livingston Ave. in New Brunswick, is the one you can thank for the delectable bread found at the Dinky Bar and Kitchen in Princeton and several restaurants in New Brunswick including the Frog and the Peach, the Dillinger Room, Inc. Restaurant, Destination Dogs and Destination Dogs’ new location in Philadelphia.

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“I’m a small enough operation and I understand flavor patterns so I can help create a type of bread that suits a specific menu and a restaurant’s needs,” she said. “Plus, I’m not so rigid – there’s a dialogue between each restaurant and I.”

With so many restaurants to supply, plus her stand that can be found at Rutgers Gardens Farmers’ Market which is open on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Nov. 18 at 112 Ryders Lane in New Brunswick, Mazza is certainly busy. What also keeps her working is her job as an adjunct chef instructor for the baking and culinary program at Promise Culinary School at Elijah’s Promise.

Elijah’s Promise, which houses a culinary school, bagged lunch program, housing, catering and social services in addition to a soup kitchen, also serves as the home kitchen for several local baking and cooking businesses such as Mazza’s. About once every three months, Mazza teaches cooking students for up to 40 hours a week for one month.

“I think when most people think of Elijah’s Promise, they have a certain image in their minds of who they help,” Mazza said. “However, I have been affected and helped by this organization just as much as someone who would utilize the soup kitchen.”

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Mazza started working with Elijah’s Promise long before they incubated her business or she started teaching there. During her time as executive pastry chef at the Frog and the Peach from 2005 to 2011, she hosted several Promise Culinary School students’ externships and participated in Chess Night, Elijah’s Promise’s annual event.

Following Mazza’s job at the Frog and the Peach and a job as a head baker at a Brooklyn bakery, she founded Knead Baked Goods in 2012 — she decided it was time for her to open her own business. Besides her love of bread baking – she came from the New York Restaurant School with a smile on her face as she told her mother, “Look, my wrists are swollen from kneading bread” – a sense of competition pushed her to hone her baking skills.

“There was a fellow pastry chef at the Frog and the Peach who I didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with, and he was really into baking bread,” she said. “I am very competitive, and there was no way his buns were going to be better than mine.”

One she was able to get cooking space from Elijah’s Promise, Mazza spent one year solely making her famous German pretzels – flavored with roasted Jersey Corn and cheddar, date, blue cheese and honey, pastrami and rye and sweet potato-Korean chili and lime – and then moved into wholesale baking as she created more product offerings.

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Then, she got her big break – she got a call from CNBC’s Restaurant Startup in 2014 and went on the show.

The show, which features two businesses pitching to two investors, one of which will then move on to opening a popup business, didn’t leave Mazza the opportunity to open the popup but she said that she feels that she “lost in the best way.”

“You can get bogged down in the little things,” she said. “The show forced me to examine certain aspects of my business that I hadn’t. Plus, celebrity restaurateur Joe Bastianich said my pretzels were the best he ever had.”

Following Mazza’s stint on Restaurant Startup, she also made two appearances on the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen in 2015. However, it’s certainly not the bits of television fame that have kept Mazza in the business and now have her on the hunt to have her own facility and work with even more local restaurants.

“It’s so personal feeding someone – there’s no greater feeling than making something for someone and they love it,” she said. “Baking bread just feeds my soul.”

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

How to make your own Knead Baked Goods-inspired German-style pretzels

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon fresh yeast
  • 2 1/4 cup water
  • 3 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • Egg whites
  • Course sea salt
  • Baking soda solution: 10 cups water and 2/3 cup baking soda

Instructions

  1. Boil baking soda and water together to make Baking Soda Solution
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  3. Line sheet pans with parchment paper or foil and spray with pan spray
  4. Combine water and yeast
  5. Combine flour and butter
  6. Mix the two together.  Once the mixture looks shaggy, slowly add salt
  7. Begin kneading when mixture forms a ball
  8. Knead for five to seven minutes
  9. Cover and let rise until double in size.
  10. Portion into equal sizes (I use 4.5oz)
  11. Roll portions into long ropes
  12. Place “rope”in a U shape
  13. Twist ends three times
  14. Pull ends down to the bottom of the U
  15. Dip into baking soda/water solution
  16. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with course salt
  17. Bake 7-11 minutes or until golden brown

KNEAD BAKED GOODS

Contact: kneadbakedgoods.com, 732-718-2944, kneadbakedgoods@gmail.com

Available for: Catering, restaurant wholesale and cake/cookie/cupcake orders

Or, find Knead Baked Goods at: The Rutgers Gardens Farmers’ Market on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Nov. 18 at 112 Ryders Lane in New Brunswick

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