Food & Drink Review: Bread Winners

Rachel and Brad Cottle create loaves and dishes with the help of ovens named Hansel and Gretel.


The Cottles offer loaves ranging from cheddar garlic to the multi-seed Dakota bread. (ROBERTO GONZALEZ)

I am a freely admitted bread snob. There’s nothing quite like the sight and smell of good fresh bread to whet the appetite, and it’s a welcoming blend of art and science that leads to the wall of loaves at Great Harvest Bread Co. The shop opened in December, selling bread baked just a few steps away and serving breakfast, sandwiches and salads.

Owners Rachel and Brad Cottle (he a Disney guest relations veteran) live by the mission statement chalked on the wall: “Bake phenomenal bread, run fast to serve, and give generously.”

The operation is the epitome of in-house alchemy, turning grain into a variety of loaves. Wheat “berries” (whole wheat kernels) in 60-pound sacks arrive from the Great Harvest fields in Montana and are ground in a small, fragrant chamber in the kitchen. Kneaded, risen and shaped, dough enters a massive oven that can make 180 loaves at a time (it’s called Hansel; Gretel is the smaller oven where cookies, muffins and biscuits are produced). Great Harvest’s three staple breads—honey whole wheat, farmhouse white and the multi-seed Dakota—share shelf space with a rotating schedule of cheddar garlic, cinnamon chip and potato fennel thyme breads, teacakes and sweets. Sandwiches include the Big Sky salad of chicken, raisins and artichoke hearts, and a spicy apple bacon grilled cheese.

“One day I said to my wife, I kind of want to open a Great Harvest,” Brad recalls. “She said, I think you’re crazy, but …” The company is what’s called a freedom franchise, operating under a loose template set by the home office, but with local flexibility. Founded in Great Falls, Montana, in 1976, Great Harvest has more than 200 franchises from the Gulf to the Canadian border, Alaska and Hawaii. The Cottles learned the business from the ground up, having never run their own before. There are two bread bakers and two sweets bakers working here, people who came walking in the door at open interviews, without baking experience. “Let’s do this together,” Brad told them.

“We are first and foremost a bakery,” he says. “The bread is so stinking delicious.”

The Cottles have picked an interesting neighborhood to set up shop, with Snap! Gallery across the street, boutique ice cream Greenery Creamery and Wine & Corks around the corner, and Lake Eola two blocks away. Sounds like the makings of a perfect art and picnic afternoon.

More Goodness

If you’re looking for other locally baked goodies, here are some new additions to satisfy the urge.

Audubon Park Market: Two relatively new small-batch bakers visit on Monday nights: Angela Smith’s Black Cat Baked Goods, baking joyously chunky English muffins, Italian anise cookies and hearty sourdough country loaves; and Edward Neal-Paci of Edward’s Gourmet Confections, who crafts award-worthy fritters and hand pies, guava and cheese pastelitos and double dark brownies. 1842 E. Winter Park Road.

Sodiê Doces: A 300-plus-location bakery chain in its native Brazil, the I-Drive emporium is the first in the U.S., offering sweet and savory pastries like empanada-inspired pies and coxinha croquettes, and classic Brasileira favorites like coconut toalha felpuda and chocolate brigadeiro com avelã cakes. 5696 International Drive,

Le Ky Patisserie: Baker Uyen Tran melds classic French baking with the Vietnamese flair for unique flavors. Think chocolate sea salt cookies, flaky but sandwich-worthy croissants and giant palm-sized macarons. 2411 Curry Ford Road.

Bagel World: This New Smyrna Beach mainstay will soon be bringing fresh-daily bagels, bialys and breakfast sandwiches to Orlando’s North Quarter area, in the former Two Chefs Seafood spot. 743 N. Magnolia Ave.

Categories: Food & Drink, Reviews