Written by John Williams
Photography by John Williams
“After our wedding, my wife said she wanted to go somewhere ‘far away’ for a holiday, so we decided on New Zealand – you can’t get any further away from Germany than that,” laughs Patrick Welzenbach, baker and co-proprietor of Daily Bread, Point Chev’s wonderful new café-bakery.
Incredibly, Welzenbach is a 22nd-generation baker. Think about that for a second – that’s 600 years of baking, give or take. He tells me that when he looks back at his family tree, it mentions that Napoleon Bonaparte bought a baguette from his family. “Well, maybe he didn’t pay for it, but he definitely ate it,” he says, smiling.
After talking with Welzenbach for just a few minutes, it’s clear that he lives and breathes baking. It’s his life. He tells me that even when he goes on holiday he packs his baker’s clothing, just in case an opportunity comes up to work alongside a baker from a different country. And that’s exactly how he arrived here in Auckland.
“When I came to New Zealand on holiday, I met up with Isabel Pasch from Bread and Butter Bakery, and asked her if I could join her in her kitchen for the afternoon. After one hour she said to me, ‘Patrick, you’ve got to stay here. We need you’,” he remembers. “But I was just here on holiday, I didn’t have a work visa, and I already had a business back in Germany.”
After touring around the country, he said to his wife, ‘this country is so beautiful; the people are so nice, why shouldn’t we just stay here?’. “She thought I was a bit crazy, but said, ‘why not?’ So, I handed the business in Germany over to my sister to run and started to work with Isabel at Bread and Butter,” he says. That was three years ago.
At the end of last year, just before the opening of his own bakery, Daily Bread, Welzenbach was named New Zealand’s best baker for his rye sourdough with local organic walnuts and apple, made using a starter that that has been in the family for generations.
“Our family has been using the same sourdough starter for hundreds of years, and we keep it alive every day by feeding it water and flour… and love,” he smiles. “A while ago, my grandfather split the starter and began feeding it in different ways, so now we have white sourdough, rye, spelt, gluten-free varieties. Each of these starters is used to create a different style of bread.”
This magical starter is the genesis for all the bread at Daily Bread, together with organic, spray-free ingredients sourced only from New Zealand. As well as using local wheat, rye and oats, Welzenbach has introduced speciality ingredients into his recipes, such as the kumara in his kumara sourdough, and local walnuts and apple in his award-winning rye sourdough.
“Since I’ve been in New Zealand, I’ve been making the best bread I’ve ever made,” he beams. “It’s interesting, though, because when I first came here I started making my rye bread, which is really popular in Germany, but I have had to change the type of bread I making to suit the Kiwi palette – more white breads, like sourdough.”
As its name suggests, baking is the primary drawcard at Daily Bread, but the holistic vision of Welzenbach and his two business partners – Tom Hishon and Josh Helm of Orphan’s Kitchen fame – is to use natural ingredients and traditional techniques, such as pickling, curing, smoking and preserving, to produce all manner of delicious food – with everything made in house.
This overarching philosophy of knowing the provenance of everything that comes through the doors of Daily Bread has extended way beyond the baking – it now has beehives on its roof, producing honey, and compost bins, to break down its organic waste. It has even started to influence suppliers, with Supreme Coffee creating a special organic blend for them, and Leigh Fisheries now using biodegradable, insulated boxes to deliver produce, instead of the traditional plastic polybins.
On the topical subject of gluten, Welzenbach says Daily Bread’s loaves are completely different to the mass-produced, gluten-laden offerings stacked on supermarket shelves. His bread is made in a traditional way, naturally leavened, and therefore contains a lot less gluten, making it easier on the stomach.
“We fight the gluten with our sourdough starter and a long fermentation time, which is typically over 48 hours. This kills the structure of the gluten,” he explains. “I would say that the one percent of people who are genuinely gluten intolerant should eat only gluten-free breads, but the rest of the population should be OK eating our breads and not feel bad afterwards.” That said, Patrick says they are looking at developing a gluten-free loaf in the very near future.
Daily Bread can be found at 1210 Great North Road, within an impressive chunk of neo-Georgian architecture that sits alongside an otherwise ordinary run of shops. Formerly the ASB bank, the building has an old-world sense of grandeur about it, with remnants of its previous life still evident, such as the huge, walk-in safe that now acts as the bakery’s cold room.
Stepping inside Daily Bread there is an immediate sense of industry, leaving you in no doubt that this is, first and foremost, a working bakery. To one side, a row of large German baking contraptions churn and knead away, while one of the dozen or so staff hand-fills freshly baked donuts with house-made strawberry jam. The counter is laden with trays of glazed hot-cross buns, behind which sit neat rows of Welzenbach’s award-winning loaves and a display cabinet heaving with pastries and savouries.
Seating for patrons is outside, in a closed-off alley alongside the building. This arrangement has worked well since its opening, but with winter fast approaching, plans are afoot to make this area more weather proof, with a permanent roof structure and outdoor heating.
A takeaway deli service is also available, offering organic milk, cold cuts and other produce, and Daily Bread aims to become a regular destination for locals looking for a healthy and natural alternative.