The drive from Madison to Lake Mills takes about 30 minutes. While that may seem a trifle distant just to buy bread, let's just say you're in the mood for a little day trip and looking for a destination.... On the old-fashioned village green that forms the heart of downtown Lake Mills, you'll find Water House Foods/Windsor Breads, a bakery/coffeehouse that opened in early December.
The homemade sweets come from Windsor Breads, of Windsor; the outstanding rustic yeast breads are from Lake Mills' Water House Foods. Yes, it's a little confusing, but never mind. This partnership has promise. The baked goods are displayed on tables in a fashion that looks more like a gift shop than a traditional bakery.
The storefront is operated by Shawn and Rae Rediske of Lake Mills; Shawn is Water House's bread baker and hand forms each loaf. "He's been baking bread for nine or ten years," says Rae, "tweaking the recipes, so he can truly say they're his."
The couple is in the process of establishing a kitchen on-site and hopes to have a deli operating as well by May, just in time for the vacation season.
In-store, order a cup of Milwaukee's Stone Creek Coffee, lean back in a deep leather sofa, and indulge in a cookie, scone, or muffin. Inventive combinations are in the house, especially on the muffin end. Take the Kickn' Cheddar Sesame Muffins, organic -- like all the bakehouse's products -- made with local cheddar cheese and local milk and eggs. And the muffin harbors a decent kick from the organic cayenne. Looking for something sweeter? Maybe a mint chocolate chip scone would do. Or a soft, buttery cinnamon roll that comes with enough buttercream or maple frosting up topside to frost a cake.
While the sweets are alluring, it's Water House's yeast breads that come close to being works of art. The shop's biggest seller is the rustic garlic and sea salt, says Rae -- "Everybody loves salt." I leave with an olive and rosemary loaf, a more assertive bread that delivers the flavors of the Mediterranean. It's great warm the first day, just as good the second day, with a crust that won't challenge your bite. It reminded me of the artisan rustic olive bread from Milwaukee's lauded Harlequin Bakery.
Among the 15-plus other varieties the Rediskes bake are cherry and roasted pecan, European sourdough, semolina sesame seed, and a new beer bread featuring beer from Lake Mills' Tyranena Brewery. Windsor Breads/Water House Foods (waterhousefoods.com) is located at 110 E. Lake St., Lake Mills, 920-945-0660; closed Mondays.