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Sunday, March 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 27.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Flour power: Art space: Batch Bakehouse
Madison's second wave of high-end bakeries
Pastry masterminds Mandy Puntney (left) of 4 & 20 and Lauren Carter of Batch Bakehouse.
Pastry masterminds Mandy Puntney (left) of 4 & 20 and Lauren Carter of Batch Bakehouse.
Credit:Chris Hynes

The first of the second-wave bakeries was Batch Bakehouse. It opened its doors down near Yahara River in late 2009 in a space that already had ovens from the prior tenant, Pavlov's Pizza.

This small, quiet, full-service bakery quickly became a foot-traffic sensation on the east side, where there hadn't been such an option before.

Commuter bike traffic stops on the weekdays, and residents from as far away as Olbrich Gardens stroll down on weekends for everything from monkey bread to choco-raspberry croissants, as well as breads like challah and fougasse.

Batch has been doing such a lively business that in a few months it's moving down the street into a larger space vacated by the bike shop Cronometro.

The current baking space at Batch, in the back, feels like an art studio. Long, low tables are framed by shelves and storage, and one imagines potters just as comfortable here as bakers.

Lauren Carter, pastry chef, says the space is an important component of what Batch does: "You come in and it is addictive. There's this atmosphere, and with it an attitude. Music is playing, everything smells good, and you simply can't be in a bad mood."

If it is true that mood is a key ingredient to cooking and baking, then the Batch space seems ideally suited to happy, creative flour-workers.

Carter, who has a master's degree in French literature, went to pastry school in Chicago and worked for a time at L'Etoile. She then left Madison for Seattle before returning to bake at Batch. She and her husband were hoping to return to the Midwest to be closer to family, and she saw the baking job advertised.

"I arrived in town the day we opened," she says, "and it's been a whirlwind ever since. I don't think I even unpacked for about six months."

Carter's husband helps with the bookkeeping, and they are now co-owners with another couple, Ian Gurfield of Ian's Pizza and his wife, Susan Detering, who is the bakery's retail manager. Together, they have grown the business in three short years from two employees to roughly 15.

Gurfield thinks that most of Batch's business is new, not competing with or supplanting existing bakeries. However, he adds that Batch may have pushed out some commercial par-baked options at grocery stores. (The par-baking process involves partially baking loaves, shipping them frozen, and then rebaking them onsite. La Brea is a common par-baked brand available in Madison.)

To keep up with demand, Carter and the other bakers often put in 12-hour-plus days; on Saturdays she comes in at 1:30 a.m. and doesn't leave until the afternoon. "You get used to it," she says, "but it takes a lot of discipline."

Batch has a large picture window between Carter's pastry area and the front counter. She can be seen there waving at regulars through the glass. "I love seeing people come in in the mornings," she says, "and looking happy while picking out a favorite treat for themselves."

To put in your bag: Favorites include a variety of Carter's crispy croissants (her favorite thing to make), especially the popular vanilla swirl and ham and cheese.

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