This post was sponsored by Visit PA. We thank them for supporting PA Eats’ missions to highlight local agriculture, celebrate PA food, and fight food insecurity across the state!
In our eyes, bakers are basically magicians. From the most humble ingredients (namely: flour and water) they conjure pillowy rolls, crusty baguettes, tender loaves and chewy bagels. Whether carrying on a longstanding cultural tradition, or forging their own ways, bakers are in a constant conversation with the mysteries of fermentation, communing with the microscopic organisms that preserve and transform our food.
Of course, there is no bread without grains, and Pennsylvania’s deep agricultural roots means that our local bakers have fresh, beautiful flours to work with. This relationship between farmer and baker is nothing new, but it’s been wonderful to see a new wave of artisans and growers connect beneath the fracas of the prevalent industrialized food system. Here in Pennsylvania, that symbiotic connection means a wealth of incredible breads and baked goods across the state, which Visit PA has helpfully organized into a brand-new culinary trail called Baked: A Bread Trail.
From the maize crops of the Monongahela and Lenape tribes to heirloom grits milled in modern restaurant kitchens, grain is a crucial component of our local foodways in PA. The PA Bread Trail website offers insight into the various kinds of grains grown here, their histories and current-day uses; think of it as a quick primer to wheat, corn, barley, rye and buckwheat.
Once you’ve brushed up on your bread knowledge, choose your own adventure by picking one of the five regions that Visit PA has broken out the Bread Trail into: Laurel Highlands; Pennsylvania Wilds & The Alleghenies; Philadelphia, Dutch Country Roads and the Lehigh Valley; Pocono Mountains, Upstate PA & Valleys of the Susquehanna; and Pittsburgh & Pennsylvania’s Great Lakes Region. Each page provides a quick intro to what makes each region unique, and organizes the Bread Trail into 2- to 4-day road trips, with can’t-miss stops packed into every day.
You can interact with the PA Bread Trail in a number of ways! You can simply use it as a directory to discover both new and established bakeries, patisseries, farms and other bread-related attractions near your town or area. Or, you could comb through the places mentioned in a nearby region and make a fun day-trip out if it, picking a few select stops along the way that catch your eye. Or, you can indulge your wanderlust with a full-on road trip that follows Visit PA’s expertise to a tee. Even a simple perusal through the trail’s website might turn you on to makers or farmers in your own community that you weren’t even aware of! How you use this incredible resource is totally up to you!
For example, did you know there is a restored 18th-century grain mill just a stone’s throw from Philadelphia? Yes, Newlin Grist Mill in Glen Mills is a great way to dive deep into the history of grain milling in PA; it also includes a blacksmithing shop, nature trails, a miller’s house, a barn and a beehive! Don’t leave without picking up some coarse ground cornmeal from the gift shop!
Or, have you ever heard of Talking Breads Bakery and Cafe in Mechanicsburg (just 20 minutes from Harrisburg)? Every week, this rural artisan bakery and cafe grinds whole wheat, spelt and rye on its on-site Austrian stone mill! The flours they create are used to make old-world-style breads and pastries, such as ciabatta, seeded sourdough and brioche. Stop into the stunning building set on a beautiful farm for one of its signature boards, like the French Breakfast Board, with a variety of breads, seasonal and local fruits, chutney, and a wedge of Keswick Creamery’s brie drizzled in Honey Bee Friendly’s honey.
If you’ve ever been curious about Old Forge, PA (“The Pizza Capital of the World”), the PA Bread Trail is here to guide you through this wonderland of dough and sauce in NEPA, which is part of Day 2 of the road trip through the Pocono Mountains, Upstate PA & Valleys of the Susquehanna region. And, if you prefer to drink your grains, be sure that Shy Bear Brewing in Lewistown is on your radar. This solar-powered brewery makes a number of brews that feature local grains, like Blue & White For Life Pale Ale, with PA-grown blue corn and wheat from Deer Creek Malthouse.
If you’re ready to hit the road in search of PA’s finest breads, baked goods and beers (not to mention distilleries, historic mills, malt houses and museums), with in-the-know recommendations for where to stay and what to do, check out Visit PA’s PA Bread Trail! Wherever your excursions take you, you’re sure to find something delicious along the way. Hungry for more? Explore Visit PA’s other culinary trails, which include apples, charcuterie, fermented foods, ice cream and maple.
Where are you favorite bakeries in the state? Let us know in comments here, or join the conversation on the PA Eats and Visit PA Facebook pages!
- Feature photo: Bigstock
- Grain photo: Deer Creek Malthouse
- Bread loaves photo: Eddy Marenco for Lost Bread Co.
- Distillery photo: Wigle Whiskey