2019 marks a ten-year anniversary for Jen Welty and 9 Bean Rows Bakery in Suttons Bay, slinging sourdough boules and flaky croissants to rival the finest French patisseries. We sit down to carb load and talk cold weather bread, Leelanau terroir and new beginnings. Then, raid more of the North’s best bakeries.

9 Bean Rows

9000 E. Duck Lake Rd. (M-204), Suttons Bay | 231.271.6658

While most of Leelanau County sleeps, ovens roar to life and drive out the pre-dawn chill at the 9 Bean Rows farmstead bakery on M-204. Peaking thermals ricochet off dozens of swelling croissants, the North’s best, and airy paté a choux, unleashing heady maillard aromas while turning them crisp and tawny. Rustic sourdough loaves and baguettes rise on steel speed racks while proprietress Jen Welty and her team of bakers work in what she calls choreographed chaos rolling out pastry, spiking cake batter with squash purée and winter spices for pumpkin donuts and fanning apple slices for caramelly tarte tatin.

As the November morning insinuates itself on to frosty fields and bare branches, the bakery cases fill and over 1,000 perfect croissants are shunted out the door to wholesale accounts from Northport to Charlevoix.

Foodie File:
9 Bean Rows Owner/Baker Jen Welty

As a seasonal baker what excites about late fall?

Pumpkin donuts. We made 60 dozen this week and I’ll eat one every day until they’re done. We also love using apples from the harvest to make tarte tatin, which is a French upside-down apple tarte.

What’s your go-to loaf for soup season?

With the start of winter I like to move toward richer, darker earthier breads like our classic pain de campagne made with whole grain wheat and rye. These are made from what we call rustic hydration doughs so they have a higher crust to crumb ratio that’s great for soups and stews.

There’s a lot of talk about Leelanau terroir in wine and agriculture, does this translate to bread?

I think our products are made unique by our weather and our water. We have our own well on the property and something in the chemistry between that water and yeast makes my sourdough starter smell like chardonnay. Our bakery is only heated by the ovens so we’re always battling the weather. If the door is left open and the temp drops to 50 degrees inside, our breads will ferment differently and take longer to rise, which will change the flavors and textures.

What’s next for 9 Bean Rows?

We landed a Michigan Department of Ag grant that’s allowing us to expand our facility. We’re building a pavilion and outdoor eating area to go with our wood-fired pizza oven and the next phase involves a huge outdoor fireplace or wood-fired cookery.

More Northern Michigan Bakeries

Hit up these Up North artisan bakeries for crusty loaves to help you metabolize the cold.

Traverse food and drinks editor Tim Tebeau writes from Petoskey. dining@traversemagazine.com. // Dave Weidner is a freelance photographer based in Traverse City. dweidnerphoto@gmail.com.