New Hanapepe Bakery
Midnight Bear Breads has grown a lot since I first covered them in Dec. 2011. I’m convinced it has everything to to with their artisanal, handcrafted approach. I had a chance to catch up with owners Ursa Swift and Evan McAfee at their new store located in downtown Hanapepe.
I was enchanted as soon as I entered their bakery. The smell of fresh baked bread filled the air and a row of golden pastries lined a countertop. A couple sat at a small table in the corner enjoying bear claws and macadamia nut cinnamon rolls.
While Evan was up front, making organic drip coffee, I tried to make a decision. The croissants had just come from the oven, and their flakey insides were filled with lilikoi (passion fruit) and cream cheese; chocolate chips; mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and basil from their garden, and house-made marzipan.
There’s also Even’s creamy hummus. He begins by simmering dried chickpeas and removes the skin as they cook. This is a traditional, labor intensive step, but makes the hummus silky smooth. He roasts whole sesame seeds and blends them into tahini, toasts whole cumin seeds then grinds them, and adds juice from local lemons. I can easily go through an entire tub, if I have Ursa’s delectable bread to spread it on.
Evan just got a melanger, a tool used to grind cocao pods into chocolate. He uses it to grind roasted macadamia nuts into a lose nut butter. He also makes a chocolate version as well as raw mac nut butter, raw sesame seed tahini and a roasted sesame seed tahini. On the day I go, he has 17 pounds of Hanapepe grown chocolate on hand. I can’t wait to see what he does with that!
Typically, Ursa and Evan start their day at 2 a.m. It’s their favorite time of the day, because as they drive along the empty highway, everything is quiet and the moon sometimes reflects on the ocean. The dough was made the day before, with a five year old sourdough starter Ursa made when she first opened. At the bakery, she pulls it from the cooler and effortlessly shapes it into baguettes and loaves. She invited me to shape a few loaves while Dan took pictures of Evan in the outdoor garden.
Once the dough is shaped, Ursa sets them to rise in a baker’s couche, or non-stick cloths. After shaping the loaf, she sets it on the cloth, brings up a little wedge and folds it neatly between two loaves. They rise until double their size then Ursa scores the tops in curvy patterns. The couple invested in a Bongard oven with 1-inch stone tiles, five decks and steam injection. This allows them to bake eight loaves per level and 40 loaves in one morning.
I’m a sucker for good crumb, and the texture of the French Sourdough loaf is exquisite: moist and springy interior with a chewy hard crust. I could live on her bread alone! Ursa uses organic white flour in all of her breads, but if you want something with a little more nutrition, the Country Sourdough has whole wheat and rye, and the Multigrain includes nine types of whole grains.
Other flavors include rosemary and Hawaiian sea salt; olive ciabatta; sesame sourdough; caraway rye; roasted garlic and rosemary; pumpkin cranberry walnut; rain walnut; taro sourdough; breadfruit sourdough; Hawaiian sweet bread; cinnamon raisin swirl and Okinawa sweet potato rolls. Gluten-free options include focaccia with herbs and garlic olive oil; sandwich bread made with brown rice and a round loaf with six types of seeds.
If Hanapepe is a drive for you, try going on Friday nights during Art Night (6 to 9 p.m.) Artists hang out in galleries and talk to
customers, musicians play in the street and food vendors line the walkways. This is the only night Hanapepe Cafe is open and besides dinner in the restaurant, they sell freshly made soup right out front. Midnight Bear Breads is right next to them, so you could grab a loaf to go with your soup. Or, if you prefer, you can get a pizza right from the oven!
Midnight Bear Breads is open Monday and Wednesday 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Fridays 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pizza and sandwiches are also available at lunch and Evan says tarts and bread pudding will soon be available. You can also find them at the Namahana farmers market in Kilauea every Saturday, or the KCC farmers market, also on Saturdays. Midnight Bear Breads are also sold at health food stores around the island.
Midnight Bear Breads
3830 Hanapepe Rd.
Hanapepe, HI 96716