Adam Leonti has been baking bread and making pasta for years, but became a convert to fresh-milled flour only recently, during his tenure as chef de cuisine at Vetri in Philadelphia. Like an increasing number of DIY-minded American cooks and bakers, Leonti and his then-boss, Marc Vetri, traveled to Dr. Stephen Jones’s pioneering Bread Lab at Washington State University and found the variable flavor and perceptible freshness of rare strains of wheat milled on premises a fascinating ingredient to incorporate into pastas, breads, and pizzas. Leonti embarked on a project replacing Vetri’s conventional supply with freshly milled flour, without having the finished products taste unappealingly “wheaty,” he says. “You want it taste like fresh flour, which is something unique, but not like whole-grain pasta that crumbles in your mouth, or heavy, dense pizza, because if it tastes like that it’ll never catch on.” It’s work that the chef intends to continue at his new gig, the forthcoming restaurant at the Williamsburg Hotel, slated to open next spring.
As a means to occupy himself and perfect his craft during the hotel-construction limbo, Leonti has converted part of an East Williamsburg warehouse into a pop-up bakery and lab, equipped with a 20-inch stone mill from North Carolina and an electric deck oven, where he’ll tweak recipes, experiment with various grains, and teach weekly classes. Leonti considers Brooklyn Bread Lab more culinary workshop than retail bakery. “Our goal isn’t to go out there and sell a hundred loaves of bread,” he says. Still, from Wednesday through Sunday, he’ll welcome the public with a limited, rotating menu of current experiments, including whole-grain breads, pastries, Roman-style pizza al taglio, and eventually baked pastas. Everything will be made with natural leavening and whole-grain flour milled from Warthog wheat berries from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Leonti will also churn his own butter and showcase bread in various toast preparations, including the oil-slicked Tuscan fett’unta. With Roberta’s ovens down the street and the new Tartine Bakery opening two blocks away in conjunction with Blue Bottle Coffee next year, the neighborhood is on its way to becoming Brooklyn’s highest-gluten hub.
Here’s a look at the Lab and some of the food that might show up on the menu:
201 Moore St., nr. White St., East Williamsburg; 718-418-4400