Joe White and Anna Hartzell, co-owners of Dopest Dough, sit on an olive green mid-century modern couch in their storefront in East Aurora and reveal the secret ingredient for both good business and good bread: the patience to do it right.
White, head baker, makes all of his product using a sourdough starter. This process of leavening bread is slower than commercial yeast, but produces a lighter, crustier bread and richer flavor. Nowhere is this attention to detail more evident than in the bagels that White and Hartzell hand-shape by the dozens. Each is the perfect combination of chewy outside and soft interior. Weighing in at 6.5 oz, these bagels are meant to be shared, and White and Hartzell seem to do just this in an Instagram post that shows them each taking hearty bites from half bagel sandwiches while The Young Rascals’ song “Groovin’” plays in the background.
The quality of Dopest Dough bread suggests years of professional training, but White’s bread-making skills are largely self-taught. White, who moved to Buffalo when he was young and graduated from Alden High School, toured as a professional musician for 6 years before needing wrist surgery for tendonitis. During recovery he began kneading dough both for physical therapy and to relieve boredom. He refined his breading-making skills post-recovery by going to work for a bakery in Buffalo. Once he developed his unique bread recipe, White decided in 2021 that he’d prefer to put his labor and energy into his own business. “Nothing is worse than selling all of your hard work for someone else,” White says.
Hartzell has always lived in the Buffalo area, attending high school in the Williamsville School district. She developed her restaurateur skills through years working in local Buffalo establishments. She cites Dobutsu and Toutant as her main places for skill-building and mentorship. This skillset helped her partner with White to build and run Dopest Dough. Hartzell and White both emphasize that running their own business allows them to stay true to their vision for their product. The couple has now lived in East Aurora for three years.
Right now the majority of Dopest Dough business is wholesale. White and Hartzell make and then sell their product to local Buffalo restaurants (Tipico and Café Godot just to name two). They also sell at pop-ups and farmer’s markets. You can find them at the market at Community Beer Works every third Sunday. They also provide a weekly ordering option on their website for pickup at their East Aurora storefront. This final option might be the only one to ensure you aren’t surprised by a SOLD OUT sign. White and Hartzell tell me that they often sellout at farmer’s markets; sometimes within the first hour.
Close inspection reveals the unique set of flavors and textures that comes from the patient rise, boil, and bake of each bagel.
- Thin dappled outer skin (easiest to view on the plain bagel). The presence of dappled skin (or microblisters) shows that the bagel has first been boiled and then baked at high heat. This combination creates an outer texture that is both crunchy and chewy. A bagel’s skin sets it apart from bread. A bagel without this chewy outer layer, in my opinion, is simply donut-shaped bread.
- An interior with open structured crumb. Any good bagel should have a soft interior. But if the crumb structure is too closely textured, each bite will feel dense and thick (think bagels offered at commercial super markets). Dopest Dough bagels contain a visible pattern of small and large gaps in the interior structure made by pockets of air that form during the fermentation process. This open structure lightens up the bagel leaving each bite a magical combination of chewy, soft and airy.
- Rich mature taste. White uses the slow-fermentation technique of a natural leavening agent (aka sourdough) with just a bit of added commercial yeast. His bagels go through a slow rise process that results in texture-producing air pockets and a rich flavor that White calls “a deep malty, salty, umami.” This is clearly a bagel made with time and intention.
While their wholesale business is thriving, they have yet to open their retail space. Sitting in their freshly painted gorgeous storefront, it’s hard to imagine why they haven’t yet opened their doors. And I’m not alone in this. Hartzell tells me that numerous East Aurorans have voiced impatience for them to open, even going so far as to offer support to help the opening happen sooner. Both White and Hartzell emphasize that they are willing to wait to open their retail space until the time feels right.
“From the beginning we never wanted to half-ass anything,” Hartzell says. “When we open we wanna open full force. We wanna do it right.” When they do open their store front they plan to start with bodega-style sandwiches for take out along with bagels and cream cheese available on demand. Down the road they imagine expanding into evening hours with outdoor seating, drinks and small plates. White gestures to their main-street facing sidewalk space and says, “Where else do you get to sit on a cobblestone street and chill and eat really good food?” White continues discussing the importance of businesses that are connected to the community. “People need somewhere to go sit and feel important and rattle [their] jewelry,” he jokes. But embedded in this joke is White’s vision of connecting to the community through food and inviting space.
The patience and vision that is evident in White and Hartzell’s bread and business plan even spills out into how they see their role in supporting Buffalo businesses. White explains that when he first started making bread he saw a need in Buffalo restaurants. “We need[ed] to fix the local food scene with even better product,” he says. And this better product was bread. White and Hartzell both explain that they like building the impact of other businesses by providing Buffalo restaurants with quality bread. “We are providing good things for good people,” says White.
For now Dopest Dough will continue to grow their business and support Buffalo and surrounding communities by providing wholesale bread made with patience and intention. Hopefully starting Fall 2022 customers can also access this slow-risen goodness on demand at Hartzell and White’s storefront in East Aurora.
Dopest Dough | 695 Main Street | East Aurora, NY 14052