Bridge Pizza expands into sweets with Treasure State Donuts creation
Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 1:32 am | Updated: 6:58 pm, Tue Mar 19, 2013.
Inside a small storefront on East Broadway, Stephanie Lubrecht spends up to 14 hours a day alone, quietly churning out dozens of doughnuts behind locked doors since December, or possibly earlier.
“Time is kind of no longer real to me,” she said, trying to recall exactly when she started baking, testing and tweaking her recipes, seven days a week. “It's been just doughnuts all the time.”
Lubrecht, a 24-year-old Missoula native, has worked at the long-standing Missoula restaurant The Bridge Pizza for six years, rotating between the kitchen, the counter and any other job that needed doing. Last fall, she was promoted to general manager and head baker of Treasure State Doughnuts, a new shop soon to be unveiled by the owners of The Bridge.
“I’ve always been a baker, since I was little,” Lubrecht said. “It’s something I’ve always wished I could make a career out of, but didn’t really think it could be a realistic opportunity. It’s always been a joke or a pipe-dream.”
The opportunity arose when Del’s Place, a diner located at 400 East Broadway, shut its doors, and The Bridge owners Erin McEwen and Dmitri Murfin seized the moment to make that old joke become a reality.
“We didn’t really have plans in place before that,” Murfin said. “But I’m a chef and I’m a restauranteur, so I’m always kind of thinking about this stuff.”
They rented the building and started renovating it themselves while Lubrecht began toying with doughnut recipes at home.
While she doesn’t have any formal training as a baker, Lubrecht said as a biology major, her science background helps her understand the chemistry of baking. She’s taking this semester off from classes to focus on the shop.
“A lot of work just went into three basic recipes,” Lubrecht said of the hours she spent developing the perfect cake, old-fashioned and yeast-raised doughnuts.
She said she has developed about 20 to 30 variations, including an orange cake donut with orange icing and pistachios on top, which she was just finishing up Monday evening, as a spring snow storm swirled outside the shop.
“I’m all about the sweet and savory,” Lubrecht said. “So we try to do as much of that as we can.”
This batch turned out well. The inside is moist but light, the icing is delicately tangy and the pistachios add a bit of crunch and a slightly salty, nutty flavor.
Most of her test doughnuts have gone to the staff of The Bridge, Lubrecht said while flipping a still-hot raised donut in a bowl of cinnamon-sugar.
“They’ve been our discerning taste buds and our critics,” she added.
The Bridge owners McEwen and Murfin are both 30 years old and both have masters degrees from UM. They’ve been married for three years and McEwen’s family has been running restaurants in Missoula since the 1970s. Treasure State Doughnuts is another locally-focused, family endeavor.
Just like The Bridge, Murfin said Treasure State gets as many ingredients as possible locally, through Western Montana Growers’ Co-op.
Treasure State will also sell coffee and espresso drinks made from locally-sourced beans from Black Coffee Roasting Company, a business started in 2010 by two other UM graduates.
Matt McQuilkin, one BCRC’s owners, said the company is the only 100 percent organic coffee roaster in the state.
While she’s only five classes away from finishing her degree and joining the group of UM graduate-entrepreneurs, Lubrecht said that for now, she’s enjoying baking doughnuts and making people happy.
“If that’s the worst part of my my day, going to work to do that, then I’m doing okay,” she said.
Treasure State Doughnuts will likely open its doors at the end of this month or early in April, when all of the testing is complete.