Baluard offers freshly baked breads, pastries

May 24, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 1.42.08 PMBehind a counter stacked with layers of fresh bread and a cabinet delicately lined with fruit tarts, donuts and shelves of pastries, Anna Bellsolá moves about an L-shaped serving space. At just over 5 feet tall, she stands on her tiptoes to hear orders, but after years of practice, Bellsolá knows how to keep a line of waiting customers moving. She hands a mother and daughter a paper bag packed with fresh baguettes, and, with a quick smile, moves to the next in line, a man dressed in a wet suit with a wakeboard over his shoulder.

“I just love the idea of selling bread to people every morning,” Bellsolá said.

With a strategic location in the lively Barceloneta neighborhood, Bellsolá says her bread shop, Baluard, attracts both locals and tourists.

“What I most enjoy about La Barceloneta is the sea,” said Ana García Novoa, a Baluard customer and co-author of the cookbook Pan en Casa:  Del Horno al Corazon with Bellsolá. “Living here you sometimes forget that you are in a big city like Barcelona. You feel more like being part of a small village.”

With sunny weather, a nearby market and the ocean just a few blocks from the storefront, Bellsolá says Baluard is busiest on Saturdays. But, according to locals, the business does a brisk trade in pastries, loaves, baguettes and croissants Monday through Saturday.

“People like to come spend the day, eat in a fish restaurant or have coffee on the terrace,” Bellsolá said. “And then they come and buy bread.”

Behind the front retail space, Bellsolá says wood fire ovens heat up at midnight, 4 a.m., 6 a.m. and continue through close at 9 p.m. She is used to long hours, flour-dusted floors, industrial size ovens and the aroma of baking bread.

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 1.43.00 PM“She has the tradition of bread in her blood,” Novoa said. “Anna spent her childhood years near the old oven of her grandfather’s ancient bakery, growing into the family business.

However, growing up with her father and grandfather baking at the family bread shop, Antiga Casa, in Girona, Spain, Bellsolá says she was not allowed to bake.  But, when her father expanded and sold the company, Bellsolá worked with the new owners for a year before moving to her own project, Baluard.

“I studied other things, but I always ended up with flour,” Bellsolá said. “I like the flour.”

When Novoa first visited Baluard back in 2008, she admits that, at that time, she did not eat bread.  With ten bakeries in the city, she says bread seemed to have no texture, no air and was hard to touch after a few others.  But then, one day when she was walking near the market at La Barceloneta, Novoa says a perfume filled the air that reminded her of good, real bread from her childhood.

“I followed that perfume that made me salivate and bumped right into Baluard. It was love at first sight,” Novoa said. “I quickly became a client!”

At Baluard, people wait patiently to buy their bread, the line expanding into the street as if the people are waiting to see a saint or virgin, Novoa says. However, with croissants, pizza slices cooked in the wood oven and her personal favorite, the onion focaccia, Novoa says she continues to visit Bellsolá and her bread shop.

“There is always a good reason to visit Baluard,” she said.  “I continue to go back because I just cannot live without eating Baluard’s bread every day.”

At the end of the day, when Bellsolá leaves wood ovens still baking to head home, manage two young kids and prepare for the early morning to come, she says she will pick up a few baguettes on the way out the door.

“I love this,” Bellsolá said. “I like bread, and I feel it so much.”