Honoring traditional French techniques, Pagnol @ Third Street Bakery produces handcrafted sourdough breads using wild yeasts and freshly milled, organic whole-grain flour.
The same approach extends to the recently added pastry lineup as well.
An extension of owner Mark Stambler’s acclaimed Pagnol Boulanger in Los Angeles, the quaint Los Osos establishment opened in September 2016 at the former Third Street Bakery. Stambler splits his time between the two businesses with the help of Marcus Marren, manager of the Los Osos location. Marren also develops the pastry recipes and oversees the bread baking.
Stambler’s award-winning breads have gained national attention in several media outlets, but he didn’t set out to be a baker. He arrived at his passionate hobby without much prior culinary knowledge at all.
“When I left home (for college), I had no idea how to cook, he recalled.
To learn, Stambler delved into several cookbooks. Chapters on bread kept getting his attention, specifically those in “The Vegetarian Epicure” by Anna Thomas and the second volume of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” by Julia Child and Simone Beck.
Over the years, “I baked whenever I could – a lot of different breads,” Stambler said. “I gradually decided to focus on basic bread – the type that had been baked for thousands of years, so I started paring away ingredients.”
That process began by using distilled water instead of tap water “which contains minerals that mask flavor,” Stambler explained, and “then freshly milling my own whole-grain flour.”
“Probably the biggest step, though, was going to wild yeast versus using commercial yeast,” he said. “The moment I switched over to wild yeast, the flavors just popped out.”
To craft Pagnol’s breads, Stambler uses the time-honored French method of “travail sur trois levains,” or the three leavening method. It takes more time, about 36 hours, he acknowledged, “but it’s not labor intensive. The yeast is doing most of the work.”
“The entire process of making bread dough is essentially growing a colony of yeast and bacteria in a mix of flour and water,” he added. “The key is treating the yeast culture with respect.”
Six breads make up the core of Pagnol’s offerings, including sourdough rye, olive-rosemary, walnut-raisin and the Sonora Loaf. (The latter is made with Sonora wheat, a white wheat that’s the oldest variety grown in California.) Also sold are Pain au Levain, a torpedo-shaped loaf, and Miche Pointe-a-Calliere, a smaller version of a large, round rustic loaf.
Other breads such as garlic-cheddar, green tea-white chocolate and cranberry-walnut also find their way into the rotation, but the basis of every loaf arises from the same traditional techniques.
Marren’s expertise in pastries has allowed the Los Osos bakery to offer those as well.
“All of them have the same wild yeast and whole grain component as the breads,” Stambler said. Choices have included croissants, brioches, almond shortbread cookies, Linzer tarts and meringues.
Pagnol’s patrons are welcome to enjoy pastries and a coffee on the serene patio in front, but the diminutive location just doesn’t have the room to be a traditional café.
“It’s really quite unique in terms of bakeries,” Stambler said. “It’s really like coming into someone’s house to get their freshly baked breads.”
In a sense, then, Stambler has come full circle.
He sold breads out of his Los Angeles home until he was shut down by health authorities. That experience prompted him to spearhead the effort to create what became the state’s cottage food law — allowing permitted individuals to make certain foods in their own kitchens for sale.
“In January 2013, I became the first person in Los Angeles County … to be legally allowed to sell homemade food,” Stambler wrote on his website. Since then, the legislation that has given rise to countless California entrepreneurs, including many here on the Central Coast.
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pagnol @ Third Street Bakery
1229 Third St., Los Osos
Hours: 8 a.m. to 3p.m. Friday through Monday. (When breads and pastries sell out, the bakery is closed. )
The scene: Located on the ground floor of a house in Baywood Park, this is a neighborhood bakery through and through.
The cuisine: Sourdough breads and pastries are handcrafted using French techniques; coffee also available.
Expect to spend: Breads about $6 to $9, pastries about $2.75 to $5.