On June 8, Pain D'Avignon celebrated its 20th year of supplying breads to restaurants and retail outlets up and down the Cape and throughout greater New England. The bakery was founded in 1992 by four twenty-something friends from the former Yugoslavia who bet long on the notion that they could sell European-style bread to a market more accustomed to pale, soft breads closer to Wonderbread than French bread.
And that bet, it paid off in spades. Pain D'Avignon currently produces 2.8 million pounds of bread each year from their Hyannis bakery. Such numbers are staggering, but what's significant about their output is that even today, 20 years on, nearly all of the breads are shaped and baked by hand, rather than using the automation that would be common in most other similarly-sized bakeries. (To accomplish this on such a scale demands a whole lot of skilled help: Pain D'Avignon employs no fewer than 20 bakers, many of whom seemed to be working on the Saturday I spent touring the facilities.)
This dedication to old-school baking methods is evident in the quality of their breads, which are crusty, dark and often irregularly shape. Each loaf is an individual creation bearing the stamp of the baker behind it. Pain D'Avignon uses a levain, a sourdough culture, to ferment some of its breads, giving them a distinctive, but subtle tang and a long shelf life.
Pain D'Avignon also specializes in pastries and laminated breads such as this apricot almond pinwheel made from their croissant dough. (The viennoiserie, most of which is made by head pastry chef Else Rhodes, is excellent at Pain D'Avignon.)
So, the next time you are in Hyannis, be sure to stop by Pain D'Avignon for a few loaves of bread and a coffee, or a meal at the restaurant. If you are lucky, you might get the table overlooking the oven room, so you too can get a behind-the-scenes view of the action at this wonderful bakery. Take a tour of the Pain D'Avignon baking headquarters in the slideshow >>