Tuesday morning at 5:30 Dale Karsky is up to his elbows in dough. “I can barely keep ahead of it on these days,” says Karsky. Moisture hangs in the air and rain water evaporates off the steamy streets of Superior, WI. “Bread rises fast in this kind of weather, so I can’t stop moving.” Karsky moves in a steady rhythm, scooping flour, scooping yeast, checking bread, setting a timer, kneading, kneading, kneading, and repeating. “All of my bread will be on the shelves by noon,” he tells a customer. He will be lucky if he can keep his bread on the shelves until 2pm.
Karsky didn’t start out as a baker or even know he would become one when he went to work for Bob Bennett, formerly of Bennett’s on the Lake. When the pastry chef left, Karsky took on the job. “I was the only one baking at Bennett’s; nobody else knew how to bake,” he says. “Bob and I got along well because we are both from South Dakota,” says Karsky. Bennett still works with Karsky buying bread for his new restaurant, Restaurant 301.
Two years ago Karksy went to work for himself opening Sustenance Artisan Breads in the Trade and Commerce Building above Red Mug Espresso in Superior, WI. Karsky set up shop with the goal of “allowing patrons to have an intimate bread experience.” As he has been discovered, his following has grown — his shop features more gluten free breads and pastries than any other baker in the Duluth / Superior area, an added selling point. “I’ve had people come in here and tell me I’ve changed their life,” says Karsky. “I’ll whip up a gluten-free pizza dough and tears will swell up in their eyes.” Other bakeries like Johnson’s, Positively 3rd Street, and Great Harvest are no match for Karsky’s gluten-free collection.
Karsky kneads his bread on marble from the building. “You can’t find a better working surface,” he says. Karsky also uses a vintage safe for all of his gluten free breads to ensure that they do not come in contact with flour.
Flour and the smell of yeast fill the air in the bakery. Karsky uses a whole wheat flour from Askegaard Organic Farm in Moorhead, MN, near the Red River Valley. “This is the best organic whole wheat flour I have found,” says Karsky. He doesn’t use organic white flour — he says it isn’t worth the price. “If people are willing to pay $12 for a loaf a bread, I’ll make it with organic white flour, but they’re not, so I use the best non-organic white flour I can find,” says Karsky.
Blueberry Almond Wild Rice ($6) is the daily special — it uses local wild rice from Grey Owl in Golden Valley, MN. “I do a different special every day,” says Karsky. “I am up to 45 different daily specials.” Other specials include Herb Garlic, Parmesan Black Pepper, Cherry Pistachio, Roasted Red Pepper Parmesan, Cranberry Walnut Wild Rice, and Cardamom. Karsky claims that the Cardamom will make the best French toast you have ever had.
Cakes, cookies, tarts, and torts are available, but Karsky takes special pride in his fresh mozzarella ($7-14). “The water is so hot it will make you pee your pants every time, but for fresh mozzarella it’s worth it.” As tomatoes come into season, Karsky says that he will have to begin making it twice a week in order to keep it on the shelves.
Internet and mail order sales are in Karsky’s future, but for now he is just trying to keep bread on the shelves. His bread is available at Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth, but a trip over the bridge to Superior is a short distance for a fresh baked baguette or a loaf of Cinnamon Raisin. That is, if it is still on the shelf.
Sustenance Artisan Breads
1323 N Broadway, Suite 150
Superior, WI 54880
OWNER: Dale and Margaret Karsky