From her small corner bakery in Sand City, Elena Salsedo-Steele has been producing artisan-baked goods since 1992. Her fresh fruit pies, tarts and croissants have earned Elena a large and loyal following of customers, and now she’s using her baking expertise to produce healthy, hearty, European style breads made with her own wild yeast culture.
“Sweet” Elena’s father was a winemaker in Tunisia before moving to France, and her mother had a love of fine food, and would buy the freshest ingredients at the daily farmers market near her home. Despite her parent’s encouragement to continue her college studies in international law, these early experiences and influences imbued Elena with a love of fresh food and set her on a course to become an artisan baker.
In the mid 1970s Elena moved to California and got her first baking job at Ventana in Big Sur, where she worked as a pastry chef and baker, working alongside many of the area’s top culinary talents for over 14 years. When the opportunity arose to open a small bakeshop of her own in 1992, she made the jump. “Sweet Elena’s Bakery” was open for business and she’s never looked back.
“My breads are all organic,” Elena explained recently as she checked the bread baking in the oven. “We bake them very early in the day and get them to the farmers market right after they come out of the oven.” These breads combine old world flavors with our local area’s sourdough yeast to make breads that are both flavorful and satisfying.
“I make two styles of bread, a ‘boule’ or round bread as well as a loaf,” she said as the piping hot breads came out of the oven. The unforgettable aroma of freshly baked whole wheat and rosemary boule style bread filled the room as she laid them out on a table for inspection. “I bake bread in small batches every morning, just like they do in France.” She waited a few moments before slicing off an end to offer as a sample. The crackly crust was crunchy-chewy and the inside soft and moist, redolent with the unmistakable scent of sourdough, perfect for a smear of butter or the strawberry preserves that she makes in house.
Next out of the oven came the whole wheat sourdough boule and loaves of whole wheat bread with raisin and hazelnuts. “When I was a child in France we’d buy this type of bread every day, and we’d eat it with cheese or fresh butter that a neighbor made. Simple food, but it was delicious.”
Elena also produces white flour versions of the rosemary boule and a hazelnut-raisin loaf. We sampled the hazelnut-raisin loaf, sliced, toasted, and spread with cream cheese. Elena suggested that a soft, fresh goat cheese would make an equally delicious spread.
Elena’s new sourdough breads are available at all of the MBCFM markets, fresh and ready for your whole family to enjoy, along with many of her fresh fruit tarts, galettes, quiche, biscotti, and house-made granola.
Visit Sweet Elena’s Bakery and Cafe at 465 Olympia Ave, Seaside, CA 93955. You’ll find great local coffee from Acme, a local coffee roasting company, signature lemon tarts, fresh fruit pies, tarts, and galettes, quiche, delightful croissant pastries and freshly baked breads.