Tahir Sandhu and his wife, Gwen Williams, have opened a new bakery, the Artisan Naan Bakery, located at the rear of the Minnesota Street Market in downtown St. Joseph, Minnesota.
Naan is a leavened, oven-baked flat-bread, originally from South Asia.
“We’ve never owned a bakery until now,” Williams said in a report by Newsleader, “but, we have life experiences that will serve us well.”
Williams and Sandhu had both previously been librarians and college professors. Williams is originally from Coon Rapids, Minnesota, while Sandhu is originally from Pakistan. They met at a university in Illinois, and married 20 years ago.
They moved back to Minnesota to be close to Williams’ mother, but chose to come to central Minnesota because they love smaller cities and towns. Once in the area, they began baking.
In the summer of 2014, they began to bake and sell naan at farmers’ markets in the area, including Market Monday in Sartell, the St. Joseph Farmers’ Market and Central Minnesota Market, LLC in Sauk Rapids. They baked out of their home kitchen in St. Cloud.
At the farmers’ markets they met different people, who connected them to the Minnesota Street Market. They still bring naan to the winter farmers’ markets in all three cities.
The couple is very proud of their brick-and-mortar location. “This was barren space, just drywall,” Sandhu said of their bakery space in the northeast corner of the Minnesota Street Market.
When customers walk up to the window now, they’ll see stainless steel appliances and cooking surfaces, an iPad cash register, and smell fresh baked bread from across the building.
“We’ve been thrilled with the improvement in quality,” she said, referring to the ingredients and equipment they now use.
Sandhu gestured to the oven behind him, where one rack contained their cup-naan, which is to naan what cupcakes are to cake. They created it to allow people to sample some of their goods.
“It takes about four minutes to bake [a rack of naan],” Sandhu said. “If I have all the racks full, it takes about five minutes. That’s true German engineering!” he said with a laugh.
Sandhu said it takes about one hour to make the dough, and about 30 minutes to crank out enough naan to start the day. And they always make the dough fresh.