Posted by: Kath Usitalo | August 12, 2011

Homemade: Brake For Bread

An artisan bread bakery is the last thing you might expect to come across off the grid and on the road to Tahquamenon Falls.

Baking bread in the U.P. is the last thing Paul Behm thought he’d be doing after an early exit from the auto industry.

About 18 years ago he was planning to move from Detroit south to someplace warm, but on a lark found himself the owner of the 5-unit North Star motel on M-123, some 13 miles north of Newberry.

He’d only crossed the Mackinac Bridge once prior to buying the 20-acre property, and he can’t explain what motivated him to make the purchase. He intended to use it as a camp. Or something.

Remembering the good breads he’d enjoyed in Europe, 11 years ago Paul and his wife Joanne decided to build a brick, wood-fired oven so they could bake bread and pizza for family and friends.

Paul built the brick wood-fired oven

After donating bread to a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser people started asking to buy it, and North Star Brick Oven Bakery was born.

Paul makes sourdough bread from organic, hand milled flour with no chemicals or preservatives. He says when the couple brings the all natural starter to their home in town in Newberry, “it doesn’t do anything. It just sits there.” But, he says, “It’s amazing. When we take it out here (to the bakery) it just comes alive.”

He attributes it to the airborne yeast spores at the wilderness spot. Contributing to the goodness of the bread is the supply of hardwood on site and, importantly, “The well water is pristine.”

About three days a week from May into October the baker handcrafts 80 to 100 loaves a day, 16 loaves at a time in the 3’x4′ oven with 14″ deep fire bricks.

The selection varies, from a choice of nearly 20 different types of bread, including white, whole wheat, rye, multi-grain, apple oat, cheddar onion, and garlic sage focaccia. Prices range from $3.50-$5 a loaf.

I chose a loaf of bleu cheese, and it was delish; the cheese was not overpowering—great for sandwiches and dipping in oil flavored with herb mixes concocted by Joanne ($2 a jar).

The bakery also sells items handcrafted by local artists, from jams to walking sticks.

You’ll find North Star breads at the farmer’s markets in Newberry and Sault Ste. Marie.

North Star Bakery is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 1-6 p.m. Sunday, May-mid-October. Bring cash; the bakery does not accept credit cards. Located on M-123 between Newberry and Tahquamenon Falls State Park; watch for the bright blue roadside signs. 906-658-3537

Visitor Info Clicks:


Upper Peninsula

Pure Michigan

Related Post: Tahquamenon Falls


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