Forks up, Phoenix! Chow Bella and Roosevelt Row present the third annual Pie Social Saturday, November 3rd, from 2 to 6 p.m. on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. We've got an all-star line up of bakers making pies for you to taste, and from now til Pie Social, we'll introduce them to you, one by one.
Today: Brady Breese of Urban Cookies Bakeshop
Drive by Urban Cookies today and you'll notice a few changes. Owners Brady and Shaun Breese say they're shaking things up, rolling with the long-lasting momentum they gained from winning Food Network's Cupcake Wars last August. The changes kicked in starting October 15th and there's still more to come. It's an exciting time for the couple, and their enthusiasm is quite infectious.
And while big changes may be on the way for the business side of things, inside their Central Phoenix home on a Thursday morning things feel pretty routine. We're greeted by Shaun; the couple's young son, Oliver; and the family dog. It's breakfast time and Oliver (you might know him as, "Ollie," as in Ollie Cakes) smiles shyly from the table when we walk in.
Waiting for Brady to meet us in the kitchen, we take in the family's charming and bright space. Yellow countertops and a chalkboard wall of Oliver's art that reads "family" -- clearly this place is all about the Breese family. The background noises from the breakfast table offer a perfect backdrop for a causal interview and baking session.
Brady arrives in an Urban Cookies Bakeshop shirt, the "bakeshop" addition to the name being just one part of the business re-branding. Additionally, Brady says they've changed up the color palette of both the exterior and interior of the shop. He explains the focus will be on turning the business into a more traditional bakery, which he's noticed are few and far between in the city.
Being more of a "bakery" means they'll also be expanding their product line to include things like bread, cakes and pie -- how fitting.
"So in the next two weeks, I need to learn how to make a pie," he says.
Brady explains that prior to beginning the Urban Cookie adventure, he considered himself more of a cook than a baker. He taught himself to bake cookies and later, cupcakes. But pie? Well, this will be a first. He's also never had any formal culinary instruction. He says through learning to bake he discovered a creative side of himself that he never knew existed but maintains that he's not interested into "the art of it" at all. He doesn't have the patience for decorating and now that we think about it, there's an undeniable touch of Brady's practical, modern but playful attitude in both the business and its products.
Every recipe used at the bakery results from trial and error - and plenty of taste testing. In fact he's consumed so much sugar, spice and everything nice in his recipe testing that he's recently developed allergies to, well, pretty much all the things you typically bake with. Ironically enough, it prevents him from eating most things he makes.
He begins to mix the ingredients to make a secong loaf of the delectable-looking pumpkin bread that sits on the counter. We compliment the apple green KitchenAid stand mixer into which he pours the batter. Surprisingly, Brady, not Shaun, chose the color (though he says it wasn't his first choice of color). Possibly a sign of his emergent creative side?
For a self-taught baker, Brady hides any lack of knowledge well. Perhaps he owes some of the success to the nearly toppling over pile, or more accurately, several piles, of cooking books in the kitchen. We ask which ones he enjoys the most and he gestures not to the colorful collection on a built-in shelf, but to a stack resting on the kitchen table. He explains he prefers them because they have better pictures.
"I'm big into pictures," he says. "Also, I pick wine by the label, so I never buy Italian wine - they always have cursive and stuff... Plus, I like California wine."
On the subject of California wine, we've found a common interest and we learn that Brady even considered attending a summer program at the Culinary Institute of American in Napa Valley. Not a bad choice. We also share Brady's appreciation (ok, maybe it's more of our guilty pleasure) for Trader Joe's vino. Better than two-buck-chuck, but still two bucks. How can you now love it? Brady works at the store three days a week now that he doesn't have to go into the bakery except to "change things," such as recipes. He calls the part-time job "a hobby from [his] hobby," the latter hobby being baking.
By now, he's popped the loaf into the oven and we're getting ready to take our leave. He rummages around for paper and scribbles an email on the back of a receipt. The recipe for the bread, sitting nearby on the counter, is written on the back of an envelope. We crack a joke and Brady tells us he regularly makes notes on the fridge in dry erase pen.
"And hope nobody rubs up against it?" we ask.
"That's just how I roll."
Urban Cookie style.
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Want to read about the other competitors? Brady Breese Makes Pumpkin Bread Joan O'Connor Makes Mediterranean Pasta Salad Monti Carlo Makes Banana Bread Muffins Mamma Toledo Makes Egg Sammies with Horseradish Cheese Slade Grove Makes Gluten-Free Amaretti Cookies Jeff Kraus Makes the "First Time Crepe" -- Nutella, Elderflower, Spiced Walnuts and More David Duarte Makes Peanut Butter Crunch Bars Winnona Herr Makes Butterscotch Bananas Foster Pudding