We were sold on Laune Bread the second we learned Chris MacLeod and Tiff Singh were selling half-dozen packs of simit through their Minneapolis-based online shop. A braided, circular bread rarely seen outside specialty bakeries and the Middle East, simit is often called a “Turkish bagel” in the States. Laune’s version is sweetened ever so slightly with molasses, showered in sesame seeds, and enlivened with a sourdough starter, making it a perfect match for everything from warm hummus to whipped feta.
“I lived in Cologne for six months after college and ate a lot of amazing simit from Turkish bakeries,” says MacLeod. “When I opened Laune Bread, I wanted simit back in my life, and spent four months tweaking an online recipe to a sourdough format. I watched YouTube videos of Turkish bakers rolling them up because my methods weren’t working; I was pretty obsessed with making it properly. I think it is one of our best products, but people don’t buy it because they don’t know what it is.”
What really makes Laune stand out, beyond its naturally leavened bread, is its business model. Micro in scale but broad in ambition, it’s powered by delivery and subscription orders of Bread Bread ($7 per basic loaf, and made with whole wheat, rye, and malted barley flour) and a weekly Baker’s Whim special ($7.50 per loaf) that’ll appeal to anyone with a more curious palate. April’s highlights include a sesame-and-flax number and a five-grain medium rye and caraway-tinged “mountain bread,” a.k.a. alpenlaib, nod to MacLeod’s study-abroad stint in Germany.
Laune accepts orders through Sunday at midnight for each upcoming week, and delivers its bread the following Thursday. The delivery fee is $1 (so modest!) and the zone covers nine zip codes in South Minneapolis (55403-55409, 55411-55413, 55418, and 55419). MacLeod and Singh — good friends who first met on the bread line at Rustica — also started a Bread Fund that offers donated loafs to those in need. (Last week alone, 68 loaves were donated by generous customers.)
What follows is Singh and MacLeod’s startup story, in their own words.
Tiff Singh: My first baking job was at my hometown’s local coffee shop in St. Peter, Minnesota. It was there that I learned basic scratch cooking and baking. I also learned that I thrived on the hustle, early morning hours, and striving for efficiency while balancing creativity. I moved to Minneapolis in 2007 and worked all corners of the food industry but found baking to be my personal anchor. I sought out mentors at Sun Street Breads, Rustica, and during my final stint running the bread program at Restaurant Alma.
I hit a rough period after losing my dad and took a break from the industry, but continued baking bread. It remains a source of joy and respite for me through times of celebration, challenge, and growth. The sharing of bread with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers is a way for me to connect my craft with my community. It sustains me.
Chris MacLeod: I moved to Minnesota in 2014 and started working at Rustica under Steve Horton (also of Baker’s Field). Tiff came on board a month later part-time, when she was also working for the pastry program at Alma. We didn’t really develop a relationship until the end of our time together at Rustica; I was pretty grumpy and sleep-deprived. But when we left, we kept in touch and would get together every few months to gossip about bread and the food industry. I started Laune Bread on my own in 2015, with focuses on total waste reduction (a made-to-order model), a closer connection to the community (selling/buying direct), and finding a different approach to running a business (bike delivery, subscriptions).
After working in California and Portland, and living in Germany, I felt like the bread here wasn’t very interesting, and that bakeries were missing the mark on local ingredients. I felt [like Minneapolis] could be a good place for me to build a stronger community between farmers, bakers, and consumers.
I don’t think I was ready to open my own business in 2015, but I hit a point where nobody here held the same values I did and still do. Zero food waste, sourdough-only, wholegrain-oriented, and sourcing from Minnesota farmers. It was a challenge finding flour, and a huge hassle to coordinate. I sourced whole wheat flour from Mark Askegaard in Moorhead and sifted flour from Lonesome Stone in Lone Rock, Wisconsin. I had to drive to Lone Rock and pick up my flour because my order was too small for them to deliver. Eventually Steve got Baker’s Field running and we connected a few dots together over possible grain sources, and that has made everything a lot easier.
I ran my business solo for a year and a half, but realized I wanted a business partner — I just didn’t know who. I closed the bakery and moved to Switzerland, and the week before we left, I sent Tiff a letter asking if she wanted to start a bakery with me when I returned. She said yes. All of our casual meets resulted in us realizing that we both have the same values about food, bread, and community.
We relaunched Laune Bread in July  — pretty much the same model, but with more goods, and a bigger delivery and pick-up range. The ultimate goal is to find a space for our own bakery and tiny cafe. We want to keep things simple and transparent. We want the bakers to be the ones selling at the counter, because the bakers have all the answers but we also want to grow the connection between farmer, miller, baker, and consumer. To educate is important to us. But for now, those plans are on hold.
This pandemic hasn’t changed the nature of our business model; everything is always ordered online, so we bake what is ordered and throw away nothing. We usually have pick-up locations and bike delivery, but we had to shift to all-car home delivery, which is a big-time strain and a killjoy. We are still able to capture some semblance of community though through waves, through windows, notes on the door, or yelling “Hello!” from across the street.
Our bread is a ritual for many customers, and to have this continue through everything else that’s going on in the world carries a lot of meaning. We are passing our love onto them. It feels extra important to offer sustenance at this time, but also to continue supporting our purveyors. We need our local food systems to survive this pandemic.
In some ways, we are just trying to figure out how we can support other businesses that are trying to keep up. But it’s finding a balance between what works and how much we can do. So we’ve chosen, for now, three businesses that we have a close connection to: Baker’s Field Flour, Dogwood Coffee Co., and Skinny Jake’s Fat Honey. [Editor’s note: Products from all three local companies are sold on Laune’s website and can be delivered along with your bread order.]
Two weeks ago, we discussed donating 10 loaves of bread to anybody who needed it. We had 20 requests, but we also had five people offer to pay for bread that exceeded our 10 loaves. It turned into a pay-what-you-want, donate-what-you-can scheme. When our donations outpaced our demand, we created the Bread Fund. We are at 105 donated loaves, and people continue to donate; I expect it will stay. It’s really powerful to give someone a loaf of hearty, nutrient-dense bread. You are giving them life.
We do the Baker’s Whim because we get bored making the same breads. And it turns out people really enjoy getting different breads every week. I love to experiment with different grains, flavors, and recipes. My favorites: black pepper and carrot rye, rye porridge poppyseed, and butternut squash sour. Tiff’s favorites are toasted sesame; raisin; black pepper and carrot rye; and buckwheat rye.
I describe our bread as “West Coast American-meets-German.” What does this mean? Well, our breads are all sourdough and use a lot of whole grain flour — more than 60 percent whole grain. So that makes them on the German/European side…. I studied abroad in Munich, which is where I first fell in love with bread and decided that this might be the thing for me. I loved the bread culture, or brotzeit; it just makes sense, and it makes meals so casual. I also met a German friend whose parents owned a bakery and lived above it. They were the first adults I knew who took pride in their job, and that made a big impression on me.
“West Coast American” refers to the style in which we bake: a young sourdough, less mixing time, and a lot of water (sometimes as much as flour). Combine these two and you get a bread that is nutrient rich, but does not have the density of a German bread. The crumb is custardy and light, the bread lasts a long time, and it is easy for your gut to break down.
We want to truly commit to purchasing as much locally as possible, from organic and regenerative sources. A lot of restaurants say this, but what do they mean? Especially when you see a Cisco truck in front of their business? Does 10 to 20 percent of your food budget mean you are sourcing local? It’s something Tiff and I talk about often.
We try to maintain transparency and have relationships with the millers and our grain growers, as well as a few produce growers. Our first six months of operation, 54 percent of our ingredients budget stayed in Minnesota, and another 21 percent went to our neighboring states. Most of the budget that left the Upper Midwest went to ingredients like cocoa, chocolate, salt, sugar, and citrus. (Sugar beets are grown in Minnesota, but we prefer to source organic sugar.)
We want our menu to reflect the season we are in, so in the fall we had butternut squash and caramelized onion bread. In the winter we did garlic bread. Our seasons are short, so we use a lot of seeds/grains and spices instead. Our pastries also share this seasonality.
We offer Bread Bread, our standard loaf of 60 percent whole grain sourdough, because we recognize that many people like to have consistency. We think it’s a great bread, and it’s also a good practice to make one thing the same way every time to emphasize quality and consistency. Bread Bread is our baseline.
To place an order for Laune Bread or sign up for a weekly subscription, visit launebread.com.