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Behind the Menu: Wood-fired baked goods at Brimfield Bread Oven

From pastries to fresh bread to pizzas, this Portage County staple has everything.

BRIMFIELD, Ohio — From the time you arrive, you know you've entered someplace special. The smell of baked goods envelops you as you walk through the door.

The Brimfield Bread Oven, located in Brimfield in Portage County is a European-style wood-fire bakery that's been open since 2016. Since then, it's developed an almost cult-like following in the area. The bakery offers pastries, breads and even wood-fired pizzas.

The inspiration behind the business is one that co-owners, married couple Jud and Genevieve Smith, say was years in the making.

"If there was one place that really inspired me to create something similar, it was Elmore Mountain Bread in Vermont," Jud Smith said. "A woodfired bakery in a couple's home. They make a fantastic bread in a beautiful woodfire oven and are kind of a cornerstone of their community."

As far as the benefits of working with a woodfire oven opposed to a stove, Jud says there are many, but most importantly, it's the flavor. But there are challenges as well.

"When you're baking with live fire, there's definitely a flavor element there, but really, with the bread and the pastries, you just get a really nice, balanced heat from it," said Jud.

Between Jud, Genevieve and their small staff of about 18, the group has its daily baking down to a science.

"I imagine we pull out, like, well over a thousand pieces, you know," said Jud. "I'm including cookies and rolls and independent loaves of bread and things like that."

And the bakery may be what some consider off the beaten path, but it has very much become a destination for many.

"It still surprises me how many people will have heard about us from a magazine or word of mouth or whatever, and make the trip down from Cleveland or someplace like that too," said Jud.

He says, the biggest challenge his team has faced since the bakery's 2016 opening has, of course, been the COVID-19 pandemic. But the bakery has made changes that have gotten them through.

"Luckily the community was very supportive. When we made some changes to our business model, we went to a curbside only pickup model where people would order the days or the day before in advance. And then we would have staff members run it out to them as they arrived," said Jud. "And luckily we came out. It was stressful. And I think like anyone else, no one really knew how it was going to go or, well, how it's still going to go."

For now, they're staying the course, still churning out amazing pastries and baked goods - and having a blast while doing it.

"It is a lot of work, but we have a lot of fun together and everyone is chipping in and making it happen. Labor of love for sure," said Jud.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video in the player below is from a previous edition of Behind the Menu.