San Leandro is getting a new, bread-focused bakery that is sure to become the envy of surrounding East Bay cities. As Kneaded Bakery is set to open Saturday, November 3, with a weekend-long celebration of all things flour and yeast.
Iliana Berkowitz started As Kneaded Bakery initially as a pop-up and bread club in 2016. She’d bring her crusty loaves to San Leandro brewery Cleophus Quealy on Friday nights, spawning a wholesale business out of a commercial kitchen in San Mateo soon after. She’s already garnered a strong following on the Peninsula with her bread available at shops like Bianchini’s Market and Piazza’s Fine Foods as well as farmers markets in San Mateo and Kensington. Prior to creating As Kneaded, Berkowitz baked at Parc Bistro, a French restaurant in Philadelphia; Facebook; and most recently the now-closed, San Mateo-based Pain Bakery.
In order to expand, Berkowitz knew she needed to get her own space. She wound up in San Leandro, “a byproduct of the unaffordability of the Bay Area at large,” she says. Her goal is to spread her loaves to shops all over the East Bay, starting with her own storefront.
“San Francisco isn’t off the table but we are in a bread desert here,” she says. “There are no artisan bakeries south of Oakland and north of San Jose.”
As Kneaded Bakery will be “styled like an East Coast bakery — you walk in, get your thing, and go home,” Berkowitz says. When they walk in, folks will be greeted by a big wall of tempting breads, including miche, a rustic and tangy sourdough made from a mix of grains; baguette, in the traditional French style with pointy ends and a caramelized crust; honey rye porridge, a naturally leavened sourdough made sublimely custardy with rye flake porridge; and challah, extra eggy, slightly sweet, and braided. Beyond the deeply dark crusts, what’s striking about these loaves is how distinct they taste from one another. While the current trend in artisan bakeries is to start with a Tartine-style dough and adapt from there, As Kneaded’s doughs are all different from the onset.
The bakery won’t have much seating — just some benches outside — but it’ll also sell some bread-based, snackier items, which Berkowitz calls noshes. Perhaps most exciting of them is the bialy, the bagel’s flatter cousin with an onion-and-poppy seed center. Down the line, Berkowitz also hopes to offer some sweet and savory toasts, featuring toppings like whitefish salad that harken to Berkowitz’s Jewish roots. (Related: She’s also interested in babka.)
“The thing I love about [serving] toast is it’s a vehicle for people to make their own toast at home,” she says. “We sell large, one-kilo breads that might seem like an investment, but you can find out via toast what breads you like.”
Coffee will come from an outside provider, starting with San Leandro’s Wheelys Cafe. But Berkowitz is not making croissants, brownies, pie, or any other not-bread treats commonly associated with bakeries. That’s partially because everything gets baked directly on the hearth in As Kneaded’s huge, gas-fired deck oven that arrived in 200 pieces on a steam ship from Italy.
“People ask if we are going to have pastries, and I say we are going to have bread-based sweet and savory items,” Berkowitz says. “People want cookies and cakes, but we are made for bread here.”
As Kneaded Bakery is located at 585 Victoria Court in San Leandro. Opening weekend takes place Saturday, November 3 and Sunday, November 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.