By Susan Newby
Who among us would not like a step back in time?
If only for a short time, with our hectic hurry-up-and-wait, technology-driven, 24-hour news-cycle lives, would a step back in time not resemble a breath of fresh air?
Such a refresher can be found in Middle Tennessee’s Gundy County at one of the country’s oldest operating bakeries.
Tracy City’s Dutch Maid Bakery, now owned and operated by Cindy Day, was founded in 1902 by John and Louise Baggenstoss, Swiss immigrants who moved to Tennessee in the 1880s. Although the Dutch Maid was ravaged by fire in the 1920s, it was rebuilt with some of the original equipment not only salvaged but in use today.
Day, only the bakery’s third owner, is truly hands-on. On any given day, she may be found in the kitchen mixing dough with an antique mixer and slicing bread loaves with 1920s slicer.
“We have old Hobart mixers from 1919 and the early 1930s and our oven is from 1919. It was made in Germany and originally fired with wood,” Day noted.
“When you work in a state-of-the-art bakery, everything is computerized. But here we use a hot plate and a pail of water to create humidity. It’s kind of archaic, but that’s how they did it in 1902. It’s nostalgic,” she added.
Equipment is not the only Baggenstoss’ tradition Day carries on. While the Baggenstoss family raised five boys who all worked in the bakery, Day said her four children also help in the bakery.
Located in an old brick building with charming hardwood floors at 109 Main St. in the heart of Tracy City, the scenic drive readies one for the step back in time – with the aroma of fresh-baked breads wafting and delicious pastries tempting the eye.
Put up for sale in 2004, the Dutch Maid Bakery was in peril of closing its doors for good when Day, who was living in Florida, heard it was for sale.
“My mother had worked in bakeries in Publix and Winn-Dixie and even ran a little cake shop out of our kitchen. She had always wanted to open a bakery,” her daughter said.
In fact, the Day family had just moved into a new custom-constructed home in Florida when Cindy Day heard Dutch Maid was for sale.
“She just had to have it,” her daughter said.
“I had lived here before, so I knew about the bakery,” Day explained. “When I heard it was for sale, I told my husband we had to move back and buy it.”
Purchasing the bakery in 2005, Day reopened it after a one-year hiatus, and also salvaged all the old recipes from back in 1902, which are still in use today.
But while Day is proud to use the same old recipes and hand-roll each loaf of bread, she has kept the bakery open and thriving thanks to innovations that include a café, online services and her own original recipes.
“We ship fruitcakes all over the U.S. and the salt-rise bread takes so long to make that you can’t find it just anywhere,” she said.
Some of her own recipes Day has incorporated include artisan breads such as Olive Roasted Red Pepper, Onion Dill, Sundried Tomato and Rosemary Olive Oil, as well as wedding and birthday cakes and cookies.
“Being creative has helped us survive. We have a café now and once a month we do an elegant evening dinner where we serve prime rib, salmon and other dishes,” Day said.
The Dutch Maid Café is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and serves breakfast as well as a lunch menu which includes a soup of the day, sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, salads and, of course, desserts.
The bakery also offers tours, classes in cake decorating, gingerbread-house making and a class for kids to make their mother a personalized Mother’s Day cake.
On occasion, cookbook authors even come in and give demonstrations.
Group day trips to the bakery should be booked in advance with lunch and demonstrations on bread- making included.
To schedule a tour or for more information, call Dutch Maid at 931-592-3171 or you can place an order online at dutchmaid.net. Specialty orders require at 48-hour placement and wedding cake consultations can be arranged.
So pack up the car, enjoy the drive and breathe in the fresh-baked bread aroma for a step back in time at Tracy City’s Dutch Maid Bakery and Café.