Story by Lisa Waterman Gray
Photos courtesy Lisa Waterman Gray and Visit Tucson
Before the pandemic, sell-outs were a daily occurrence at Barrio Bread, a bakery in Tucson, Arizona. Customers streamed out of the door every weekend. Plenty of fans showed up on weekday mornings, too. No wonder: Owner Don Guerra was named a James Beard Semifinalist Outstanding Baker for the second time this year—an impressive feat for a four-year-old business!
Thanks to some service adjustments, Barrio Bread is still going strong amid the pandemic. To “circumvent airborne and physical contamination of bread and other surfaces,” it explains on its website, customers are can’t enter the bakery yet may order at the door. Per city ordinance, all customers must wear masks, too. The bakery is offering bread delivery across five local zip codes, when ordered between noon on Friday and 5 p.m. on Monday.
A Phoenix native, Guerra grew up baking with his mother. He also ate plenty of his grandmother’s homemade tortillas. When Guerra lost interest in pursuing an anthropology degree, he moved to Flagstaff. He worked in several local bakeries during the early 1990s before opening The Village Baker of Flagstaff. When he relocated to Ashland, Oregon, he opened The Village Baker of Ashland.
Guerra then moved to Tucson, studied education, and taught K-12 students for about seven years. But baking still called to him. “It combines art, science, living food, feeding people, and the physicality of the work,” he says. It was no surprise when he left teaching behind and opened Barrio Bread. Spanish for neighborhood, ‘Barrio’ reflects his early days of baking in his garage and sharing loaves with his neighbors.
At the bakery Guerra uses ancient and heritage grains in his loaves. He sources local grain from nearby Hayden Flour Mills in Queen Creek and BKW Farms in Marana. Barrio Bread has also become a key retailer for Hayden Flour Mills White Sonora Flour (available to Arizona customers at Whole Foods, Fry’s, Sprouts, and AJ’s, plus select stores across the nation).
Guerra even created Precision Heritage Flour Blend in cooperation with Hayden Flour Mills. Under the name of Barrio Grains he now sells three heritage grains and four flours, too, for home use. In addition, the website offers a handful of recipes that use these grains and flours.
Barrio Bread’s wildly popular ARTisan loaves incorporate centuries-old baking techniques. Guerra and his staff use no sugar or oils in the bread either. This results in low gluten content and a lower glycemic index. Each loaf has a longer shelf life with improved taste and texture, compared to many commercially made breads. Barrio Mesquite, Desert Durum (with a saguaro etched on top), rustic 9-grain, and spelt loaves are only a few varieties among 30 available choices.
Beyond the bakery, Guerra has long shared his expertise and passion with others. He has been a frequent baking instructor and speaker at conferences and workshops (especially regarding his work with heritage grains). Guerra has also consulted with businesses across the U.S.A., Mexico, and Taiwan.
Want to try your hand at bread baking, with Guerra as your guide? Because of the pandemic, his online course, “How to Bake Whole Grain Sourdough Bread” is 50 percent off with the code FLATTENTHECURVE, through Breadlessons. The deal is available through April 2021.
Plan A Trip
Broadway Village Shopping Center
18 S. Eastbourne Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85716
Previously a restaurant cook and a professional baker, as well as a catering and a cooking school assistant, Lisa Waterman Gray has written food-focused stories for dozens of publications for local, national, and international audiences. Based on the Kansas side of the Kansas City area, she loves getting a ‘taste’ of every destination and telling the stories behind those flavors. Learn more at www.lisawatermangray.com.
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