Basket filled with different bread products

Profile: Breadworks

The hand-crafted bread of John Dale

To catch a baker means getting up really early. The sun wasn’t up when I met with John Dale to learn about his breadmaking venture, Breadworks. His shop can be found just off Great George Street in Charlottetown, down a short alley and around the corner of a building. I found him tucked away in the bakery that’s become his home away from home.

The space is small but precise. Tools and ingredients are laid out for quick transitions from one stage of baking to the next. We started with some small talk as I tried to find spots to set up the camera that would be out of his way. It is a fascinating process to watch as a skilled baker does his work. He tells me that making bread is easy, you just need take care and stick to the formula. Watch the ratio of flour to water, and you can make any kind of bread.

As a child, Dale immigrated from England with his parents to High River, a small rural town in southern Alberta. He stayed there into adulthood, working for the rural municipality for 30 years and running a couple of small businesses with his wife, Sharon. When they retired, the couple decided to move to Prince Edward Island.

John Dale poses outside his shop with a basket of bread.

John Dale of Breadworks. // Photo Credit: Richard Schroeter/Salty

“I was living in Bangor, PEI and I started baking bread at home. I developed an interest in it and kept reading and baking. There was only two of us living there and with bread baking, you have to keep trying and baking to learn. We couldn’t eat all the bread and I ended up baking for the Cardigan Farmers’ Market when it opened in the old train station there.”

This was the spark John needed to start his new career. He took two courses at King Arthur Flour with Master Baker Jeffrey Hamelman. Breadworks followed shortly after, and has been growing ever since. In 2016 he added a weekly CSA to his list of retailers.

The only kind of bread I’d ever made was in one of those store bought bread machines. He laughed when I told him. “I could never get those machines to work for me. I think people thought I was crazy to open a bread shop having witnessed my bread machine days.”

“The bread we bake goes through a 2- or 3-day process. The sourdough breads don’t use any yeast, just flour, water, and salt. The sourdough bread I bake and sell today would have been started the day before yesterday and been fermenting in various stages since. The yeasted bread would have been started yesterday before being shaped and baked today. Fermentation is the reason that none of the breads have any fats or sugars or other additives to give them flavour. The flavour comes from the fermentation and good organic ingredients.”

Three images depicting various stages of croissant preparation.

Preparing croissants.//Photo Credit: Richard Schroeter/Salty

Dale takes things in stride. “I just keep baking bread for our retail…and restaurant customers and see what happens. There are always conversations going on of course, and you never know what could happen. I didn’t ever think I would have this little shop in the first place.”

Breadworks currently makes 16 different kinds of breads. They also do a Viennoiserie, which consists of yeasted bread pastries, such as croissant, pain au chocolat, and danish. You can find Dale’s baked goods in Charlottetown at Candi’s Cakes, The Kettle Black, Local 343, Mavor’s, Now n Zen, Olde Dublin Pub, Receiver Coffee Co., Terre Rouge, Upstreet Craft Brewing, Leonhard’s Cafe and YouMeal (meal delivery), in Summerside at Samuel’s Coffee House, and in Cardigan at the Tree House Cafe. His bread is also available for purchase in the summer months at Cardigan Farmers’ Market and Shore Market in Covehead.

About Richard Schroeter

Richard has been in the multimedia game for a long time. He has a background in art and computer design and has used this experience working in television, film and photography. By day he works at Veterans Affairs, building presentations, restoring photos, editing Veterans video clips, and creating learning modules for Canadian students of all grades. By night he forages for food and figures Salty will be his go to starting point.

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