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A Bakery with a Touch of Bliss

Shalom Life profiles the only independent kosher bakery in Edmonton.

By: Maureen Belej
Published: April 6th, 2010 in News » World
Baker Lawrence Bliss prepares doughPic: Maureen Belej
Baker Lawrence Bliss prepares donuts with assistant Vivian Odono.Pic: Maureen Belej

Nestled in an industrial part of town lies Edmonton’s best kept secret. Bliss Baked Goods is the only independent Kosher Jewish bakery in the entire city. The friendly, bearded baker prepares a wide variety of breads, croissants, bagels, brownies and other mouth watering pastries fresh daily, Monday to Friday.

Shalom Life spent the better part of a weekday morning visiting Lawrence Bliss’ bakery, seeing how the work is done, and sampling some pastry. What you notice first, aside from the amazing smell, are the tight arrangements that Bliss works in each day. “We are in a small space but we can do amazing things in this kitchen,” he said.

At 7:00 a.m., while most of us are tapping the alarm clock or just dragging ourselves into the shower, Bliss has already started his day, making his rounds to service local Jewish schools and other stores with his goods. The baker works long hours, often until 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m., to accommodate his customers who work full-time, and to prepare for the next day.

Bliss enjoys short evenings and long weekends with his family, but as an observant Jew, he realizes the value of the service he provides to his local community. Without him, Edmonton’s approximately 6,000 Jewish citizens would have a greater challenge keeping kosher and finding fresh challah bread, for example their only options would be to travel, to have frozen loaves shipped in, or to bake it themselves at home, as Bliss used to do for family and friends.

Born and raised in Edmonton, Bliss started the bakery some eight years ago on a dare and hasn’t looked back since.

“When my son was going to school in Baltimore, my wife and I took a trip down to visit. We went to a bagel shop where they made the bagels right in front of you. We loved the freshness,” recalled Bliss. “After our visit, without any recipes or history or knowledge, I started making bagels from scratch out of my home. As my baking ability improved and progressed, it was natural for me to develop a challah recipe. Before you know it I had a demand, and after my neighbours started lining up for my goods, one of the rabbis here challenged me on a dare to open up a kosher bakery and the rest is history.”

Bliss kneads the dough by hand, which takes a lot of upper body strength, but the work has been a welcome change for his back. The baker seriously injured his back two decades ago in his past career as a butcher, and after having two painful surgeries, his surgeon suggested a new line of work before recommending he go under the knife a third time.

Thank goodness he did. A kind and approachable man, Bliss knows many of his customers on a first name basis, as Shalom Life observed. He doesn’t advertise, and his business has grown slowly by word of mouth. The baker has even started tapping into non-Jewish markets, because of the benefits of kosher food.

For instance, Bliss’ bakery is completely nut-free. His clients with peanut allergies can enjoy his products without worrying about severe reactions. Likewise, those with lactose intolerance will appreciate his dairy-free baked goods. Bliss is even enticing the vegan crowd because he uses no animal by-products.

Rabbi Shalom Kaplan makes sure of it. He drops by daily to ensure that Bliss abides by the laws of kashrut, and during our interview, Rabbi Kaplan stopped in to inspect and chat over a quick coffee, before heading out on his way.

For more information about Bliss Baked Goods (14208 118 Avenue NW, Edmonton, AB), call: 780-453-0101.

Related articles: kosher bakery, edmonton, kashrut, challah
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