Rustic sourdough bread sits on a menu at Knead Bakehouse + Provisions.

Knead Bakehouse + Provisions Centers on Sourdough

Monday August 14, 2023

By Rachel Huffman

Like dough in the oven, Knead Bakehouse + Provisions has risen, reaching the top of St. Louis’ list of favorite bakeries.

The community hub, owned and operated by AJ and Kirsten Brown, serves warm loaves of sourdough, steamy bowls of soup, bright, fresh salads, towering breakfast sandwiches, decadent sourdough pastries and a variety of beverages to wash it all down.

“There are a lot of great places to eat in St. Louis,” Kirsten says, “but if you’re looking for a best-of-the-Midwest experience, we encourage you to come to Knead Bakehouse + Provisions. Blueprint Coffee, Buttonwood Farm, Double Star Farms, Heartland Mill, Janie’s Mill, Kenrick’s Meats, Kern Meat Co., Ozark Mountain Creamery, Rolling Lawns Farm – the local purveyors that we use represent the best flavors of our region.”

AJ and Kirsten Brown, owners of Knead Bakehouse + Provisions, pose in the bakery.
Photo by Mark Hermes

In 2012, AJ attended culinary school in France, where he witnessed the staunch community support of local bakeries. Combined with his background in fermentation, the inspirational experience led him to sourdough.

When he returned to St. Louis, he made his first rustic loaf of sourdough, which remains the bread and butter of Knead Bakehouse + Provisions today.

The rustic loaf of sourdough as well as the brioche loaf of sourdough are baked in specific pans to give them a nostalgic shape. “So many people grew up on Bunny Bread or Wonder Bread, both of which have the same shape,” Kirsten explains, “and we wanted our bread to have that familiar feel, but with a higher quality.”

The interior of Knead Bakehouse + Provisions features a sourdough pastry case.
Photo by Mark Hermes

After selling their breads at area farmers’ markets for four years, the husband-and-wife duo opened their brick-and-mortar location at 3467 Hampton Avenue.

“When we envisioned the brick-and-mortar location, we always knew that we wanted to serve soups and salads with a big chunk of sourdough on the side,” Kirsten says. “Sandwiches were also an obvious addition to the menu.”

For breakfast, you can’t go wrong with the breakfast sandwich featuring layers of fried egg, cheese, tomato, lettuce, aïoli and herbs on a sesame brioche bun. Want more protein? Add bacon, ham or sausage to the classic concoction.

“Everyone goes for the bacon, but the sausage is where it’s at!” Kirsten says. “We make it in-house, and it’s absolutely delicious. I eat the breakfast sandwich with sausage almost every day.”

You can also take the brioche buns on the go as you continue to explore St. Louis.

Sourdough bread stacked on a Knead Bakehouse cutting board.
Photo by Mark Hermes

Currently, Knead Bakehouse + Provisions is quick service, so if you want to dine on-site, you have to snag a seat at an outside bistro table. Don’t worry – everything tastes just as good in the open air.

For lunch, dig into the chicken salad sandwich with housemade chicken salad, tomato and lettuce or the ham and honey butter sandwich with Miller Farm ham, local honey butter, housemade pickles and herbs – both served on rustic sourdough.

The soups and salads change with the season, but right now, you can add a cup of tomato-pesto soup or a blackberry and goat cheese salad to your order.

“I have a sweet tooth,” Kirsten says, “so I always have one of our jumbo chocolate chip cookies with lunch. I’ve been known to say that we’re sold out of them, but really, I’ve set aside the last one for myself – they’re that good! Each bite has the perfect amount of chocolate; the edges are slightly crispy, and the center has the right amount of gooeyness.”

Knead Bakehouse + Provisions serves sandwiches on sourdough alongside salads, chips and fruit.
Photo by Mark Hermes

Other items on the menu reflect AJ’s and Kirsten’s backgrounds. “AJ’s grandparents emigrated from Czechoslovakia to the U.S. when they were teenagers,” Kirsten says, “and they always made kolaches for the family. So, at Knead, we usually have a few flavors available.

“My whole family is South African,” she continues, “so we also feature biltong, a form of dried, cured meat. We want to serve foods from our childhoods that might resonate with others, as well. One of the greatest compliments is when customers say, ‘This reminds me of something my mom used to make.’ Food has the ability to evoke happy memories like those.”

If you spot coffee cake in the pastry case, order it, too! AJ’s great-great-great-grandmother created the recipe, and he and Kirsten added their sourdough starter – a fitting addition at Knead Bakehouse + Provisions.

Sourdough pastries tempt customers at Knead Bakehouse.
Photo by Mark Hermes

The entire menu at Knead – not just the bread – focuses on the Browns’ sourdough starter; it’s the foundation for shortbread sugar cookies, lemon meringue-filled donuts, peach cobbler bars, chamomile-honey buns, three cheese-bacon kolaches and other mouthwatering treats.

“We’ve been nurturing the same sourdough starter for 11 years,” Kirsten says. “We feed it organic Midwestern flour – plus, water – almost every day. It’s like our child – we’ve literally taken it on vacation with us.”

The sourdough starter is a living organism, and the sourdough bread requires a production strategy. “Sourdough is more complicated than quick bread,” Kirsten explains. “All the calculations have to be correct, and it has to ferment. A single loaf of sourdough takes approximately 48 hours to make; we can’t just whip up more on a moment’s notice.

“We could do something different and make our lives easier,” she continues, “but the quality wouldn’t be there. Our wild fermentation process also allows us to better digest the grains, so a lot of our customers who have a non-celiac gluten intolerance can still enjoy our breads and pastries.”

A tray of sourdough pastries features donuts and sweet buns.
Photo by Mark Hermes

Community is also important to AJ and Kirsten. “We aim to strengthen our community and better St. Louis,” Kirsten says, “even if that’s by simply serving sandwiches. And we hope to give visitors an equally enjoyable experience.”

Want a taste of Knead Bakehouse + Provisions at home? The bakery ships across the country!