Not So Plain Jane: Jane the Bakery

Jane the bakery
Photo by Aubrie Pick
By Chaney Kwak

Classic yet creative, San Francisco, California’s Jane the Bakery breaks down barriers.

Don’t miss our Basics of Bread-Baking Retreat to San Francisco, from May 3-5, 2019! You’ll learn the essential skills necessary to baking perfect artisanal bread from the San Francisco Cooking School, as well as take a tour of the city’s best bakeries (like Jane the Bakery) lead by our editor-in-chief, Brian Hart Hoffman! Reserve your spot today!

An hour to go until noon, and a line has already formed at Jane the Bakery with a dozen people, the same number as the stools inside the cavernous space. Office colleagues compare notes on the smoked salmon brioche and the crispy Matcha Knot; two women, freshly scrubbed from the Korean spa next door, eye the shelves brimming with sesame-encrusted baguettes and bouncy sourdoughs. A kindergarten-age girl in a sundress twirls and points at the glass and wood pastry case that runs 24 feet long, and declares to herself: “I will have a cookie.” Not “want” but, resolutely, “will have.”

In December 2016, this expansive bakery, the third and latest of the Jane brand, opened in Japantown, a mile west of the skyscraper-packed downtown of San Francisco, California. It has quickly become both a neighborhood hangout and a pilgrimage destination for baked goods aficionados. What used to be a defunct KFC has come alive as a culinary workshop drenched in bright California sun. From 7 o’clock each morning, customers of all stripes flock here for savory and sweet offerings as diverse as the clientele.

Photography by Aubrie Pick

Many of them are here for the flaky viennoiseries, crowned by a professional jury in a blind tasting as San Francisco’s best croissant in 2018—no easy feat in a city with such a notoriously finicky palate. Beating out competition from famed establishments like b. Patisserie, Jane the Bakery’s rendition is traditional to the core, layers of air and butter marrying soft and crunchy textures.

Of course, this San Francisco bakehouse isn’t averse to experimenting either. Aside from the straightforward pain au chocolat, you’ll also find chocolate croissants made with buckwheat, their richness imbued with a surprisingly earthy tone. Next to the childhood-reminiscent Banana Bread bursting with high fruit content, you’ll find Cardamom Lattice Buns, bigger than baseballs and sheltering fresh pastry cream infused with the namesake spice.

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