The Scene

Old-school flavors and European styles showcased at Millstone Bakery in La Salle

The First Street sidewalk in downtown La Salle is squarely in the Midwest. But step through the front door of Millstone Bakery, and it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean to enter a French boulangerie.

Millstone Bakery is an artisan shop specializing in handcrafted breads and pastries. An ever-growing selection of baked-from-scratch goods, high-quality ingredients and a small-town hangout atmosphere have earned Millstone rave reviews and devoted customers since its opening in June 2022.

Photo submitted by co-owner Kent Maze of Millstone Bakery featuring their pastry and bread display

Owned and operated by Kent Maze, a corporate lawyer by trade, and husband Erin Maze, who is a project manager, Millstone was born out of a passion to do something for downtown La Salle. Erin and Kent moved to La Salle from Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 2020 – Erin was born and raised in La Salle, and the two decided to come back to start a family. This coincided with Kent, like many others, picking up a new hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I took an online baking class and got really into perfecting a chocolate chip cookie recipe. So we just began making dozens and dozens, giving them to friends and family. People really liked them; it all started from there,” Kent said. “Erin is from here. We love the area and knew we really wanted to do something for downtown La Salle. This is such a neat community spot – the buildings and history are incredible, and we really wanted to create something new and exciting that would bring people out here.”

When dreaming up their business, Kent and Erin kicked around several ideas. They loved visiting bakeries while traveling, but they noticed there weren’t many places to get fresh, from-scratch bread and pastries in the region – they knew there was a void that could be filled.

Neither Kent nor Erin were bakers by trade, so they started seeking experts. They reached out and found a team of local bakers who were looking for an opportunity like this – a chance to turn their passion for artisan baked goods into a career. Kent and Erin hired the bakers early, before they even secured a storefront, and started developing the menu.

Collaboration is a key ingredient at Millstone.

“I can’t say enough about our staff. They’re making it such a friendly place that people want to keep returning to. It’s their handiwork and expertise that’s developed great menu items,” Kent said. “One of the reasons we wanted to start this was to create an opportunity for those who have these incredible talents to put the talents to use within our community. We want to see more people getting to do creatively satisfying work and build that sense of optimism in our area.”

The results after months of trial, revision and taste testing are on full display when walking into Millstone. First the aroma of fresh-baked breads wafts toward customers, then they’ll spot rows of pastries arranged on butcher boards and shelves lined with breads, all nestled behind a modern glass half-wall. In the storefront window sits the shop’s namesake, a large rounded millstone – the kind used to grind grains the old-fashioned way.

The breads and pastries at Millstone are a labor of love and can take 26 hours to make from the time they start with scratch ingredients to when they’re pulled out of a double-decker, European-style stone oven. The bakery’s core line of pastries includes chocolate chip cookies (the same recipe that started Kent and Erin on their baking journey), oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, pain au chocolat croissants made with semi-dark chocolate, ham and cheese croissants, almond croissants and classic butter croissants.

“The flake of a croissant is made by layers of butter and dough that’s then folded over and thinned out, and repeated until there are about 20 or 25 layers,” Kent said. “It’s all about the flake and the craft we use in preparing each croissant by hand.”

Beyond the cornucopia of pastries, customers will find the heart of Millstone’s offerings: their selection of artisan breads, chief among which is their sourdough.

Sourdough loaves are one of Millstone’s most popular items. Made with four ingredients – flour, water, salt and sourdough starter – each loaf takes more than a day to create, resulting in a deep flavor with a subtle tang.

“Sourdough isn’t necessarily sour, at least when done properly. There’s a little tinge of that flavor, but a good sourdough shouldn’t be overwhelming,” Kent said. “Early on, we also knew we also wanted to offer a high-quality Italian loaf, a tribute to the region’s long Italian-American heritage. When we started quizzing our customers to see what we should add to our menu, the resounding answer was Italian bread. … We’ve had customers claim it’s better than the bread they ate in Italy, so I think we make a pretty mean Italian loaf.”

Millstone produces several other breads. Their signature multi-grain sandwich loaf is versatile with incredible flavor and texture. Their focaccia, an Italian-style flatbread that’s crispy on the outside and springy on the inside, is coated in a garlic herb-infused olive oil, packing big flavor into every bite.

Millstone’s rotating selection of exotic breads includes a cheddar black peppercorn loaf made with young sharp cheddar and freshly ground black peppercorn, an earthy three-seed made with sunflower, flax and chia, as well as a popular newcomer, the spicy jalapeño cheese sourdough.

In 2024, Millstone intends to add more specialty sandwiches and bread bowls to their menu and to experiment with new rotating breads and pastries.