Wendel’s Specialty Bread: The Victoria Connection

A local Victoria man and his father-in-law turned a family recipe into a delicious loaf.

For Wendel Strong, it all started with a family recipe. And now, he and his son-in-law, Luke Johnson of Victoria, are baking and selling thousands of loaves of bread every week with their family business, Wendel’s Specialty Breads. Strong lives in Kansas, so whenever he visited his family in Victoria, he brought loaves of bread that he had made in his home kitchen to fill their freezers—and it would soon be gone. So, they thought, maybe we could start our own bread company? Searching for a good-quality and good tasting bread, Strong started trying to develop his own bread recipes at home. “When people retire, most of them look for something they enjoy doing,” Strong says. “I learned the baking trade in college—and I always liked to bake at home.” About three years ago Strong and Johnson, along with their wives, turned their bread-baking into a reality. In the summer of 2010, they launched Wendel’s Specialty Breads at some local farmers’ markets and it was a huge success. Soon Wendel’s Specialty Breads was being carried in Fresh Seasons Market and other local stores. So what’s the secret to Strong’s delicious, hearty loaves? Well, he attributes it largely to using the batch method. He started using this method to make up to five loaves in his home kitchen, and then started working with Kansas City bakeries to develop the same batch methods that he was using. And with each loaf made and molded by hand, Strong was able to maintain the quality he wanted. “We don’t make the breads before we get an order,” Strong says. “That is the key.” Making the bread to order allows Strong to get a hearty and heavy European bite to his bread. Made with whole grains, Wendel’s Specialty Breads are all natural and don’t use any eggs, dairy, or refined sugar. They also leave out the oil and shortening you usually find in store-bought breads. “A lot of people comment that it tastes like grandma’s bread,” he says. “The bread has brought people back [to their childhood].” To keep the quality to the highest standard, Strong personally trains everyone that makes his bread. Once the bread is made, it is shipped fresh from a Kansas City bakery and then frozen on location. “By having Wendel at the bakery, we are able to keep our quality really consistent,” Johnson says. So, what are Strong and Johnson’s favorites? Strong is a fan of the rustic pan rye bread—his most recent recipe—which he loves using for Reuben sandwiches. Johnson’s favorite is the  whole wheat, which he toasts and tops with peanut butter each morning for breakfast. Strong remembers back to how it all started in his home kitchen with his little stand mixer, making bread for his three children and their families—which now includes nine grandchildren, who surely all have their favorites, too. “We are starting something here that might go well beyond our time,” Strong says.  Reuben Sandwich on Rustic Pan RyeMakes 1 sandwich2 slices of Wendel’s rustic pan rye bread3 oz. premium quality corned beef, shaved1 slice baby Swiss cheese1/4 cup sauerkraut, well-drained  Butter the outside of each slice of bread, and layer one side with cheese, corned beef and sauerkraut, then top with other bread slice. Grill in a skillet over medium heat. Turn frequently until cheese melts and bread is golden brown. Serve with Thousand Island dressing on the side.   Turkey on Country White Whole WheatMakes 1 sandwich2 slices of Wendel’s country white whole wheat breadPremium deli-sliced turkeyCrisp leaf lettuceSprouts1 slice tomato, homegrownPurple onion, thinly slicedMayonnaiseGuacamole Spread bread with a mixture of mayonnaise and guacamole, and layer on remaining ingredients.   Wendel’s French ToastServes 4-68 slices of Wendel’s cranberry walnut bread or cinnamon raisin bread4 eggs1 cup milk2 tsp. of cinnamonButterPure maple syrup Beat eggs, milk, and cinnamon. Dip each slice of bread into the egg mixture, allowing bread to soak up some of the mixture. Fry until brown on both sides, flipping the bread when necessary. Serve hot with butter and warm maple syrup.   Find Wendel’s Breads at these southwest metro locations: Jerry’s Foods, Eden Prairie Kowalski’s Market, Eden Prairie Fresh Seasons Market, Victoria Mackenthun’s Fine Foods, Waconia