Nachtsheim’s Bakery: ca. 1893

By David R. Schleper

According to the Shakopee Tribune, on July 17, 1903, the Shakopee Bakery was established “a score or more years ago, and in daily operation ever since….” Baker Joseph Ploumen, along with Joseph Nachtsheim, Jr. and George Vierling were on the job from four in the morning until sometimes late at night with family helping to make bread for the people of Shakopee.

Everyone is familiar more or less with the mysteries of bread making. In the past, the mother kneaded the bread and coaxed into sweetness the fluffy whiteness, the staff of life. But when you stepped into Nachtsheim’s Bakery, where bakers in their white garments and caps mixed up huge barrels with flour to turn into bread, cakes, pies, and cookies, one could see how special it is.

“In the first place it is interesting to note that there is no fire when the baking is done. The big oven is set into a solid brick wall, and one can look into its cavernous maw by the aid of a lard lamp and see where 300 loaves of bread are being browned by the even heat,” noted the Shakopee Tribune. “The bottom is of square stones, and the low ceiling is an arch of brick on which is a lot of sand to hold the heat. The fire is built on one side below, and is kept up in the morning until the oven and its surrounding walls are sufficiently heated for the afternoon’s bakery, after which the fire is allowed to go entirely out for the day.”

While this is going on, the bakers are getting the dough in pans, the rolls into groups of seven or eight dozen, and then the baking begins. “The big pans are placed in the oven and taken out by means of a long wooden shovel, and the workmen are surprisingly deft in handling the pans with the clumsy looking wooden shovel, and the workmen are surprisingly deft in handling the pans with the clumsy looking implement.”

The chef begins to mix up big batches of eggs, flour, and other ingredients in an immense brass pail after the bread and rolls are done. All the ingredients are done by weight, so it becomes easier to do it just like someone would do it at home using a small basinful. White bread, cream bread, rye bread, graham bread, rolls, buns, white and brown cookies, all kinds of pies and cakes, along with special ordered fine pastries are all turned out at the bakery.

The people in Shakopee especially loved the rye bread. “The bakery makes all its wares from the yeast up, even making its own baking powder; and one is impressed with the thought that a baker has to know a lot of tricks of his trade as well as any other artisan. Yeast is one of the mysteries of bread making, and it was interesting to see the workmen boiling in a wash boiler a lot of hops, which are boiled until a match won’t blow out on the surface, the strained product to be used from time to time with the other ingredients in a big barrel….”

Shakopee had many famous products, including the best carbonated beverages, red brick, stones and ranges, and Little Six and Diamond S flour. Added to this list would be the rye bread from the Nachtsheim Bakery.

The Nachtshiem Bakery was a popular place in Shakopee in the 1900s!

(Some information from “The Shakopee Bakery,” Shakopee Tribune, July 17, 1903, p. 4.)

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