Farrell Family Bread: The Proof is in the Product

By Evan McLemore / Photography By Brooke Allen | January 01, 2015

Started in 1999 by Tom Farrell, Farrell Family Bread was, and continues to be, a catalyst of Tulsa’s culinary renaissance. Using locally sourced, untreated, unbleached wheat flour, eggs and pecans (organic when possible) and adding no artificial colors or sweeteners, this exemplary establishment has been producing consistently great products now for 15 years. For Farrell Family Bread, this is the only way to do business.

Farrell Family’s bread is also one of the things I remember finding especially tasty when I moved to Tulsa in 2004. I was lucky enough to find a job in a great restaurant and the baguettes and focaccias that Farrell Family Bread supplied for our bread service were memorable to say the least: crunchy baguettes with tender, moist interiors and focaccias so good that, to this day, I have tasted no better bread anywhere.

To me, their rosemary focaccia is perfect, every time. Great baking requires that you produce consistent, top-quality products all the time. Farrell Family Bread does just that. To many a diner, a basket of bread is the first thing they taste when out to dinner at a restaurant or maybe a friend’s house. I always welcome the breadbasket with whipped butter. To many a kitchen, it is what keeps diners pacified when Grandma’s 10-ounce beef tenderloin ordered well-done but not butterflied is taking a while. (I’ve never understood ordering a steak like that. To each his own I suppose.)

If you’re like me, baking can be a daunting task: equipment that’s as familiar to narcotics traffickers as it is professional cooks and ingredients that sound more at home in chemistry class or biology that the kitchen. Never mind the precise measuring and cooking times. And all of this must come together in perfect culinary chemical harmony.

My worst experience in culinary school was Bread and Pastry class and waiting and waiting for my brioche to rise. It didn’t. I was devastated. Did I over-mix it? Did I kill the yeast? Who knows? I still don’t to this day. And this is why I have great respect for those who produce delicate, delicious baked goods day in and day out and at an extremely high level of quality. That is why I respect Farrell Family Bread. They continue to bake delicious focaccias, crunchy sourdoughs and baguettes, good strong rye, flavorful levains, tender biscuits, tasty cookies and pound cakes, and whatever else they may have on the day of your visit. Farrell Family produces excellent baked goods.

Great baking requires particular equipment, finicky ingredients and, above all, precision. Precision is not a cooking trait I possess. This is as precise as I get when I cook: a handful of this, a few sprigs of that, a cup or so of this one, OK, maybe a little more.

That is how I cook. I say I like to think I cook by “feel” but, actually, I think I’m just a lazy cook who believes he has a basic knowledge of what tastes good together. Baking is a foreign language to me. But to Farrell Family Bread, it’s the native tongue.

On my visit to Farrell Family Bread, located at 8034 S. Yale Ave., the dough mixers were whirling and the ovens where humming. The store was stocked with delicious-looking breads, cookies, and pound cakes. In the refrigerated case were various flavored butters, sandwich spreads, and dips. Rick Miller, general manager, let me know that Farrell has been making the butters and spreads for about seven years.

When I walked into the office—right next to the mixers and ovens, because being handson is important to Farrell Family Bread— Rick and Tom were trying to figure out why today’s batch of Wheatberry Nut bread wasn’t quite right. To me, it tasted delicious. To Rick and Tom, it was unacceptable. This particular batch was not worthy of being sold and wouldn’t make it to the shelf. Just another example of the high level of quality practiced at this local bakery.

Along with Wheatberry Nut Bread, Farrell Family Bread bakes 25–30 different breads throughout the year. Not all are available at the same time. The best sellers include Tuscan, Sourdough, Deli Rye and Whole Wheat.

Farrell Family Bread uses a sourdough recipe that is less sour than the San Francisco-style sourdough many of us are used to. Rick told me it’s more Eastern European than it is San Francisco.

Farrell Family Bread, in addition to being the table bread for many local restaurants, is available for purchase at Reasor’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts, local farmers’ markets, and can also be purchased at their store at 81st and Yale.

Several Tulsa area restaurants use Farrell’s for all or part of their bread service. Enjoy it at Smoke, Trencher’s, McGill’s, The Bistro at Seville, Margaret’s German Restaurant, The Coffee House on Cherry Street, The French Hen, The Hen Bistro and Café Samana. To find out more about Farrell Family Bread and its products, call 918.477.7077, visit FarrellBread.com or go to the store and see for yourself. I recommend you leave with a loaf of rosemary focaccia.

Farrell Family Bread is open 7am to 6pm Monday through Saturday.