Penny’s Coffee adds professional bakery

Executive chef Shawn McKenzie prepares pistachio croissants in the kitchen of Penny’s Coffee in Linden Hills. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

A new player has joined the Southwest baking scene this month as Penny’s Coffee launches its own bakery inside the cafe’s Linden Hills location at 44th & Beard.

The lineup of sweet, made-in-house treats is the beginning of an ambitious build-out of Penny’s offerings.

“We have kind of a lot happening in the next four to six months,” said executive chef Shawn McKenzie, who has been tasked with creating and expanding Penny’s bakery operation.

McKenzie came to the Minneapolis dining scene from Portland six years ago to develop the pastry program at Burch in Lowry Hill. Now she’s been given the keys to the large kitchen at Penny’s.

The first step, creating a pastry program, is well underway.

The menu offers classics such as shortbreads, croissants and pain au chocolat, but also features less common pastries like the honey turmeric twist. Many of the pastries were inspired by a trip McKenzie took with Penny’s co-founder Ben Hertz to Tel Aviv, Israel.

That becomes apparent quickly with her tahini babka — where challah dough is rolled with tahini spread and orange marmalade.

Penny's pastry
Tahini babka is one of the exciting new offerings at Penny’s. Photo by Andrew Hazzard.

Once the pastry line is fully established, McKenzie plans on adding to the bread program and starting a regular Friday challah sale. After that, she’ll move on to building up the savory portion of the menu.

McKenzie never thought she’d be specializing in pastry or leading a kitchen. The daughter of chef, she saw herself going toward the conventional side of cooking and being a “cog in the machine,” but when she found work laminating pastry dough — the process of wrapping dough around butter that creates the light, flaky texture and taste typical of Danish and croissant pastries — she was hooked. Now managing her own program, McKenzie has come to embrace the challenges of bakery life.

“It’s really time consuming, but you also have to be able to manage your time well,” McKenzie said of life in the pastry field.

She and sous chef Sadie Sayre arrive at about 4:30 a.m. each day and cook up pastries for both the Linden Hills and Downtown Penny’s locations. The two have a large, new kitchen space to create inside the Linden Hills shop. So far, the pastries have been selling well at both spots, particularly the pistachio croissants and tahini babka.