Bake 425, which opened in April 2011 at 1012 W. Lancaster Ave. in Bryn Mawr, is a take-out, bake-at-home pizza shop and the latest project from Pete Howey and Aaron Nocks, owners of Peace-A-Pizza. Elizabeth Comiskey of Phoenixville’s Farmers Market helps source the completely organic, seasonal ingredients. The menu is mostly pizza, ranging from simple plain or Margherita to more innovative combinations such as the “Southwest Sausage”, which features organic tomato sauce, locally made Italian sausage, mozzerella & fontinella cheeses, sliced poblano peppers, caramelized onions & fresh oregano. Other offerings include organic salads, apple crisp and “ginormous” cookies.
The store itself is bright and open; chalkboards & kitchy decor create a casual-meets-gourmet feeling. (The space will also be available for in-store events and catering services.) Staff are friendly and willing to answer questions about the menu or the cooking process. Especially appreciated is the “demo kitchen”, where customers are shown how to insert and remove ‘za from the oven. (It seems easy in theory, but you don’t want to lose a pizza on the bottom of your oven – trust me.)
On our initial visit, we couldn’t resist the “Nutty Chick”, a tantalizing combination that includes butternut squash puree, fontinella cheese, arugula, pancetta, herb-grilled chicken, shaved Parmesan & fresh rosemary. Though I recall reading that Bake 425 would offer a choice of gluten-free, vegan, whole wheat, and regular thin crust dough, these choices weren’t listed on the menu, so they either aren’t available yet or you have to ask. I meant to inquire about whole wheat, but it slipped my mind at ordering time.
Though the temperature 425 is an integral part of this store’s identity, directing customers to cook pizza at such a low temperature is a bit odd. Professional kitchens typically cook thin crusts at 800-900F; home ovens obviously don’t get that hot, but I typically aim for 475-500 when cooking my own ‘za. Bake 425’s pie isn’t all that thin, which is probably part of the reason the suggested temperature is lower. Still, these instructions might need tweaking. Though the outer crust got crisp quickly, the center was undercooked, and the top didn’t get bubbly as a great pizza should. I even resorted to pulling out the blowtorch to crisp the cheese, but that didn’t help much.
My personal preference is for the thinnest possible pizza crust; I’ll complain, for example, about the thickness of Neopolitan-style when coming from Rome’s paper-thin pizzerias. So, Bake 425’s crust, which falls somewhere between local Italian (thin) and Greek (thick) style pies, was disappointing. If you prefer it with a bit more heft, of course, this may be less of a concern.
Despite the crust complaint, the balance of flavors on the Nutty Chick was outstanding. Butternut squash sweetness perfectly offset the salty pancetta, woodsy fresh herbs and pungent flourishes of Parmesan. Though the menu explicitly listed rosemary, I detected a blast of sage as well — probably from the “herb-crusted” chicken. Interestingly, while the herbs on said chicken were essential, the chicken was probably extraneous. Restraint is crucial when it comes to pizza ingredients, and the chicken — although it certainly didn’t cause any flavor imbalance — may have weighed down the pie and contributed to the cooking troubles.
It was difficult to judge the doneness of the “ginormous” cookie, due to a lack of experience cooking such absurdly-sized treats. Alas, I believe I slightly overcooked it. Considering the ginormousness (this thing could easily satiate 6 adults after a meal of pizza), it seems that offering a choice of smaller cookies would be better for both cooking execution and portion control. Though the cookie was decent while hot, it didn’t hold up well the following evening (it became brittle and bland), thus I would have preferred to have extra uncooked dough for another fresh batch.
Price is certainly a consideration when ordering from Bake 425. For $17, a large Nutty Chick feeds 2-3 people (more likely 2). Considering the quality of fresh, organic ingredients, this is actually quite reasonable, but feeding a family will certainly cost more than a trip to the corner pizza shop.
Lastly, one surely can’t write about Bake 425 without a comparison to Mom’s Bake at Home Pizza, the torch-bearer for ready-to-cook pies on the Main Line since 1981 (who, incidentally, suggests cooking at 475 degrees). In reality, with Mom’s locations in Devon, Havertown and Newtown Square, there probably isn’t a great deal of direct competition for a shop in Bryn Mawr. If, however, they were located on the same block, Mom’s would be the easy winner, for their superior, thin crust and evenly-cooking pies. Don’t write off Bake 425 just yet, however. Though there were a few flaws in the execution, a knack for creative, tasty flavor combinations sets the foundation for success.
Pick-up and delivery is available 1:00pm – 8:00pm Sunday through Thursday and until 9:00pm Friday and Saturday.