HOW TO MAKE HAYSTACK BREAD

Making Haystack Bread at the Cannon Beach BakeryIt is midnight and Cannon Beach is silent and dark, but in the back of the Cannon Beach Bakery, co-owner Dan Christensen is just getting to work. Along with assistant baker Rafael Juarez, Dan is preparing loaves of his signature bread, the Haystack. He has had plenty of experience with this particular item, since he produces over 10,000 loaves of Haystack bread every year. It is a must-have purchase for many returning visitors.

"It's a cross between a French bread and a white bread," says Christensen as he cuts 1.4-pound chunks off of a huge slab of glistening, yellow dough, weighs them and rolls them into balls. "It's all hand done, from a hard-gluten flour mixed with sugar, shortening, milk, salt and water." He's wearing jeans and a t-shirt under his baking apron, and with his white moustache and friendly eyes, he looks a little bit like a taller Geppeto from Pinocchio. His father was a baker in Denmark before moving the family to Eugene, and Dan has been baking for over forty years, since he was twelve years old.

While the bread rises, the bakers mix flour, cinnamon and yeast for a cinnamon-raisin bread, prepare another dough for apple-cinnamon loaves ("It makes killer French toast," said Dan) and prepare an enormous, 30-pound slab of dough for the five varieties of doughnuts that will appear on the bakery's shelves in the morning. There are cakes and Danish to produce before the night is finished, as well as croissants, rolls and turnovers. Dan reaches into a cabinet and hands me a Swedish Tosca pastry - almond cakes with a layer of raspberry jam, dipped in chocolate. Delicious.

"That's my favorite thing," he says, smiling. I think it's mine now, too.

At one a.m., when the Haystacks have risen, Dan and Rafael grab the balls of dough, slap them hard on the big, butcher-block baking counter, fold them twice and roll them into balls. Rafael places each ball onto an oiled pan, and then zips them up under a plastic-covered baking rack for the second rise. Before baking, a topping of rice flour with sugar and salt will be added, giving the Haystack its distinctive rough coating. In the morning, they'll be snapped up by locals and visitors, or even shipped - "We sent one to Pennsylvania last week," said Dan.

One of these days, I vow, I'll have to eat a Haystack Bread while sitting on Haystack Rock. Only at Cannon Beach can one achieve such cosmic symmetry.