Raich keeping baking a tradition
Editor's note: This story is part of Faces A to Z, a series highlighting familiar — and not so familiar — faces around Goodhue County. Learn more about the series and how to get involed here, and check back to the A to Z page for stories, history lessons and Q&As.
Say her name — Ruth Raich — and people throughout the area react the same way. "Mmmmmmm," they say. "I love her Icelandic almond rolls ... Norwegian health bread ...cardamom rolls."
Raich has been enticing Goodhue, Pierce and Pepin County folks with her specialty baked goods for going on 30 years — even before her name became synonymous with the tasty offerings.
She moved to the Pepin area in 1989 from the Twin Cities, where she grew up. After graduating from the University of Minnesota in anthropology, Raich attended vocational school for 15 months, focusing primarily on cooking.
Julia Child was among her inspirations. "I used to watch her on TV. I was fascinated," Raich said.
After school, she wanted to learn more baking so she worked for about five years at Alice Factor Bakery in Minneapolis, a wholesale bakery that provided baked goods to hotels and restaurants. Raich got plenty of experience making baguettes, European style tarts and tortes.
Her mother had moved to Stockholm, Wis., in the early 1980s. "I liked it so much," Raich said, that she ended up moving nearby and finding work as a baker, waitress and line cook at the famed Harbor View restaurant.
A year later, in 1990, Raich opened her first restaurant — the Jenny Lind Café & Bakery in Stockholm.
She held a contest to name the restaurant and ended up giving a free lunch to a man who suggested the Swedish folk and opera singer who was from the other Stockholm, in Sweden.
"I don't sing," Raich insisted, but after reading Jenny Lind's biography, "I just liked her" and chose to put her name on the new business. There's also a family connection — her mother is from Sweden.
In 1997 she was hired by Sturdiwheat of Red Wing to develop mixes for a bread machine. She went on to develop a number of products, worked as a production manager and was in research and development for the company. About a year ago she developed brownie and bundt cake mixes.
From 2005 to 2012, Raich managed the Smokey Row Café restaurant and bakery at Red Wing Pottery, then for a time she rented kitchen space in Red Wing to continue baking her specialty items for shops including Lily's Coffeehouse, Buchanan Grocery and Simple Abundance.
Most recently Raich created her own baking space in a 500-square-foot former chicken coop on her 10-acre hobby farm, located between Stockholm and Maiden Rock. Jenny Lind Bakery opened there about two months ago.
Her Norwegian health bread and other featured items again are being sold at area stores. Buchanan's, Mandy's and Simple Abundance get them Tuesdays and Fridays, plus they can be purchased at a couple of places in Pepin and at the Stockholm Pie Shop.
She also spent about three years at Smiling Pelican Bakery and has participated in the winter farm market Saturdays in Red Wing. Some more seasonal outlets will be added for summer.
Providing fresh baked goods means long days.
On a typical day, "I'm up at 4 or 5 a.m.," she said, so she can deliver the food by 11 a.m. to noon.
Four or five days a week, Raich makes 30 to 40 loaves of bread and 10 to 14 dozen sweet rolls, including the Icelandic almond rolls. "I'm making granola again," she added, plus gluten-free bars and wheat-free monster cookies for some of her outlets.
"They are my own recipes," she said, "inspired by my favorite bakers and tweaked."
A few years ago she put them in a cookbook, which is still available locally. It's in its second edition, third printing.
Into that busy life, add raising fruits, vegetables and animals.
"I love gardening," Raich said. "I have lots of kinds of fruit," including raspberries, plus dill and vegetables that she uses in her baked goods.
"I'm working more on using local and organic ingredients," she said.
Raich is married to Anne McGough, an RN at Mayo Clinic in Red Wing. Together they tend to sheep, goats, dogs, cats, chickens, a mule and a pony on their hobby farm.
Even with her busy schedule, Raich said, "I find time to put my feet up, relax and read. ... I don't ever get bored."