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Bakers Make Chicago Cocktail-Bread World Capital

Bakers Make Chicago Cocktail-Bread World Capital

Chicago Tribune

We’re about to make a bold statement, one that could shake up the food industry for years to come: Chicago is the cocktail bread epicenter of the world!

Unless another city comes forward to challenge the claim, we’re sticking with it.

Long a favorite at holiday gatherings, cocktail bread is the grain version of Colleen Moore’s famous Fairy Castle, that miniature dollhouse on display at the Museum of Science and Industry and popular for its scaled-down version of real-life detail.

If Chicago is the cocktail bread capital, then the city’s own Rubschlager Baking Corp. is the product king. In fact, the longtime Humboldt Park, family-owned bakery probably invented the little loaves _ apparently by accident.

To hear Secretary/Treasurer Joan Rubschlager tell it, the company got into the miniature loaf business when one of its prime customers, Hickory Farms, asked for its bread in yardlong, hearth-baked round loaves. Because shipping would have reduced the long delicate loaves to rubble, Rubschlager offered an alternative: The sturdier pan-baked result became cocktail bread. “They liked it,” Rubschlager said.

And that square shape became the model for little breads to come.

Chicago’s S. Rosen’s Baking Co., known here for its rye breads and rolls since 1909, also has made cocktail bread over the years and now is introducing a square version it calls “Party Entertainers.”

Could this be the start of the Chicago cocktail bread wars? Rubschlager is now the leader by far although the modest owners are loath to disclose their actual market share. S. Rosen’s parent, Alpha Baking Co. (also based in Chicago) is attempting to extend the niche by appealing to consumers who don’t normally buy cocktail bread.