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Edible: Hot Kitchen Bakery Offers "Rising Expectations" In East Harlem

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The Hot Bread Kitchen bakery in East Harlem is serving up some of the most unique bread in the city. Edible Manhattan's Rachel Wharton filed the following report.

At La Marqueta in East Harlem is one of the city's most specialized bakeries, Hot Bread Kitchen, a five-year-old non-profit that functions as a culinary job training center for immigrant and minority women.

Hot Bread Kitchen CEO and founder Jessamyn Rodriguez says the bakery sells breads inspired by their trainees, giving them both baking and business skills.

The Hot Bread Kitchen tagline is "Preserving Traditions, Rising Expectations," and they take it seriously. To date, the bakery has trained 39 women from 14 different countries to make everything from chocolate cherry bread to real tortillas.

"So we are one of the few places in the city that makes tortillas the way that tortillas are supposed to be made, with soaked corn, and they come out to a really delicious, corny, nutty feeling," says Rodriguez. "We make a wonderful Moroccan bread that is something that I've only ever found in Morocco, and it's a flat, buttery, flaky bread called M'Smen. Now, we're really excited because it's challah season, it's the Jewish New Year, and we have a line of challahs that are inspired by a really traditional recipes including a Sephardic challah, which is something you don't see very frequently. It has cumin and a lot of spice and is a beautiful addition to the Rosh Hashana table."

Like the rest of Hot Bread Kitchen's specialties, that challah is available at specialty markets like Whole Foods or the new stand in La Marqueta on East 115th Street.

At city greenmarkets, Hot Bread bakers like Lutfunnessa Islam greet customers in person. A third-year employee, she is now responsible for shelf stable products like crackers and granola, a best-seller.

"Right now, my granola is so nice. Our customers, I swear when the customers buy my granola I am happy. I say, 'I am making this one!' They say, 'Oh, you made it?' And I am happy," says Islam.

So something good is always on the rise.

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