Carissa’s the Bakery shares recipe to success ahead of East Hampton expansion

Carissa Waechter at the original East Hampton bakery. (Credit: Carissa’s the Bakery)

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Follow Carissa’s the Bakery on Instagram and you’ll likely find yourself making excuses to head to East Hampton each time a photo of the bakery’s dreamy pies, cakes and croissants pops up in your feed. Yes, that flourless chocolate cake topped with flower petals is as good as it looks.

Owners, baker Carissa Waechter and business partner Lori Chemla, have amassed quite a following since opening on Newton Lane almost two years ago. They’ve grown so much the duo is opening a second, larger location elsewhere in town this summer.

Simply called Carissa’s, the new bakery is on Pantigo Road in East Hampton, about a mile east of the current café. The new 3,500-square-foot, 75-seat restaurant and bar will allow the team to offer customers a place to settle in and stay awhile — the current café only has a couple of seats.

“This new building will give us the opportunity to produce more and expand our shipping program for our most popular salty pickled rye bread,” Chemla said. “It will also allow us to showcase more savory items to complement Carissa’s popular pies.”

Carissa’s the Bakery was founded on quality, locally grown ingredients. A former New York City pastry chef, Waechter has long had a passion for baking. The recipe for success began to take shape when she moved to the East End after discovering Amber Waves Farm was growing wheat in Amagansett.

“When I experienced the freshly milled wheat and flour from Amber Waves it was something entirely new and incredible, nothing like the flours widely available,” she explained. “I certainly never intended on moving east and starting a baking business, but it just seemed like the perfect opportunity and the timing was right. There were these extraordinary ingredients that really needed to be center stage.”

Carissa’s pickled rye bread is a big seller. (Credit: Carissa’s the Bakery)

In 2010, Waechter co-founded Amagansett Food Institute, a non-profit that supports farmers and food producers on the East End. She also managed South Fork Kitchens, an incubator for local culinary start-ups at the Stony Brook University Southampton campus, which was made possible by Amagansett Food Institute.

Waechter quickly became a fixture at local farmers markets, selling her breads and other baked goods under the name Carissa’s Breads. The sourdough and salty soured pickled rye, both of which you can find at the bakery, remain Waechter’s staples. It was her country olive loaves, though, that brought Chemla and Waechter together.

“My husband discovered Carissa when she was baking bread at the Amagansett Farmers’ Market,” Chemla said. “He fell hard for her country olive loaves, became her best customer and the rest is history. We named our first deck oven ‘olive’ and the olive ciabatta we bake today is still sold within minutes out of the oven.”

Since Chemla and her husband Alexandre became investors the business has continued to boom and evolve.

“I remember very early on feeling like even if a full partnership with Lori and Alexandre didn’t come to fruition, they were such amazing rock stars that I would always respect and desire their guidance. But, it did! And they were obviously the perfect partners from the start,” Waechter said.  “I’m so appreciative of them and our amazing team and customers.”

Carissa’s the Bakery almost immediately outgrew its space at 68 Newtown Lane and they began scouring Long Island for warehouse space that would allow them to expand their shipping program. When the larger space on Pantigo Road became available, it seemed meant to be.

The new restaurant will offer more savory items. (Credit: Carissa’s the Bakery)

“It opened the doors to new possibilities with the restaurant and bar components,” Waechter said. “The business actually feels like it has a living, breathing life of it’s own. Sometimes portions don’t always work as well as you want, and it’s time to trim and prune away so the core remains strong and healthy. It requires lots of attention and care, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see it grow and blossom. It’s all about the food and the people involved, especially our awesome team and the farmers.”

No opening date has been set and details on the restaurant’s menu are still coming together, but like original Carissa’s the Bakery, will celebrate the farmers and fishermen of the East End. Chef Molly Levine will head up the kitchen. The Newtown Lane space will continue to dish up breads, sandwiches, homemade soups and a variety of pastries.

And while the menu at the bakery often changes slightly seasonally, that just means there is always something new to bite into. If you go this spring, try the rhubarb meringue pie, the salty soured pickled rye, the olive loaf that started it all, or the dark stout bread, which Chemla recommends pairing with the creamy goat’s milk cheese at the market. Are you really not in your car yet?

Carissa’s the Bakery is located at 68 Newtown Lane in East Hampton.