Traditional temple

Peninsula Waiting Little Sky Bakery opens temple to naturally leavened dough

Little Sky Bakery, a popular hold at farmers’ markets across the peninsula, now has a permanent home in Menlo Park.

Owner Tian Mayimin and her team have quietly started selling fresh loaves of bread, bialys and scones at 506 Santa Cruz Ave., on the ground floor of a new development across from the Menlo Park Caltrain station.

Notably, Mayimin has also taken over the former Borrone MarketBar space at 1010 El Camino Real across the street, where she will be opening a cafe with more prepared foods and coffee in a few months.

Together, the two spaces will allow Mayimin to delve deeper into her obsession with all things naturally leavened, from bread and pizza to dumplings. The menu will expand to include staples from his native Xi’an in northwest China, including rou jia mou, a meat-stuffed steamed bun often called a Chinese burger. Baozi, huge steamed dumplings filled with pork, shrimp and purple cabbage, or tofu and chives, a Chinese New Year staple in Mayimin’s family, will be on offer.

The cafe will also serve pizzas made with natural yeast dough, open sandwiches on dense German seed bread and elaborate layer cakes – as well as soft serve ice cream.

“It’s so fascinating to see how all these different cultures use wild yeast,” Mayimin said. “There are so many cool human traditions that are so fun to keep growing.”

Bakers bake bread at the new Little Sky Bakery retail space in Menlo Park.

Provided by Little Sky Bakery

The Santa Cruz Avenue Bakery is now the base of Little Sky, where employees cook for farmers market stalls, pop-ups and home deliveries. The 1,200 square foot space allowed the business to nearly double its cooking capacity, Mayimin said.

Customers can buy baked goods there from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. From Wednesday to Sunday. Expect an assortment of breads, onion-parmesan bialys, huge chocolate chip cookies, and cinnamon raisin toast, among other Little Sky staples. There is no seating, but grab a coffee at nearby Philz Coffee and use their tables. (When it opens, the Little Sky space across the street will have outdoor tables.)

Since its beginnings in 2017, Little Sky has quickly become one of the most popular bakeries on the peninsula. Mayimin, a former lawyer turned avid baker, started baking natural sourdough bread in her Menlo Park home and delivering it all over town. She showed up to her very first farmer’s market with just 20 slices of bread in a basket. The same century-old starter she used then powers all the loaves today.

Little Sky Bakery now sells fresh bread in a permanent space in Menlo Park, like this naturally leavened nutty raisin bread, left, and stone ground whole wheat, right.

Little Sky Bakery now sells fresh bread in a permanent space in Menlo Park, like this naturally leavened nutty raisin bread, left, and stone ground whole wheat, right.

Elena Kadvany

Now people line up for his baked goods at more than 10 farmers’ markets around the area. Little Sky recently started showing up on Fridays at State Street Market, the new food hall in Los Altos, and St. Michael’s Alley in Palo Alto. A dozen employees prepare an impressive array of products, from sesame date bread to huge calzone-like turnovers filled with savory artichokes, mushrooms, parmesan, zucchini and berbere. They recently added house smoked salmon and ham and cheese baguette sandwiches; expect additions like fried tofu down the line.

The new bakery will be a testing ground for new items, like lemon poppy seed muffins with citrus from Mayimin’s backyard tree or focaccia sprinkled with fresh herbs.

Mayimin lights up when asked about the potential for even more natural sourdough products. She’s drawn to fast food — not in the Chipotle tradition, but more to Xi’an street vendors selling fresh, high-quality food you can eat on the go. Bagels, pretzels and potstickers could be in the future of Little Sky.

Elena Kadvany is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: elena.kadvany@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @ekadvany