.Forma Bakery is Jackson Schnetz’s First Brick and Mortar

Temescal welcomes viennoiseries and Mexican baked goods to the neighborhood

On Forma Bakery’s opening day, all the viennoiseries sold out by 10:30am. The names of danishes and croissants remained spelled out in black ink across an empty display of butcher paper; only the shadowy residue of butter, fruit juice, custards and jams remained.

Owner and baker Jackson Schnetz told me he was very happy with the pastries his team had made. “It was a lot of work but the other bakers, with me, and then the front of house with the coffee, did great,” he said.

Forma Bakery in Temescal is Schnetz’s first brick and mortar. “This is always a place that I really wanted to have a bakery in because it’s such a nice neighborhood,” he said.

Schnetz’s father, Thomas, belonged to one half of the partnership that started Doña Tomas a few doors down the block on Telegraph Avenue—now occupied, in part, by Poppy Bagels. Schnetz describes his father as “a huge foodie” and praises him for the “incredibly beautiful” restaurants he’s designed.

“He’s had a lot of visual input on Forma, definitely in the front in terms of the actual kitchen,” Schnetz said. 

Schnetz loved going to his father’s restaurants. But he initially studied biology in college, with an eye toward medical school. Observing his father’s late hours and long shifts, Schnetz eschewed the restaurant industry for a few years.

His biology courses, however, eventually led him to an ongoing interest in making sourdough bread. An interest that began in the Bay Area. “Going to Tartine, loving their bread,” he reminisced. “I would go to Fournée and thought their croissants were the best thing in the world.” 

When he later worked at Fournée, he found that a bakery’s schedule was completely different from a restaurant’s. Days begin at 3:30am and end by noon. “I really enjoyed the long, thoughtful process of making all these fermented doughs,” Schnetz said. “As I did it more and more, I thought I could try to combine all of these flavors that I grew up with.”

During the past few years, the number of Asian fusion bakeries in the Bay Area has increased. East Bay bakeries such as Bake Sum and Sunday Bakeshop pair Asian ingredients with French pastry-making techniques. Schnetz, whose paternal grandmother is Mexican, makes items such as conchas, rosquillas or polvorónes (wedding cookies) alongside croissants and loaves of sourdough.

“In the Bay Area there are so many mash-ups of these different cultures, and people who are really thoughtful about all forms of baking, not strictly French,” he said. “That’s what inspired me. I thought I could do something similar here and it would be received.”

Conchas, whether vanilla or chocolate, will always be staples on Forma Bakery’s menu, in addition to croissants and danishes. But the vegetable croissants and braided conchas contain different fillings, whether savory or sweet, from season to season.

“What I work the hardest on is trying to get a really good croissant flavor at the base to be something that I like,” Schnetz said. “Then it’s just a platform to put whatever else you want in it and be creative.”

Forma Bakery also features several vegan versions of its pastries. Plant-based butter, he notes, is significantly different from traditional European laminating butter. A few months ago he began using Tourlami, a newer plant-based butter specifically designed for bakers.

“It’s got a higher fat content with cocoa butter, which makes it a little bit more solid,” Schnetz said. “That’s how you can still get a very similar lamination profile.”

Forma Bakery’s plant-based conchas are traditionally made with an enriched, sugary dough. “I think those can translate extremely well to a plant-based product,” he said. “I am not plant-based, and I enjoy full butter and egg products. But I wanted to try to provide something that would be inclusive of other diets—and something that I was also happy and proud of.”  

Forma Bakery, open Wed to Sun, 8am to 2:30pm; 4920 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. IG: @forma_bakery. formabakery.com.

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