Sep. 11, 2012 at 10:10 AM ET
Despite growing numbers of gluten allergies (and misplaced carb phobias), there has never been a better time to eat bread in this country. Artisan bakers, inspired by Europe's time-honored baking traditions, are popping up all over America, undeterred by grueling middle-of-the-night shifts and the often-monotonous work at their outstanding bakeries.
Before Zachary Golper opened his Brooklyn bakery Bien Cuit, he apprenticed with a third generation pâtissier in Provence, where he learned the Old World baking techniques that now go into in his selection of terrific French breads. The dough for his miche (a dark-crusted country bread), for instance, undergoes fermentation for up to 68 hours for a dense, chewy, sublimely flavorful loaf. And it's never far from the oven: Golper bakes three times a day.
The most loyal customers at Clear Flour Bread in Brookline, Massachusetts keep track of the weekly baking rotation to catch favorites hot out of the oven; the fire-roasted tomato fougasse comes every Saturday at 1 p.m. Bakers Christy Timon and Abram Faber are revered as early champions of classic European baking styles and continue to hunt down new recipes to add to their line-up of French, Italian and German breads, like a hearty volkornbrot studded with chopped rye berries.
Another baking duo, Steve Horton and Tammy Hoyt-Simonds, forms the team behind Minneapolis’ terrific Rustica bakery. They practice long dough fermentation, hand-shaping and hearthstone baking for their exceptional breads like flax levain, olive-studded bread and cañadas de azucar, a Spanish-inspired, yeasty flatbread with a sugary glaze. Rustica may be set in a mini mall, but the bakery uses high-quality ingredients and labor-intensive methods.
By contrast, the Big Sur Bakery is tucked behind a gas station off coastal Highway 1 in Big Sur, California and marked only with a hand-written sign. Yet this bakery and restaurant has managed to become a go-to destination for hikers, road-trippers, shoe-optional locals—and bread lovers. Co-owner Michelle Rizzolo uses skills honed at La Brea Bakery and Campanile for exceptional oak-wood-fired creations like a hearty, dense, seed-packed hide roll and a popular breakfast pizza topped with eggs and bacon.
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