Memorable | One of the Best
Bantam Bread Co.
Review by: Jane & Michael Stern
Bantam is a charming village in upstate Connecticut with a world class bakery. Since Niles Golovin opened it in 1996 the Bantam Bread Company has set a spectacular standard of artisan breads that are the equal of – if not better than – anything we have eaten in the great-bread cities of San Francisco and New York: tawny-crusted peasant bread, rugged multi-grain, chewy rye with caraway seeds, and rosemary-perfumed Kalamata olive sourdough. A “holiday loaf,” created for the bakery’s first Christmas season and studded with toasted walnuts, golden raisins, and sour cherries, has proven so popular that it is now available year around. Irish soda bread has become a signature, too: there is none better anywhere.
Of special interest are the sourdoughs baked every day but Sunday (and Monday and Tuesday, when the bakery is closed). “There is a tremendous amount of mystique attached to sourdough,” Niles told us a while ago. “But it isn’t so mysterious, really. What we are doing here is capturing wild yeast. We propagate it by feeding it three times daily. When I come in a little before two in the morning, I’ve got a full bucket of sourdough, and as I progress through the bake, I use sourdough in each batch and by the end of the bake I’m left with just a small amount in the bucket. Then we feed it whole wheat flour and well water. Three times, on schedule, we feed it until the bucket is refilled again. And it grows, it really grows! What’s happening when you put the flour and water in that bucket is that the yeast is screaming out, ‘There’s a party going on!’ and all the airborne yeast in my bakery sort of migrates to the bucket to join in. So in effect what we are doing is taking a sourdough culture, which is a natural yeast culture, and inviting all the yeast in the neighborhood to join in.”
Joyous bread is more than enough to lure us to this charming little shop, but over the years Niles has added other attractions: gorgeous one-man pizzas (aka focaccias) topped with cheese and olives or fresh tomatoes and herbs, biscotti and mandlebrod for crunchy munching, spectacularly beautiful fruit tarts for dessert, and a wonder that somehow got labeled a “dirt bomb.” It’s a cupcake-sized sweet pastry coated with sugar that has the texture of a butter croissant and the avoirdupois of a cake donut — a sort of prototypical “cronut.” One of these with a cup of strong coffee is what we expect to be served at the gates of Roadfood Heaven.
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