City Pulse

By Arielle Shipper

Zachary Golper loves that bread making is an age-old tradition. As co-owner of Bien Cuit Bakery with his wife, Kate Wheatcroft, Golper aims to respect this tradition while still bringing “a little ingenuity and the genuine craftsmanship of artisan bakers.”

Bien Cuit translates as “well done” in both the literal and figurative sense. Loaves there are marked by an iconic burnished crust that is typical of artisan baked goods, but Golper has also worked hard with his team to develop recipes and techniques that cultivate a delightful “je ne sais quoi” when you bite in.

Located on a bustling stretch of Smith Street in Cobble Hill, the bakery has attracted much recognition in the ten months it’s been open. The space was built in 1910 as a residence and has had many former incarnations, most recently as a used bookstore. Golper and his team exposed the original brick walls and added warm wood touches to create a light-filled space that’s at once homey and contemporary.

The kitchen in the back is fairly open because it can be; it’s difficult to believe that the roughly
ten-foot cracked wooden table and small baking crew feed 1,000 people per day and kneads loaves that have made it onto the covers of Saveur and Bon Appetit. “We’re small but fierce,” says Golper.

Small is the name of the game at Bien Cuit, where batches are made in individual-sized mixers so that the fermentation process is controlled: All loaves are fermented for the same amount of time as the yeast eats Bien Cuit’s homemade starters (made with local fruits and flours). This technique, which pays homage to the oldest methods of bread making, allows for greater consistency and control over the breads and pastries that are produced. Golper’s goal is to use just enough technology to maintain control, but to let the process remain “a craft.”

The craftsmanship is evident from your first bite to your last at Bien Cuit: Flavors are complex and textures are perfect. The walnut raisin loaf is studded with pink peppercorns, which add a floral note that contrasts nicely with the umami of the roasted nuts. Yukon gold potatoes roasted with grey salt hide in the Pugliese loaf, which tastes vaguely of beer and has a round, buttery finish.

And the pain au chocolat? The honeyed crust shatters upon contact, and Bien Cuit’s unique pate fermentee (fermented, milk-based dough) has a light-yet-chewy texture and unmatched flavor. As Golper observes “it’s characteristically awesome.”

Bien Cuit Bakery
120 Smith Street (Subway stop: Bergen F/C)
http://www.biencuit.com/

Originally published June 2012
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