Zachary Golper, Lucky Peach
At its heart, bread baking is the art of turning dry, relatively flavorless ground grain—flour—into a delicious food with great complexity and variety. There are many tricks to the bread baker’s art, but no escaping the fact that it all begins with flour. Here’s what you need to know about the main types out there—and what they mean to a bread baker.
Leslie Pariseau, Grub Street
Far and away, this Brooklyn shop’s croissants most consistently nail the rare perfect balance between an exterior whose lightly glazed layers break into golden snowfall when pulled apart, and a dense, faintly sweet interior whose innards are still defined enough to display the delicate swirl that’s indicative of a perfect pastry.
Karen Tedesco, The Village Voice
Like any true artisan, Zachary Golper says he believes there's beauty in handmade imperfection; “With every individual roll, every individual baguette, there's no exact uniformity — ever. So many bakeries out there have robots make the food. There's way more of those bakeries than us.”
Matthew Zuras, VICE/MUNCHIES
Medium-rare might be optimal for a prime piece of hanger steak, but Zachary Golper thinks that we should embrace well-done.
Well-done bread, that is.
Jeff Gordinier, The New York Times
Zachary Golper gets a strange look in his eyes when he talks about his miche.
Mr. Golper, who oversees the ovens at Bien Cuit, a bakery in Brooklyn, is part of a starter culture of obsessive, boundary-pushing bread makers in New York City and around the country. Connoisseurs consider his miche, a French-style country loaf, something of a crown jewel. But it certainly doesn’t shine like one; bulbous and heat-bludgeoned, it looks more like something that might have been used as a shield in a Stone Age skirmish.
French pastry chef Zachary Golper knows how to make a mean chocolate buckwheat cookie. Bon Appétit’s Alison Roman visits him at Brooklyn bakery Bien Cuit to see how he does it.
Bien Cuit, the exceptional Cobble Hill bakery, is – with good reason – best known for its enormous, crusty loaves of bread. Its croissants and danishes, always burnished to a dark chestnut color, are a close second. But a good portion of its pastry case is always devoted to another category of carbohydrates: pretty, delicate, French-style desserts. These should not be overlooked.
You don't expect to taste rye in a crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside ficelle form, which makes this fragrant, slowly fermented loaf all the more surprising. It's our favorite from this newish Brooklyn bakery, who has already started supplying some of our favorite restaurants in the city.
Serena Dai, Eater
Bien Cuit always stops taking on new clients if they feel like growth will impact the quality of their baked goods, Wheatcroft says. They've had to start a waiting list or tell larger clients that they can't deliver for a while as they figure out operations. When Bien Cuit was moving the wholesale bakery from the retail shop to the Sunset Park bakery, one client waited nearly six months, Wheatcroft says. "Quality comes first," she says. "If you have to take a break, you do that."
Laura Shunk, The Village Voice
I'm following Zach Golper through his U-shaped wholesale bakery in Sunset Park, learning about how Bien Cuit mixes, ferments, and bakes its bread and pastries, when he drops a recommendation that shatters everything I thought I knew about eating bread. "Don't eat bread fresh out of the oven," he says. "Let it sit and cool, so that the gas dissipates into the crumb and locks in the scent and aroma." Some breads are even better on day two, he says, when the crust is no longer crackly. I press him and his wife/business partner, Kate Wheatcroft, further about how they enjoy bread, and they tell me to tear hunks off the loaf ("Don't slice," says Golper) and eat them with a little cultured butter.
Marian Bull, Lucky Peach
If you want to go to a very good bakery in Brooklyn, you want to go to Bien Cuit, where the bread case overflows with crusty and hole-y loaves in every shade of chestnut brown. Some of them have ridged backs like a friendly flour-based dinosaur, and the baguettes sport edges so pointy they’re classified as deadly weapons in fourteen states. All the breads that Zachary Golper makes here are slow-fermented, naturally leavened, and use traditional methods (and occasionally nontraditional ingredients); his miche is deep and dark and nutty and perfect for fried toast, though it is also okay to tear into it before you get home.
Don’t ignore the pastries, either. One time, a friend of mine heard a Brooklyn toddler scream “I WANT A PAIN AU CHOCOLAT” in perfect French here. You will probably want one, too, since Golper’s croissants are some of the best in the city—you’ll know it when they shatter all over you.
Zachary Golper’s sought-after breads at Bien Cuit are the product of his years as a journeyman baker. He was introduced to baking as an apprentice on an Oregon farm where he made bread by candlelight in the wee hours and later moved on to learn under some of the world’s most renowned: World Baking Champions in Portland and Seattle and a M.O.F and World Pastry Champion in Las Vegas.
Ligaya Mishan, The New York Times
Zachary Golper learned to make bread in a sheep barn, under guttering candles in the dead of night.
He was 19 and living on an organic farm and meditation center in Oregon, where he had discovered that he was better at manual labor (driving a tractor, tending the orchard) than freeing his mind. He offered himself as an apprentice to the resident baker, who insisted that he start work at 1 a.m. and mix dough by hand, because “electricity creates negative vibrations.”