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.
Which makes sense. After all, Mr. Golper, like many comrades in the revolutionary salt-flour-water brigade, is engaged in an ancient and ceaseless battle: against the whims of working with fermenting dough whose personality can shift on a daily or even hourly basis; against the high costs of making bread in what he considers the purest manner; against decades of commercialization that have trained the American eye and palate to expect bread that is soft, gummy, pale and tasteless.
WELL-BAKED: BIEN CUIT'S ZACHARY GOLPER SHARES HIS BREAD JOURNEY IN A NEW BOOK
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.”
It's been more than four years since Golper opened his Brooklyn bakery Bien Cuit(120 Smith Street, Brooklyn; 718-852-0200) with his wife and partner Kate Wheatcroft, where he approaches the practice of old-world bread baking with the passion of a dedicated craftsman. The spot has become a favored destination, for both the Boerum Hill locals who stop in throughout the day for espresso, inspired pastries and tartine sandwiches, as well as bread pilgrims paying homage to the art of cold, slow fermentation, who come from further afield to get their hands on Golper's burnished-brown "well baked" crusty loaves.
How Zachary Golper Makes Bien Cuit's Kaffir Lime Eclairs
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.
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.
Golper is the baking brains behind Bien Cuit, a Brooklyn-based temple to slow-fermented breads, which are often cooked at unusually low temperatures for usually long periods of time. The result is a loaf with a thick mahogany crust that’s full of such depth of flavor that standard baguettes look and taste positively premature by comparison.
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.
Later, standing over my sink with their miche, a massive, round loaf made with rye and wheat flours that undergoes 68 hours of cold fermentation before baking, I decide that they're wrong on one count — buttering this bread almost seems abhorrent. It distracts from the complex tang, subtle sweet note, and underlying nuttiness. This is a far cry from white loaves, and each bite invites contemplation, like a good wine or cup of coffee. I don't want to taste butter with this bread — I just want to taste bread.
For Bien Cuit’s Zachary Golper, the Bowl Scraper Fits Like a Glove
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.”
How Five Small New York City Bakeries Got Into the Wholesale Business
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."
They also structure the wholesale bakery like a fine dining kitchen, with an executive chef, a senior sous chef, etc. The goal is to make employees feel like they're not just in manufacturing but in a restaurant, creating breads for a specific person, Wheatcroft says. "Sometimes that vision can get lost when you're in the space that isn't the space where you're serving the client," she says. "We try to really keep that vision front and center." Bien Cuit mostly hand makes its products, and it's important for employees to envision each one as "a baby," created from start to finish.
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.