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Bantam Bread Co.

853 Bantam Rd. (Route 202), Bantam, CT - (860) 567-2737
Posted By Michael Stern on 4/5/2011 7:46:00 AM
Bantam is a charming little 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 loaf, too: there is none better anywhere.

Of special interest are the sourdoughs baked every day but Sunday (and Monday, 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 recent bakery 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. 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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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Kalamata sourdough
Irish Soda Bread
fruit tarts
holiday bread
Dirt Bomb
Foccacia
Apple Gallette
Cow Cookie
Angel Biscuit
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

So moist and creamy that it verges on cake, Bantam's Irish soda bread needs no butter, no condiment at all.
"So moist and creamy that it verges on cake, Bantam's Irish soda bread needs no butter, no condiment at all."
Michael Stern





A close view of a loaf of Irish soda bread shows its glossy skin, but does nothing to reveal its tender crumb.
"A close view of a loaf of Irish soda bread shows its glossy skin, but does nothing to reveal its tender crumb."
Michael Stern


A fruit tart overflows with sweet/tart berries.
"A fruit tart overflows with sweet/tart berries."
Michael Stern


The dirt bomb is a cinnamon-dusted nutmeg muffin, but that Spartan description does not begin to describe its glory. For one thing, it gets dipped in clarified butter before the cinnamon sugar is applied to the outside, adding a luxurious halo to the creamy-rich interior.
"The dirt bomb is a cinnamon-dusted nutmeg muffin, but that Spartan description does not begin to describe its glory. For one thing, it gets dipped in clarified butter before the cinnamon sugar is applied to the outside, adding a luxurious halo to the creamy-rich interior."
Michael Stern


Holiday bread looks a little somber from the outside. It is indeed a serious loaf, but one that induces taste buds to dance for joy.
"Holiday bread looks a little somber from the outside. It is indeed a serious loaf, but one that induces taste buds to dance for joy."
Michael Stern


This is the way I like my Holiday Bread: toasted and liberally spread with butter.
"This is the way I like my Holiday Bread: toasted and liberally spread with butter."
Michael Stern


Apple galette: elegant, and immensely satisfying
"Apple galette: elegant, and immensely satisfying"
Michael Stern


Caraway ryes on the shelf, still warm from the oven.
"Caraway ryes on the shelf, still warm from the oven."
Michael Stern


Angel biscuits are soft and buttery -- a fine coffee companion.
"Angel biscuits are soft and buttery -- a fine coffee companion."
Michael Stern


Baker Niles Golivan shows a few 'local loaves' that are soon to be baked. That's his name for a light whole wheat loaf made with wheat grown in the Hudson Valley and milled in nearby Clinton Corners, New York.
"Baker Niles Golivan shows a few 'local loaves' that are soon to be baked. That's his name for a light whole wheat loaf made with wheat grown in the Hudson Valley and milled in nearby Clinton Corners, New York."
Michael Stern


The woman who sold me the cow cookie warned that she had often plunged a thumb through the cow's stomach, the cookie is that fragile. I held it gingerly, but that did not prevent its instant decapitation as soon as it was set down on the car's console.
"The woman who sold me the cow cookie warned that she had often plunged a thumb through the cow's stomach, the cookie is that fragile. I held it gingerly, but that did not prevent its instant decapitation as soon as it was set down on the car's console."
Michael Stern


There is barely room for three or four customers inside this charming little riverside bakery which, for bread lovers, is a holy destination.
"There is barely room for three or four customers inside this charming little riverside bakery which, for bread lovers, is a holy destination."
Michael Stern



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