Wonderful somethings are in the oven all over the region
Made from scratch Bakeries are thriving up and down the county. Tyler & Pine opened this spring almost next door to the former Morningside Bakery in Pittsfield.
Coffee-creme éclairs. Apple fritters. Chocolate cupcakes with frosting roses. Across the Berkshires, bakers are staking a claim in butter and sugar and yeast—that baking from scratch, by hand, is worth taking the time, and locally grown, locally made ingredients are worth the flavor.
Jessica Lamb, owner of Dottie’s Coffee Lounge on North Street, opened Tyler & Pine this spring, almost next door to the former Morningside Bakery. “Most people who come in say, ‘It’s so good to have a bakery here again,’” she says. “People have a deep attachment to the Morningside Bakery. They went there as children.”
Lamb is already getting requests for a champagne cake Morningside used to make, and she has been experimenting in response as she gets to know her new neighbors, many families with German, Italian, or Irish heritage. They are the roots of Pittsfield, she says.
“It’s exciting and fascinating to be in a neighborhood so dynamic and interested and interesting. Families have lived here for generations. On our first day, a Greek man handed me $20 and told me to write ‘Good luck’ on it and hang it on the wall.”
Lamb finds baking a peaceful, meditative and grounding activity after the high-speed pace of the coffee shop. Her boyfriend, Michael Downer, manages Dottie’s, and she has plunged into learning the new bakery. Lamb has assembled a team that includes Luiza Trabka, a pastry chef with years of experience in the southern Berkshires, including Fuel coffeeshop in Great Barrington, and Greg Porter, a newcomer to the Berkshires (by way of Buffalo, New York, and Denver, Colorado) with a long resumé in breads and pastries. Together, they make almost everything from scratch, using fresh ingredients for treats such as their signature raised doughnuts—chocolate-glazed, raspberry and pistachio, lemon and ginger, lime and coconut, and more.
Doughnuts are trendy and traditional, Lamb says, and easy to play with, and she creates new flavors regularly. They are all yeast-risen, less dense and often lighter than muffins, but few customers realize the time that goes into them.
“You heat the milk and butter,” Lanb says, “temper the eggs [slowly mix them in], mix in the dry ingredients for 10 minutes, rest the batter for 10 minutes. The dough is massaged and worked, cut, and put in a tray to rise, get fried, then iced, topped, and dried—and then it comes out here to your hands and mouth.”
A few blocks away, her neighbor Rob Llana shares her value for quality and freshness and the taste of home. He is seeing generations of people who don’t really know about scratch-made food, he says, as it has become rarer for people to bake in their own kitchens or to find fresh-baked goods made without chemicals or shortcuts.
He opened the Studious Baker on North Street in 2014 to fill that gap.
“Bakeries are a dying art and business in our culture today,” he says, “and I thought it was needed.”
On a summer afternoon, his sandwich board offers plum-apricot muffins, cherry turnovers, meringue rounds with dark Callebaut chocolate and toasted almonds—and all are gluten-free. Ninety-nine percent of what he makes is gluten-free, even the spelt and rye bread he makes once a month for sandwiches. He develops all of his own recipes, inspired by cultures all over the world. He also grows his own peaches for pastries, fillings and jams, and sandwich spreads and chutneys.
Before he moved to the kitchen side of the food business, he was an organic farmer in upstate New York for more than 20 years, growing oats among other things. He trained as a chef in New York City before settling on the Berkshires. “I know food well,” he says, “and I know farm culture well.”
He is expanding his offerings steadily, and he now makes his own ice cream and frozen custard. He often bakes egg-free and dairy free—he specializes for people with food sensitivities and allergies, and in wheat-free and gluten-free baking he offers many alternatives—organic, whole-grain flours and nine different gluten-free flours.
“I want people to eat well,” he says. “That’s my mainstay.”
Bakeries are thriving sweetly up and down the county. French pastries tantalize at Bizalion’s Fine Foods in Great Barrington, as does sourdough bread at Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic. Home Sweet Home, the Great Barrington doughnut shop, has offered its own local doughnut flavors for many years, including filled apple and key lime.
In Lenox, Mary Zabian brings her high-storied cakes to the weekly farmers market, and Chocolate Springs offers scones and sweets made with its own locally made chocolate. Brioche, tartlets, and croissants flourish at Patisserie Lenox.
In Lee, Cakewalk greets the morning with almond croissants. In Pittsfield, Mary McGinnis opens Carrot Cake bakery on Union Street for Third Thursdays and before Barrington Stage plays.
And in the northern Berkshires, Jamie Ott of the Clarksburg Bread Co. shows up regularly at the North Adams market and bakes a weekly menu of treats from home, and locals stop in for muffins at BrewHaHa in North Adams and at the A-Frame Bakery in Williamstown and cheesecake, fruit tarts, and more at Tunnel City Coffee.
No Ordinary Doughnut
Flavors are introduced regularly at Tyler & Pine. They range in all directions—from Peach or Blueberry Ginger Crumble to Maple Pecan or Rosewater Lemonade.