Friday, June 15, 2012

Bakeries of Worcester

I am not a food critic, but I do like food—good food—especially baked goods. I have a tremendous appreciation for freshly baked goods and the laborious process that goes into making them, in part because I come from a family of bakers, and partly because of my experiences.

As an college student, I was fortunate enough to spend 2 years in Europe, where my palate became accustomed to the sometimes subtle, sometimes characteristic flavors and textures of the breads. During my travels abroad, I became acquainted with bakeries in France, Germany, and Italy. Upon my return to the U.S., it was more apparent than ever how different the European bakery scene is from the typical American one. Not only are the breads themselves different in terms of flavor, aroma, appearance, and texture, but also the manner in which bread is sold and purchased. For example, in the United States there are far fewer outdoor markets than in your average European city. Europeans tend to walk to their local bakery, whereas in America, we drive to our grocery stores, in which commercial breads prepackaged in plastic or cellophane wrappers are sold. In the last ten years or so, honest to goodness bakeries have been incorporated into the American grocery stores. These bakeries produce freshly baked breads just as is and has been done in Europe.

The purpose of this essay is to document the wonderful breads of Worcester, one of the oldest industrial cities of the Northeast. A melting pot of different ethnicities, Worcester is a unique city that offers the opportunity to experience the cultural variance in baked goods from several different countries. There are numerous bakeries in the city of Worcester, and I took it upon myself to visit each one in order to sample the different varieties of bread offered. All bakeries included in this list produce all of their own baked goods daily, on location, and all breads are made from scratch.
One of the best loved Scandinavian bakeries in the Worcester area, the Crown Bakery & Cafe offers predominantly Swedish food items. A best-seller at the Crown is the Swedish rye bread, which is made with a blend of wheat and rye. There are two variations of Swedish rye. The original, known as 'limpa', is shaped by hand and baked in an open hearth oven. The second variety is Swedish-American rye, which is baked in a form pan giving it a softer crust than the original. Both varieties have a unique flavor characteristic of anise, with a hint of molasses.

Located on Cambridge St., Culpepper's is an Italian bakery that serves breakfast and lunch. Their breads include traditional Italian, French, wheat, rye, sourdough, cinnamon raisin, pumpernickel, and marble.

The European Bakery & Pastry Inc. offers a multitude of different breads including
rye, multigrain, country, Lithuanian (made of rye, wheat, and barley flours, along with molasses), and Russian, which is made from rye and wheat flour. Of these, their white rye is one of their most popular breads.

Bay State Bakery, Inc. and George's bakery are Lebanese bakeries that both specialize in Syrian flatbread. This popular item is sold wholesale to other Syrian and Lebanese bakeries nearby.

In business for 17 years, Giovanni's is a family-run bakery, and is one of the several Italian bakeries in the area. Popular items include finger rolls, dinner rolls and mini pastries. Their best-seller is their Italian bread made with all-purpose high gluten flour, molded by hand and baked in a pan.
Another highly popular Italian bakery, Wholly Cannoli is well-known for their cannolis, but also makes foccacia and Italian bread per customer order.
Helen's Bakery Shop, a family-run business that has been in Worcester for decades, is primarily Swedish, but offers a multitude of items of various other nationalities. Their Swedish rye is their best-seller. Helen's additionally sells light Jewish rye, which is made with caraway seeds, white mountain bread (a combination of white and Italian breads), pumpernickel, and cinnamon raisin bread.

Mattero's Italian Bakery and Sandwich Shop has been open for almost 15 years. Their Italian bread is the best seller followed closely by their soft-crusted Vienna loaves.

Miranda Bread, a Brazilian bakery in business for eight years, offers Italian, French, and cheese breads. About the size of your standard dinner roll, Miranda's cheese bread is made from the starch of the yucca plant. It's crusty exterior and fluffy interior make the cheese bread a top selling item.

Mrs. Mack's Bakery and Restaurant is a family business with Scotch-Irish roots. All breads are hand-formed and baked on a rack. They sell everything from your standard Italian bread to marble bread. Their best-seller is their cinnamon-raisin bread, which is cut in thick slices and served with a dollop of icing on the side. This item is highly popular in part due to the generous load of cinnamon and raisins.