Clear Flour Bread

By Molly McDonough   Suburbs · Bakery · $$

If you’re like us, you’ve wondered for years why the baguettes churned out by the most haute of American bakeries fail to even come close to the ones in France. The flour’s different. The water’s different. They’re not fresh enough. Excuses, excuses. Can nobody fix this problem? We’d forever resigned America’s lack of soft insides, airy flakes, and general je ne sais quoi to the category of life’s unsolvable mysteries.

Until, that is, a friendly cashier at Clear Flour handed us a paper bag filled with a Batard—a shorter, fatter French-style loaf. With this genre of food, it’s all about touch, the way textures play off each other. And giving that bag a squeeze, as one does, filled us with hope. The golden crust gave easily, a slight crackle hinting at its light-as-a-feather insides matched with a perfectly crunchy surface. The best part? It was warm. From the oven. No matter that this place has no tables; we grabbed the bread, raced home, snatched a stick of butter, set up shop, and repeated “one more slice” until both crusty end-pieces were gone and dinnertime had passed (yes, we did it again).

Textural perfection isn’t limited to the loaves that have made Clear Flour famous—it also graces the flaky croissants, the deeply caramelized edges of bite-sized canelés, and the gooey insides beneath molasses cookie surfaces. This is a shrine to Old World baking, where nothing is cloying or flashy but everything is flavorful. See for yourself why, in the age of a so-called donut renaissance, we still line up to get our hands on a baked black currant variety that feels closer to a bread our grandmas used to make than the maple bacon-covered rings that grace our Instagram feeds.

You’ll have to wait in line for those warm, homey pastries—a line that’s been spilling onto the sidewalk for three and a half decades. But fill up a coffee cup and be on the lookout for a fresh, hot challah or German rye exiting from the kitchen. It’s a whole lot quicker than flying to Europe.

Clear Flour sells fresh pizza dough daily, along with tomato sauce and cheese from excellent Italian purveyor Capone’s—all you need for a DIY pie.

Check the bakery’s website for upcoming themed events. Our favorite is German week—all the “kugelhops,” “bienenstichs,” and soft pretzels you never knew you were missing.

Despise the Green Line? You can find Clear Flour breads at several other spots around town: Formaggio Kitchen, Savenor’s, and even a sprinkling of Whole Foods.

Must Haves

  • Can’t go wrong here. Check the availability calendar online for the daily lineup of the bakery’s 25-plus varieties.

  • Proof that Clear Flour’s perfected the cookie jar staples, too. Buy both to evade a tough choice between the joys of sticky fragrant almond and the nostalgic bliss of chewy, sugar-dusted molasses.

  • It might not catch your eye, but its warm spices and sugar-dusted surface will win your heart.

  • This is not an awkward attempt at delving into hybrid pastry (i.e., Cronut) territory, but rather a tasty rendition of a German “laugencroissant,” where the flakiness of a croissant meets the toasty-salty surface of a pretzel.

Fun Fact

The “pretzel tree” used to display pretzels in the bakery is a perfectly scaled reproduction of a similar contraption depicted in a 17th-century Dutch painting by Job Berckheyde.

Tastes of Clear Flour Bread

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