One of the most useful directories on this website lists Craft Bakeries throughout the United States from Arizona to Wyoming, in Canada from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island, as well as a couple listings in England and Ireland.
We’ve often noted our pride in having a directory of bakeries offering baked goods and naturally leavened breads, made from scratch and handcrafted, with the mindful sourcing of ingredients often including local grains and fruits. And with the recent addition of two more craft bakeries in the Capital Region of upstate New York, our directory now has 99 listings!
With the pandemic ending and travel for business and pleasure again robust, this directory of Craft Bakeries (which includes many bakeries that also offer breakfasts or light meals) as well as our Coffee Directory and Farm to Table Dining Directories, are especially useful.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, it is a relief that nearly all the bakeries we spotlight in our bakery directory have endured. In particular, during the heart of that sad period we noted how Hungry Ghost Bread in the small city of Northampton in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, which had been providing delicious breads and pastries for nearly 20 years, sustained its operation with “grateful community support.”
During the pandemic, Hungry Ghost Bread remained open daily “with its breads and pastries offered first come first served at a take-out window” and it utilized a “cashless payment system” that relied on “the honorable behavior of its customers.” Nonetheless, Hungry Ghost Bread’s baker/owner, Jonathan Stevens, noted that “a huge part of being a baker is having contact with customers, and the energy of having customers coming into the front door is sorely missed.”
I was reminded of Jonathan Stevens’ words on a recent visit to the recently opened Night Work Bread bakery in Ballston Spa (Saratoga County), not far from my Albany home in upstate New York. During the pandemic, the bakers/owners, Cindy Rosenberg & Leigh Rathner, were offering their breads and baked goods at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market in Troy (Rensselaer County) and at that time, baking their delicious bread and treats in a third party’s commercial kitchen. The news that they had decided to establish their own bakery on a side street in a small upstate town was wonderful reassurance that more normal times were at hand.
And the friendly welcome on a recent visit to Night Work Bread was a reminder of what Hungry Ghost Bakery’s Jonathan Stevens had been “sorely missing” during the pandemic. In deciding what loaves to purchase, I like to know whether any of the breads are 100% whole grain. And the baker Leigh Rathner was there to kindly answer my question.
There’s little doubt in my mind that marketers have confused (and possibly with some intention “fooled”) consumers into thinking they’re buying a healthy loaf when it’s not. Consumer Reports in a recent article, “Decoding Bread Labels, Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re buying a healthy loaf when it’s not,” spotlighted a study from researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University that revealed that “up to half of Americans can’t identify when a product is all or mostly whole grain.” Why? According to the study, “the products that contained fewer whole grains and more refined ones were labeled with claims often seen on them, such as ‘made with whole grains’ and ‘multigrain‘.”
Night Work Bread owner/baker, Leigh Rathner, answered my question by noting that his loaves of breads were all “sour dough” and are made with flour that is 60 to 70 percent “whole grain.” His honest answer was much appreciated. Although this home baker often bakes a 100% whole grain oats & honey bread (but not sour dough, which would be preferable, if I wasn’t too lazy to keep a sour dough starter going) at home, I was pleased to purchase a loaf of Rathner’s sour dough “Country Bread” and “Midnite Rye.”
In addition to adding Night Work Bread to our Craft Bakery directory, we also added the The Bread Butler which is based in the Albany suburb of Colonie. The Bread Butler started up during the pandemic and found a way to endure by its delivery of breads to people’s homes or workplaces. It has more recently opened its bakery to the public for pick-up of breads and baked goods (which can be pre-ordered to assure the consumer of availability, “but not necessary”) on two days each week. And on a recent visit, the friendly manager of the bakery advised that the decision had been made to expand operation of the bakery for pick-up of breads and baked goods from two days to four days each week. As of the date of this post, its website has not been updated and shows pick-up only on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but a sign on the door also notes hours on Friday (9:00AM-4:00PM) and on Saturday (9:00AM-1:00PM) as well for pick-up.
On its website, The Bread Butler describes clearly and in detail its breads and pastries (including croissants) on a menu that is easy to use for placing an order, either for pick-up at the bakery in Colonie or for delivery to a home or workplace. I decided to purchase two loaves of its Zeta (named after the daughter of the The Bread Butler’s owner/baker, Andreas Mergner) loaves, described as follows: “most flavorful ‘regular’ loaf – 30% freshly milled (in-house) whole wheat, extra sourdough starter, a darker bake, plus poppy and sesame seeds.” Alas, no 100% whole grain offerings on the day of my visit to the bakery.
In closing, one final point to persuade users of this website to utilize our Craft Bakery directory. Yes, it’s very important to pay attention to the ingredients that go into making your bread and baked goods, but also consider the importance of knowing your baker and supporting a family-scale bakery. Keep your dollars local: big and global is not better when it comes to bread and baked goods!
(Frank W. Barrie, 4/15/23)