Amid an American bread renaissance, artisan bakers who focus on quality over quantity are gaining ground on giant industrial bakeries. These bakers use a combination of long dough-fermentation time, skilled hands and the best flour and grains they can find to bring customers finely crafted loaves with complex flavors. What’s more, they avoid the use of the chemical preservatives and conditioners industrial bakeries use to make dough behave in their production lines and last for weeks on a shelf.
We crafted a list of the best artisan bread bakeries in Connecticut, including places known for sourdough, baguettes, ciabatta, cinnamon-raisin bread, and even a rare bauernbrot (a German “farmer’s bread”). And if you have a sweet tooth, or need a full meal, many of these bakeries also offer handmade pastries and sandwiches.
Be sure to let us know if we missed any outstanding spots by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wave Hill Breads, Norwalk
If you walk down High Street in Norwalk, a mostly residential neighborhood, you’ll probably smell Wave Hill Breads before you see it. Don’t be misled by the bakery’s plain storefront. Its owner, Tim Topi — who became a master baker in Rome before moving to the U.S. — and his small team of bakers churn out some of the finest bread in the state. They mill their own flour daily from premium and organic grains to bake a wide variety of loaves, including three-grain French bread, wild yeast sourdough, 14-whole grain multigrain, and Roman focaccia. For the sweet tooth, try the monkey bread, a tart-shaped pastry that takes three days to make and marries all the best qualities of a cinnamon roll and a croissant. 203-762-9595, wavehillbreads.com
Bantam Bread Co., Bantam
This basement shop with its stone-and-mortar walls, rustic counters and decor, and many racks of cooling bread, has the atmosphere (and smell!) of an old-world European bakery. The Bantam Bread Co. is a community hub, where its owner, Niles Golovin, knows many of his customers by name. Since 1996, Golovin has been baking traditional European breads with his own innovative twists such as his torpedo-shaped semolina bâtard (similar to a baguette) studded with sesame seeds, round holiday fruit and nut loaf, and nearly irresistible pan bread with a thick swirl of cinnamon and sugar. The bakery also has a line of rustic pastries, including fruit crostatas, tarts and elephant ears. To offer the perfect accompaniment for his breads, Golovin stocks local cheeses, jams and olive oils. They even bake dog biscuits! 860-567-2737, bantambread.com
Whole German Breads, New Haven and branford
The bread on the wall racks at this spacious New Haven cafe could easily be on display in an art gallery. Perhaps that’s because owner Andrea Corazzini draws his creative energy from the 25 years he spent in the textile industry before becoming a baker. Whole German Breads, or Whole G for short, prides itself on baking vollkornbrot (a pan bread made with 100 percent organic whole rye flour, sunflower seeds and oats), bauernbrot and other loaves that are off the beaten bread trail, not to mention nutritious. Although they also offer baguettes, ciabatta and Jewish rye, the main event here is the traditional German recipes that are somewhat rare in Connecticut. Most of these incorporate nuts and seeds to add earthy notes and texture to blends of organic whole wheat, rye and kamut (an ancient grain). This creates a rich complexity of aromas and tastes you won’t find in many other breads. The Whole G Café Bakery offers full coffee, breakfast and sandwich menus, including select tartines such as the prosciutto, arugula and two poached eggs on fig and walnut bread. Whole G has two retail cafe locations: one on Orange Street in New Haven and another in Branford. 203-848-2141, gcafebakery.com
Hartford Baking Co., West Hartford
Scott Kluger left his job on Wall Street to start a bakery cafe with artisan bread at its heart and pastries from his mother’s recipe book. Seven years later, the Hartford Baking Co. has stuck to its original concept, offering a full line of handmade breads, including a moist honey wheat sandwich loaf, brioche rolls and a giant brioche pretzel. Our favorite: a large, round French sourdough miche with a subtle tang, moist crumb and dark crust — the perfect companion to a hearty soup. HBC now has stores on New Park Road and Farmington Avenue in West Hartford Center. Both offer barista-made coffee drinks and have a full menu of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, all served on their bread. 860-570-1579, hartfordbaking.com
Lighthouse Bakery, Mystic
Head east through historic downtown Mystic, cross the Mystic River Bascule Bridge, and you’ll find Lighthouse Bakery. This family-run spot shines like a beacon for great bread in eastern Connecticut. Owner Massoud Kalkhoran and his son, Kameal, bake enough crusty, European-style bread to supply many local restaurants with their table loaves and flatbreads. In the retail shop, you can try their country sourdough, baguettes, bagels and more — all made from scratch. In the mood for something sweet? Try the light and flaky Napoleons, which Kalkhoran fills with fresh, handmade cream. They also offer breakfast and lunch sandwiches. You can enjoy them with a coffee on the bakery’s patio, along with the sounds and breeze coming from the nearby sea. 860-415-9457, lighthousebakerymystic.com
Brooklyn Baking Co., Waterbury
More than 100 years ago, Polish and Lithuanian bakers opened this bakery in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Waterbury. It has changed owners over the years, and even moved away from its namesake location. But the recipe for its two signature loaves remains unchanged. The massive 4-pound rye and pumpernickel loaves here are everything a hardworking loaf should be: moist, flavorful and strong enough for sopping up stews or holding hefty sandwiches. Or try a loaf of their Connecticut multigrain that has a hint of nutmeg, of course. But as the saying goes, it’s hard to survive on bread alone. That’s why the Brooklyn Baking Co. also stocks a case of handmade, yeasted donuts baked fresh daily. 203-596-3500
Ovens of France, Woodbury
They might be known mainly for their croissants and other French pastries, but Ovens of France offers baguettes with a crispy crust and an open, creamy crumb in line with traditional French baking. These baguettes come in full or demi and pair well with any of their house-made soups or as the foundation of a great sandwich. Better yet: tear off chunks as a vehicle for any of the cheeses the bakery imports. Even if you go for the bread, don’t leave without a chocolate-almond croissant for the road. 203-263-2540, ovensoffrance.us