The basic ingredients of bread are well-known: flour, water, salt, and some kind of leavening agent. But for really, really good bread—the kinds of loaves that change your life—you need one thing more. Patience. And that’s something Zachary Golper, the baking mastermind behind Brooklyn’s Bien Cuit, has in spades.
It’s a skill he developed from the very beginning of his adult life, when he was 20 years old and working on an Oregon farm–cum–meditation retreat. That’s where the scent of baking bread lured him from his bed one night at 1 a.m. to the kitchen (in a sheep barn) where he first learned to ferment loaves for days. From there (and following an extensive detour through South America), he continued his apprenticeships—in Seattle, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia, where he worked as baker-in-chief to Georges Perrier, the chef at the renowned Le Bec-Fin.
Along the way, he developed the skills and the deep knowledge of fermentation that you can taste in the breads he bakes at Bien Cuit, which he opened in 2011. The crusts are crackling, thick, and mahogany dark—in other words, bien cuit, or well-done in French. They’re the kinds of breads you want to slather with really good butter, or dip into a hearty soup, or drape with paper-thin slices of salty ham... if you can keep from nibbling them down to nothing on the way home from the bakery. (We’re speaking from experience here.)
They’re also the kinds of breads you can actually bake at home, thanks to Golper’s in-depth, step-by-step instructions. And while, yes, they’ll require a bit of patience (fermentation does take time!), you won’t have to spend 15 years learning how to make them, as Golper did. We’ve broken his best, most important recipes down into 5 fundamental lessons that will show you how to produce sourdoughs, baguettes, rolls, ciabattas, and Pullman loaves that may very well change your life, or at least make you a better, more patient baker.