Sunday, August 13, 2006

Clear Flour Bread - Ooh La La

I lived in Aix-en-Provence, France for about 5 months when I was in college and ever since then have been keeping an eye out for a place that makes Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) that live up to the mini warm, flaky ones I used to buy right from a bodega-like open window on my way to or from class. Well, so far I have had no luck. However, today I had one that comes close, right in Brookline, at Clear Flour Bread. While the croissant was not warm, it was very flaky and the bittersweet chocolate inside was of the highest quality (the French wouldn't have it any other way). So needless to say, this was a delightful discovery. But this was just the tip of the iceberg of the wonderful assortment of baked delights that come out of this small, wonderful European bakery.

Clear Flour is a bit tucked away, off Comm Ave. in Brookline but you'd never know it. There's always a line to get in which is partially due to the fact that the place is tiny inside and only holds about 4 - 5 people at a time. But it's also due to the fact that this bakery is amazing. One step inside and you'll be smitten. There are breads of every size and shape (braided, baguettes, country loaves, etc.) as well as tarts, cookies, sticky buns and other guilty pleasures. It is the closest thing that I have seen to the types of bakeries you see in France on practically every corner (those people know how to live).

In addition to the Pain au Chocolat, I sampled an Almond Macaroon, a Sticky Bun with Walnuts, and a Roasted Tomato Quiche (Heck, it was Sunday, we decided it was okay to be bad). The Macaroon was perfect. A little crisp on the outside, slightly gooey on the inside. The Sticky Bun was very buttery, not too sticky, and ordering one with walnuts is a must (they sell them without but what's the point). The Roasted Tomato Quiche was the pièce de résistance in my opinion. They use grueyére cheese in the crust so that it doesn't get soggy. The roasted tomatoes were stellar, so much flavor and they didn't make the quiche watery in the least which often happens. The quiche custard was very fluffy, almost more like the best scrambled eggs you've ever had than a typical quiche. The crust was perfectly crisp and flaky. An absolute winner all around. They offer the quiche in a full-size (serves about 5) as well as individual size portion.

I think it is very difficult to capture the French bakery experience in America, partly because there is such a high turnover of bread and pastries in France that their baked goods are almost always still warm out of the oven which you cannot beat. However, Clear Flour does a wonderful job. I look forward to returning to try another thing I have not been able to find here in the U.S. - a light, crispy baguette. An authentic French baguette is so light that you can easily eat through at least half of it just walking down the street. Baguettes here are much heavier and denser. But maybe I will be presently surprised at what Clear Flour has to offer. I look forward to finding out. In the meantime, I am happy to have discovered the most amazing homemade quiche I have ever had. If you're in the neighborhood, I highly recommend stopping in for one. Heat it up or eat it cold. Delicious either way.

Clear Flour Bread
178 Thorndike Street, Brookline, MA


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