The celebrated baker
Every morning Zachary Golper’s lovingly-made breads and pastries are hand delivered to the very best New York restaurants and to a limited number of discerning bread enthusiasts all over the city. Now, everyone can try his signature mahogany-colored crusted loaves (a result of long, low-temperature fermentation, which allows the dough to develop deep, complex flavors) at his Boerum Hill bakery Bien Cuit, in Brooklyn. Here Gopler shares his coveted Alsatian Scone recipe from his recently released cookbook The Art of Bread, in case you can’t make it to NYC. He also reveals how his early food experiences shaped his culinary interests and more.
Who first introduced you to baking?
My first grade teacher Ms. Horowitz took my class for a tour of a Wonder Bread factory in Portland, Oregon. As a follow up to that field trip we baked some loaves in our classroom. Shortly after, my mother baked a round of bagels to one-up Ms. Horowitz. I can safely say it was another 12 years before I got my hands in dough again.
Do you remember your first profound food experience? If so, can you share it with us?
I was ten and my family was staying in a lovely inn in rural England where we were treated to “Thanksgiving” dinner a la Anglaise: roasted goose, ham, Yorkshire pudding—standard English fair.
At the end of the meal there was a cheese cart, which until that moment I didn’t know existed. I believe I tried every cheese on the cart with the innkeeper and my family amazed that a kid would be drawn to such intense flavors. I haven’t passed up a good cheese cart since.
Your breads are made in keeping with ancient traditions, like small batches and long fermentation, why is this process so important to you?
Small batch mixing allows for more control over the fermentation process and ultimately the finished product. Long fermentation under controlled temperature is necessary because, once hydrated, the yeast and bacteria require a great deal of time to perform their alchemy. Focusing on these two processes allows us to develop nuanced flavor that would never be possible otherwise.
When we visit your shop in Brooklyn, how can we best experience the full range of your talents? What should we try this winter?
Our Executive Chef Justin Binnie develops seasonally appropriate items ranging from desserts to quiches and sandwiches. Right now, we have a number of treats for the winter months.
First timers simply have to try our croissant. It is a true testament to the value of slow fermentation. (You can make it a pain au chocolate if you prefer.)
While you’re in, grab a miche for the table at home. It’s our signature bread made from a blend of wheat and rye flours, fermented for 68 hours and baked bien cuit.
Can you share one recipe from Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread?
To envision this recipe, think tarte Alsacienne (a pastry-based appetizer topped with cheese, bacon, and onions) crossing the English Channel and showing up promptly at teatime. These scones also provide an opportunity to use some of the caramelized onions you spent so much time making for the Caramelized Onion Bread (page 69). Like a good croissant, these scones have just a hint of sweetness, with bits of bacon added to amp up the flavor even more. Also, make sure you use a good Gruyère cheese, not generic “Swiss.” This flavor combination of bacon, onions, and Gruyère has worked for centuries. Why mess with it?
120 grams (3⁄4 c + 2 tbsp) white our, plus additional for the work surface
7 grams (11⁄2 tsp) baking powder
1 gram (generous 1⁄8 tsp) ne sea salt 30 grams (21⁄2 tbsp) granulated sugar 30 grams (2 tbsp) cold unsalted butter,
cut into 1⁄4-inch (6 mm) pieces
30 grams (2 tbsp) cold crème fraîche 65 grams (1⁄4 c + 1 tsp) cold buttermilk,
plus additional for brushing the top of the scones
20 grams (11⁄2 tbsp) Caramelized Onions
20 grams (2 tbsp) shredded Gruyère cheese
15 grams (2 tbsp) cooked bacon, cut into 1⁄4-inch (6 mm) pieces
1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven, then preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Line a half sheet pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Dust the work surface with flour.
2. Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
3. Put the sugar in a large bowl, add the butter, and toss to coat. Using the rounded edge of a plastic bowl scraper, chop the butter into smaller pieces while continuing to coat the pieces in the sugar. Add the flour mixture and, still using a chopping motion, mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed but the texture is still fairly chunky.
4. Pour in the crème fraîche and buttermilk and, still using a chopping motion, mix until almost completely incorporated. Fold in the onions, Gruyère, and bacon. This may seem like a small amount of dough, but it’s enough.
5. Empty the scone batter onto a floured surface. Bring together then flatten with a plastic scraper. Cut the dough in half and place one half on top of the other. Next, cut one-third of the dough and place it on the top of the remaining dough, in the middle. Cut the remaining third and place it on top of the two layers. Flatten the dough and repeat two more times. The last time, press the dough into a 3 by 8-inch (8 by 20 cm) rectangle about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.
6. Using a bench scraper, cut the dough into six equal rectangles. Turn each rectangle on its side so that what was a cut surface is now the top, and gently press each just enough to create an oval shape. Transfer the scones to the lined pan, with the long dimension running the length of the pan and checker boarding them in two rows of two and two rows of single pieces. Brush the tops with buttermilk.
7. Bake, rotating the pan about two-thirds of the way through baking, until golden brown, about 13 minutes.
8. The scones are best if eaten within 1 hour of baking, but once completely cooled, they can be stored (uncut) in a paper bag or cardboard box for up to 24 hours.