Tucked into a corner of Brookline is the Clear Flour Bread, one of the best bakeries in New England. Flour in Boston has incredible pastries and focaccia. B and R’s French bread is pretty phenomenal. Clear Flour is so small that a line typically snakes out the door as no more than 4 people can fit inside. Yet they also have the best selection of wonderful breads and baked goods outside of Seven Stars in Providence. Their baguettes are as close as I have had to those in Paris. The baguettes have a lightly caramelized exterior, a crisp and moist crumb, and a flavor that only comes with slow fermentation and just enough salt. Those alone are worth discovering this place.But there is so much more. Enjoy their buttery free form French style tarts, bittersweet chocolate cookies, baked currant donuts, raspberry Financiers(a rich almond, brown butter cookie) and decadent buttery, flaky croissants. Today I stopped in to discover a new indulgence: the Gibassier. A special from Provence, it is a tender, sweet roll enhanced with anise seeds and candied oranges. I also tried their "shortcake biscuits." It was so tender and nutty with the addition of cornmeal.
Their selection of breads is also impressive, including one called Paris Night with walnuts, rye and whole wheat flour. I love their olive rolls, filled with rich, savory olives and a bite from red pepper. Or the rolls that are topped with lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Put their black sesame sticks with herbed butter in the toaster at 350 for 5 to 10 minutes and then inhale the garlicky scent.
The truth though is that they have one item that I have only had from a bakery tucked in the corner of a Parisian side street: Canelle. They are easy to miss, even though they are perched on the countertop. And their appearance, although unique, doesn’t give a sense of how good these are. You bite into one and flavors explode in your mouth. First, the outside has the bitterness of dark caramels. Yet the next layer, brings the moistness of a good popover or the egginess of Yorkshire Pudding. Finally, just enough sweetness permeates. These are so good and well worth the 85 cents each. Warm them up at home in the toaster at 350 for about 5 minutes for more ethereal goodness. They do run out, so go early.
However, if you need one more activity (or to race around with toddlers to work off the pounds), right across the street is a wonderful park that just reopened last year. It is has some unique play structures that are both safe and fun. Note, though, that I took these pictures in the winter, so there really are lovely trees and flowers there, too.
Clear Flour Bakery, 179 Thorndike St, Brookline, MA 617-739-000