Posts Tagged ‘baking baguettes’

Niall Bowen, Old Town Bakery, Key West

The most annoying aspect of living with me is that anywhere we vacation, I always seek out the most popular artisan pizzeria or bakery. While we were staying at Billy’s Blue Heaven in Key West Florida, I didn’t have to look far to find the best bakery, it’s on the corner of Eaton and Grinnell and it’s called Old Town Bakery.

In between hurrican Debbie, and a trip to the emergency room, we were lucky enough to get one of the last baguettes that my two ravenous baguette-end-eaters promptly gnarled before I had time to take a picture.

Niall Bown and his wonderful wife Elzbieta Krysztofiak run this rustic place whose doors never seem to stay still. In fact, customers line up all day to get a crack at some of the best baguettes, croissant and pastries in the nation. (I kid you not.)


That’s because Niall knows his Plugra…er his stuff (Plugra is a Europeon style butter and contains higher butterfat and less water than most butter and, because of expense, only used by consumate, dedicated bakers.)


Check out the fantastic crumb on this Baguette. No wonder everyone in Key West told me to eat breakfast and lunch here.

He didn’t admit it but his bakery is run the old school  way. It wasn’t just the fact that Niall and his wife greet all customers,  roast all the meats on premises, make the croissants and pastries by hand and mix the fabulous pesto’s, it’s reflected in the little things like the old scale that they use and the monster Hobart mixer that Niall rescued from the last big hurricane but most of all in the welcoming way they treat everyone,  even an invasive pizza goon with the 3rd degree sun burn.


The second best thing for me when meeting Niall was his Boston accent, (even though he never said “wicked.”) The first best was eating the croissants on the way back to Ohio. He graduated from Johnson and Wales and worked as a chef baker his whole life so Niall is a perfect fit for Key West.


Thank you Elzbieta and Niall for giving me a perfect reason to head back to Key West!

Here is a video of Chef Bowen talking about his time in the keys while he rolls some killer croissant.

Spelt Baguettes

I love making baguettes. In my warped mind, I find solice in the creation of each long baton that takes an annoying amount of time. I can’t help but think of the metalsmiths of long-ago Japan who made the Samurai swords by folding and folding without complaint. Their final product was so strong that it cut through metal.

After an hour of folding baguettes, time becomes taffy-like and the task itself becomes very relaxing. At 3:30 a.m., it gets a little lonely and I miraculously turn into a Buddist Monk on top of a mountain in Nepal. It is then that I actually start naming my “leetle, long friends,” with names like “Mack,” “Pierre” and “Tin Tin.”

I still have alot to learn about breads, but most of the time I let the bread tell me what it needs. There are just too many people out there with strong convictions and beliefs of “what you should do” or “never do.” I like to do what is fun, different and tastes great; you gotta problem wit dat?

Here is a video of some breads we sell at Avalanche and how I fold, score and cook some eight-ounce baguettes with local spelt flour. Oh, I hope no one gets offended by my strong French accent while I work these baguettes. It’s a tick I have, (you should hear me when I make Yugoslavian cabbage bread.) Yes, that is an Ancho chile, dark chocolate and bacon batard on the end.