For a recent business engagement for my "day" job, I found myself traveling to the Berkshires in Massachusetts. As I planned my meals for the trip—the most challenging part of my travel—I remembered reading about the acclaimed Berkshire Mountain Bakery and knew it must be in the area. Relatively speaking, that turned out to be true, though there's not much in the immediate vicinity of the bakery. In fact, my GPS couldn't quite locate it, though I eventually did, winding my way over hills, alongside streams, and through the countryside—even passing Norman Rockwell's old studio at what's now a museum site.
BMB founder Richard Bourdon studied the fine art of fermentation in Europe before opening Berkshire Mountain Bakery in 1986 in Housatonic. It's still a fairly small operation, and I actually had to wait for a worker to appear to help me. Not a problem, as it gave me time to check out the variety of baked goods in the glass showcase in front of me, as well as the breads in the racks up above.
I couldn't resist trying all four Mini Ciabattas ($1.50 each). Each has a crisp crust that yields to a soft texture within. Starting savory, the Herb & Cheese sports a mild taste of cheddar, and is spiked with an herb mixture on the top crust. The Jalapeño Cheese is also made with cheddar, but contains small bits of chopped jalapeño peppers (though I found it not at all spicy to my tongue.) The Olive & Rosemary is bright with the briny flavor of Kalamatas, complemented with the alluring aromatics of the rosemary. Moving on to a sweet option, the Dark Chocolate is studded with chunks of Callebaut chocolate, which play well with the sourdough flavor. I wish I could have warmed up the chocolate ciabatta and spread some butter on it for an even more extravagant affair.
All of the ciabatta breads are fantastic in their own right, but for a chocolate lover like me, the Dark Chocolate is foreplay for the highly acclaimed Bread & Chocolate loaf ($5.75). This boule is made with a combination of white (80%), wheat (10%), and potato (10%) flours. It's still sour, the tanginess providing a contrast to the sweet and bitter notes of the chocolate. What's amazing, though, is the sheer amount of chocolate in this bread. I'm told that one-third of the bread's weight comes from Callebaut chocolate, which is folded rather than mixed into the dough.
Some of these chocolate pieces come right to the surface of the bread, creating a "Magic Shell"-like effect against the crackly crust. This surface chocolate is solidly chunky, while the chocolate deeper inside is more soft and melty. Each bite contains an incredible amount of chocolate, making the bread a deliciously messy treat to eat. (Don't bother trying to be dainty.) And addictive. And filling.
It's early and therefore risky to do, but I'm making this proclamation: I may have already had my most surprisingly delicious bite of the year.
About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.