Bonfiglio and Bread – A boutique bakery’s secret to success

Bonfiglio and Bread, Hudson, NY

How does an artist sculpting works of art from industrial pieces become a baker sculpting dough into the edible art of melt-in-your-mouth breads and croissants? Ask Bonfiglio and Bread Bakery owner Gabriele Gulielmetti (Gaby) and he says, “It’s all because of Rachel, her idea and her recipes.” Rachel Sanzone is Gulielmetti’s partner and bakery co-owner. They left Manhattan five years ago – Gaby, his sculpting studio in Brooklyn; Rachel, a history major at Stonybrook, worked on a biodynamic farm, and moved to Hudson in 2010.

Venturing into uncharted waters, the couple, both self-taught bakers and cooks, started experimenting in bread baking. Rachel would test her recipes by showing up at a local bar around 1 a.m. and hand out free pear-cinnamon-swirl bread. They quickly acquired a loyal following who responded to the need for really good bread at reasonable prices. Soon there was a line waiting to pick up bread outside the couples’ home where they had installed and restored two used pizza ovens and set up a mini-commercial kitchen in their basement. They rapidly outgrew the basement and, after several short-term outposts, settled into a small storefront space where Bonfiglio and Bread was born (the name Bonfiglio is Gaby’s middle name and was the name of his paternal grandfather) on Warren Street in Hudson.

What makes their breads (baguettes, ciabbatas, seedy loaves, cinnamon-swirls), croissants, sourdoughs and kouign amman* so savory and succulent – for many, the best baked goods on the East Coast? Each loaf, croissant, pastry is given special attention to detail in how it is created. It is a painstaking process that requires patience, passion and dedication. For the kouign amman dough, which they have been using for three years for many of their products – croissants, Danish, pies, etc. – Gaby and Rachel use the best European butter that is 82 percent butter fat; local Cabot unsalted butter for the breads; semolina flour from North Dakota, King Arthur flour and organic flours from a miller in Vermont, Champlain Valley Millers. Gaby explains the miller should be the best – stone grinding has to be cold and slow so the flour doesn’t oxidize. The dough is hydrated 70-85 percent to allow enrichment of the protein and the sugar to break down more slowly; it is not over-kneaded and it has to sit in a cold room so it stays dormant; the first 24 hours it sits in bulk; it is then molded into loaves and sits for another 24 hours. The behemoth of an oven is multi-tiered stone decks with steam-injection, which helps with consistency for better caramelization and more flavor. It is a slow process to create perfection, which is a savory loaf that has a deep caramelized crust and is bursting with flavor.

Among Bonfiglio’s best sellers are the pain a l’ancienne, ciabbata and caraway rye. Production can run from 300 items on a week day to more than 600 a day on Saturday and Sunday. The storefront Bonfiglio and Bread is also a mini-café, which serves sandwiches, burgers and egg-based dishes: poached eggs over avocado with yogurt, lardons, croutons, fresh herbs, lime zest and house-made chili oil; crispy pizzas made with baguette bread dough, and sautéed local mushrooms with fried eggs on toast. All products are locally sourced using the highest quality eggs and vegetables. They even brine their own pork belly and serve freshly-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices. The menu changes daily depending on what is in season. The café is open for breakfast and lunch and is a “must visit” destination for anyone coming to Hudson.

Future plans are for a larger space where they can have the bakery and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Right now that is a vision on the horizon as Gaby is running the bakery with his small staff, while Rachel takes time off to be an attentive mom to their 4-month-old daughter.

*Kouign amman (queen anman) hails from Brittany. According to ChefSteps.com, kouign amman is made with a laminated dough, like a croissant dough, 50 percent butter/50 percent yeasted dough where the butter is folded into the dough and laminated in layers. In Brittany, the dough is formed into a cake or cupcake size that becomes a pastry with a tender buttery center and a crunchy caramelized crust.

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Margaret was public relations director for two luxury New York City hotels, where she did extensive research into America's culinary heritage. She is a founding member of The James Beard Foundation; formerly, owner of a Jersey Shore inn and restaurant, The Pelican Bistro, recognized as one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in NJ by New Jersey Monthly, and a PR consultant to restaurateurs. For the past several years she has been a contributing writer about food, drink and restaurant news for many publications. She is a passionate cook and wine lover who moved to the Hudson Valley and is in awe of the immense wealth of agricultural, artisanal and culinary talent in the area. Connect with her at www.TastefulLiving.net, Hudson Valley Wine & Restaurant Examiner and Shore Region Food & Restaurant Examiner. She can be reached at mmorgan531@gmail.com.

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