WORCESTER – Baking bread, if you do it the right way, is as much art as it is science. It takes patience and skill, creativity and structure, and it’s all on display at the BirchTree Bread Company, a big, beautiful, community based cafe in Worcester.
“We put a lot of love into our bread and that’s the kind of bread making we enjoy here,” said owner and head baker Rob Fecteau.
“Every single loaf is shaped by hand, so they are definitely a little bit different. And that’s part of a definition of an artisan bread,” Rob’s wife Avra Hoffman added.
Rob was a fine dining chef for 15 years, picking up bread making tips and tricks along the way. When his passion for naturally leavened, locally sourced breads became a full-fledged obsession, he came up with a recipe, purchased some equipment, and along with Avra, they started selling fresh-baked loaves at local farmer’s markets.
Fast forward a couple years later, and they opened up a 5,800 square foot space devoted to bread, and all things delicious made with, and served on top of bread.
“Our menu is obviously very much centered around the bread. We are BirchTree Bread Company, so we do a lot of toasts, sandwiches, we have pizza, we also do pastries. Our croissants are really good, scones, cookies. There’s a little bit of everything here,” Rob explained.
“Every day, we offer the same five breads,” Avra said. “We have the Country, the Coriander Raisin, Olive and Herb, Seeded Levain, and a local Whole Wheat. Then we add in other specialty breads. There’s Rosemary Ciabatta, there’s Challah; we have Danish Rye, and then our Olive Oil and Sea Salt Focaccia.”
“Personally, when I eat bread, I’m looking for something that is crusty on the outside, and has moisture on the inside,” Rob described. “As long as good quality ingredients are going into the bread, and you nail those two components, you’re going to end up with a good loaf of bread – especially when it’s fresh.”
That crusty fresh-baked bread is great on its own, but you can also get a fantastic sandwich, like the Italiano on Rosemary Focaccia, the Corned Beef and Kraut on Caraway Rye bread, or the completely life-changing gourmet Grilled Cheese served on BirchTree’s signature Coriander Raisin bread.
“It combines a lot of the flavors that I love,” Avra said. “You start with the Coriander Raisin bread; we have sharp Vermont Cabot cheddar cheese, and then a housemade apple mostarda. So you have a little sweetness from the apple and little bit cut of the whole grain mustard. It’s a unique twist on a grilled cheese, but people all ages love it.”
Customers also love to experience BirchTree’s bread, after it takes a trip through the toaster.
“We have a full toast menu with all kinds of spreads that we make in house,” Rob said. “Our Olive and Herb Toast is really pretty simple. It’s our Olive and Herb bread, toasted, with whipped feta, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh herbs. And people really love it. Our Coriander Raisin [toast] has housemade peanut butter, and bananas, and sea salt. That’s an excellent way to start the day. A lot of energy.”
You can finish your day with some luxurious bread pudding made with walnuts, bananas, and lots of chocolate chunks. So from breakfast, to lunch, to some decadent desserts, this place really is the greatest thing since sliced, naturally-leavened bread.
“Beyond just the bread experience here at BirchTree, we’re like a community,” Rob said. “There’s plenty of space for people to sprawl out and people really enjoy this space and enjoy the product that we serve.”
You can find BirchTree Bread Company at 138 Green Street in Worcester, and online at birchtreebreadcompany.com.
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