Breaking bread

Some people consider Rustica a bakery. Those are not foodies. Others point to it as proof of a Higher Being, who bestows on mankind peace and joy in the form of treats from the oven. These are the folks who, when instructed that “Man cannot live by bread alone, propose to differ. It’s likely that Obama’s “Yes we can” was uttered in proof after a taste of its crusty levain.

For those who have not yet experienced this Nirvana from the oven, let me explain. These singular loaves are made, painstakingly, by human hands, commencing with flours that haven’t been milled into tasteless dust and still retain their individual integrity. Nor does Rustica’s yeast come from an instant-rising packet. No short cuts here. The hand-formed loaves are favored with a long fermentation time to develop their signature taste and body, then baked, with a big dose of TLC, upon a hearth stone to ensure that crispy crust. Elite add-ins range from the juicy fig and fragrant almonds in the fruit and nut loaf to nutty imported beauties in the olive loaf.

Somebody shows up for work while the rest of us are still in bed dreaming, to stoke the oven and slide in the trays of croissants for the morning can’t-face-the-cubicle-without-one rush. These are croissants that set the standard, too, bearing a just-gently crisped exterior that yields with a snap of your molars to layer upon gossamer layer of buttery, maxi-flaky pastry. It tastes pure, because it is.

Rustica’s Danish are crafted from the same multiple rollings of dough that incorporate lots of primo butter. Then they’re gussied up with fillings of, say, deep, rich chocolate, and given a sprinkle of pistachios to top the surface’s crispy hint of caramelized sugar.

Then there are those homey scones, as rounded as the bosom of a granny in Ireland, who’d bake them for you if only you could boast one on your family tree. They’re light and, on my most recent expedition, textured with rolled oats and a bit of maple. Now, if your granny were Australian instead, she’d favor you with an Anzac — a cookie created, I was told down under, to send to troops during World War I. Rustica’s version could truly make the day of a homesick soldier — thin and chewy and uber-moist with coconut.

Or reach for what I consider the ultimate in cookie-dom, a circlet of deliciously, deeply bittersweet chocolate — tender, marvelously moist and chewy. Or the more substantial frangipane tart, whose shortbread crust comes painted with sweet almond paste in which macerated cherries add a winey tang. I’d love to tell you the éclairs were equally wonderful, but alas, every time I inquired for one at 7 a.m. “They’ll be ready at 9:30.” At 9:30, “They’ll be ready at 11.” Oh well, something to aspire to — when I run out of all the other delectable options from these ovens.

Calhoun Village
3224 W. Lake St.