Those of us that live in the town of Fairfield have followed Billy’s Bakery from its tiny rustic beginnings to its current bright retail space like a pig snorting out truffles. We stop in and wander around wondering what doughy treats we will pick up, but really, we know exactly what we want before even stepping out of the car. The reason we wander is because it gives us an excuse to meander over to the sample basket and spread soft churned butter on slices of fresh baked bread. I’m not embarrassed to admit that on more than one occasion that sampling has been my lunch.
I recently decided to stop into the bakery with a fresh eye, contemplating whether or not this local shrine was good enough to warrant a road trip from the far corners of Fairfield County.
Walking into the nondescript storefront that Billy’s shares with a drycleaner I miss the old tiny overstcked digs. The feeling of loss only lasts a moment as I am immediately distracted by the warm, sweet and doughy air wafting from inside. And I am surrounded by an Atkins nightmare. Cakes to the left of me, brownies to the right and loaf after loaf of rye, brioche, cinnamon and foccacia breads at dead center.
I decide to steer clear of my known favorites for this test, no chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookies, no seeded rye bread, no billowy Parker House rolls and no giant 12 inch round brownie cake, although I do bump into a girlfriend who’s picking one up for a birthday celebration later that night and wish I were invited too.
I decide to head home with a few quiches, a lemon square, challah, multi-grain rolls, onion rolls and seasonal pumpkin cranberry muffin bread.
When I pick my kids up from school I need to restrain them lest they tear right through my stash before I get a chance to analyze the goods. We walk in the door and as soon as I snap a picture of the lemon square, it’s gone, the challah is gnawed in half before I can taste test it, and my husband grumbles in from work and states “You can’t buy this, there’s just not enough will power no the planet to restrain me! MUST EAT BREAD!”
Before a mere pile of crumbs remains on my kitchen counter I begin my research reaching for the lovely onion roll. It is a large bun, maybe five inches across, and rolled with soft minced onion and poppy seed between the layers. It has a sweetness that is savory, not at all cloying. And the texture is eggy, if only I had thought to warm it before eating, but alas, the vultures have swarmed and I am left with only a delicious memory.
Onto the remaining challah I move, stealthily, before the next attack. I know challah is a personal preference kind of bread. If you grew up with the shiny glowing yellow loaf, that’s your pleasure, if you had it sweet with raisins, you yen for that today. The challah from Billy’s Bakery is definitely not the shiny yellow variety. The very pale yellow color is evidence of the eggs that help make this challah so satisfying. It has a terrific texture, it is airy, but not with gaping holes. It smells yeasty and it tastes slightly of salt. Toasted and slathered in butter with just a dash more salt it is the ultimate comfort food. And with the few scraps I managed to hide away til morning, it makes a killer French toast.
Quick breads or as they call them, Muffin Breads, are something of a specialty at Billy’s Bakery. They always have several varieties, seasonal and the regulars. Blueberry, banana walnut, and corn are the stand bys, today I went for the Pumpkin Cranberry special and I was glad that I did. The pumpkin taste is subtle, just a hint of its sweetness is apparent. The cranberries bring a tartness that plays perfectly off the base flavors in the muffin. And again, the texture is great, a sugary crisp crumb layer coats the top of the loaf which leaves me wondering if I should just decapitate the whole darn thing and leave the insides for the vultures, but no, this loaf is so tasty that I go ahead and enjoy what lays beneath the surface as well.
Feeling totally bloated, yet oddly satisfied with myself I warm the quiche. It seems hardly possible, but as the aroma fills my kitchen, I find myself tapping away with my fork. I can’t possibly be hungry. Herein lays my true flaw, no appetite what so ever, but no hesitation to pick up that fork! Al-righty, the quiche is warm and that’s enough kitchen wisdom.
The rustic crust on these individual 4-inch tarts present them as artisan treats. Rather than cutting the dough to fit that tart tin, a little extra flutters in a pretty and un-uniformed way around the perimeter. The crust is more doughy than flaky, and forms a substantial vessel for the filling. In my case, that would be spinach and feta on the one hand, mushroom on the other. The lightly seasoned egg filling is balanced. Cheesy yet light, it carries the flavor of its toppings. My only complaint is that I would like a little more topping than just a topping. There are a few hearty mushroom slices lying on top but once I grab those, I am dismayed to see there are no more fungi waiting for me inside. The quiche are absolutely satisfying and not only that, but they are gone! As the vultures circle and attack, the evidence supports that yet again, I am hyper critical and that Billy’s Bakery makes a perfect quiche for the family to enjoy.
So, upon careful contemplation, and a completely indulgent yeast feast, my conclusion is decisive, Billy’s Bakery is worth the road trip… and I need a nap!
Billy's Bakery 1885 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield. 203.337.5349