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Not bad brioche

Mrs. Smith | Jun 29, 200307:46 PM

As long time posters may know, baked goods both homemade and purchased are a little obsession of mine. I share this with many another SF 'hound.

Here in my hood a bakery has been open for about a year: The Chestnut Bakery, on said street at number 2359, (415 567 6777). I was verrrry skeptical of this at first, although the idea of having a specialty bakery in my nabe was appealing. But this place was way too cute, was focused on way too many cookies and treats, and interested in selling lattes a bit too much to get my hopes up high. Though I was hoping for a bakery really focused on producing high-quality artisinal bread (but aren't we all?), I was still hoping for a few good products to come out of this shop.

Now, Tartine it ain't, but this place has a couple of things going for it -- including a huge surprise for me. There brioche is..... really actually quite respectable! Imagine that -- this rather underrated little bun (or bread, if you're lucky), which looks so unglamorous next to croissants or gooey pastries (at least to American eyes), and has GOT to be one of the MOST difficult breads to make well, they actually do pretty well at.

Yes, they do the abomination of putting sugar crystals on top (I have never seen this done in France -- why do people do this here?), but, if one just scrapes it off you can get beyond it. This is a rich little bun, but not actually greasy when you eat it. Yes, when you get it home, the bakery bag will have some butter soaked through it -- but I expect this from any good brioche. The trick is to acheive richness and tenderness in a brioche (along with a good golden crown which was admirably done on this product) -- but to still maintain a light texture. With all the butter and eggs, it's no mean feat. And, after scraping of the sugar from the top into the sink (I suppose some people might like it -- I try not to be so bigotted about this, one of my favorite foods!) I sat down to experience a brioche that was almost as good as the ones I had from bakeries in Paris and other parts of France. It wasn't perfect, but it's the best I've found yet here in SF.

I've also eaten their fat-loaf (country-style oblong, but fat not baguette- shaped) French bread, which is quite good. Goes absolutely stale in less than 24 hours, which, regrettably, is a sign of it's authenticity and utter lack of fat or sugar in it (way at the other end of the scale from brioche!). It's not Acme or Bay Bread, but it's really pretty good, and miles better than Parisian and lots of other local brands.

I've tried some of their cookies and mis-named "bombes", and been disappointed. I'm not entirely sure what's made on site and what's not, actually, also. In addition, I've seen no real rhyme or reason to when the little brioches will turn up -- if you get there before noon on the weekends they seem to be there. The counterperson I questioned claimed not to know the schedule for them. If this is out of your way, and you're going specifically for the brioche, I'd call ahead.

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