Clear Flour Bread
178 Thorndike Street, Brookline, MA 02446
More than a few restaurants that have been featured on this site are found on side streets in quiet areas where you would least expect to find them (giving a slightly more literal meaning to the term "hidden restaurants"). Well, this goes for other businesses as well, including bars, markets, and bakeries, and it is a place within this last category that we focus on here. The bakery--Clear Flour Bread--is an outstanding spot in Brookline that is hidden away at the intersection of three lightly-traveled streets near the Allston border. And sure, if you live in Allston or Brookline, there's a good chance that you know about this tiny family-owned place just off Commonwealth Avenue, but other than locals, folks in the restaurant industry, food critics, and serious bread and pastry lovers, Clear Flour may be one of those places that simply does not ring a bell.
Not only is Clear Flour Bread located on a side street, but it stretches around the corner of a small strip of shops, rendering it even more invisible if you are heading down Thorndike Street from Comm. Ave. and don't look to the right quickly enough. To say the place is small is an understatement; basically, when you walk into the shop, there are a few loaves of breads lined up along the wall to the right, a few more loaves and a variety of pastries behind the counter, and room in the ordering area for only a few people. Bright lights, no seating, and tight quarters for ordering make Clear Flour a place where you won't be dawdling like you might in, say, a Panera. Instead, this is a no-frills bakery where you walk in, order your items and head right back out the door.
So what's good at Clear Flour Bread? Well, just about everything, really. Their freshly-made breads are fantastic; the slightly acidic sourdough, for instance, is bursting with flavor and isn't too far behind some of the best you'll find in San Francisco. Such options as a traditional German rye, a complex seven-grain, a rich challah, a rustic Italian flatbread, and a classic French baguette are just a few of many more types of breads available (please be aware that not all breads are available on all days--call ahead if you're looking for a specific one). Somewhere between bread and pastry is the light, airy, and buttery brioche, which is so delicious that it can certainly be eaten plain, though jam, jelly, butter, or honey are all good options for toppings. Similar to the brioche is something called gibassier, which is flavored with orange and anise, making it a sweeter and brighter-tasting alternative to the standard brioche. Some of the pastries that Clear Flour offers include a dense and hearty cranberry-red currant scone; a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate bouchon (a bit like a mixture of a cupcake and a brownie); a moist and creamy blueberry tart that is filling enough to be made into a meal; a canele that has a torched, carmelized crust and a soft center with a custard-like taste; hand-rolled croissants that are heavy on the butter; a decadent chocolate whiskey cake that chocolate lovers have to try; a tangy lemon bar which is a bit expensive, but worth every penny; award-winning sticky buns (called "morning buns" here) that can be purchased with or without walnuts; and assorted cookies such as chocolate chip and orange currant sable.
The Boston area has a number of great bakeries, but Clear Flour Bread is one of those places that seems particularly special, partly because it resides in a quiet neighborhood, giving folks a sense of discovery when they arrive there for the first time. But while it does feel off the beaten path, it really is only a block from one of the Boston area's busiest roads (Commonwealth Avenue), so it is relatively easy to get to. Bread and pastry lovers who have not yet been to Clear Flour really do need to put this wonderful bakery at the top of their lists.
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