The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My Secret

Peter B. Wolf's picture
Peter B. Wolf

My Secret

I was going to keep this a secret, just selfishness, but this would be a disservice to the Baker.

The Bakery is only a one room old barn and ever so quaint.

One will just pass it driving for no reason on Plains Road (#232) in Litchfield Maine.

Not much of signage of the upcoming old house. It’s a red painted wooden siding building, wooden sign with its name. And a stuffed ‘Scarecrow’ leaning against the wall.

An official US Historical marker stands at the edge of the road, smack in front. It declares that this building once housed, (or was he born in, I don’t read to well) one of the three founders of  “ The Rotary International Club ”

Once I learn how to place pictures into eGullet, I will take some and comment more on the place.

You must enter through an entrance that is narrow and has three very worn wooden steps into a room, with a couple of single light bulbs  illuminating a work area of wide wooden plank flooring, a couple of wooden tables, metal racks, all engulfed in typical Old Country Bakery smells of sour dough starter, yeast, freshly ground grains and and maybe a faint hint of some herbs, or is it olives?

There are a 1940ish Hobart? floor stand mixer, numerous bags of grain and flour, and covering a whole wall, the prize of the suspected: a large brick oven with a cast iron door, to be opened, that is 'lifted',  the old fashioned way with chain and counterweight. Firing is done from the outer entrance room, right next to these here three steps. All kinds of fine dry and split oak and maple logs are aside and along the firing hole.

The place is open Tue - Sat from 7 to 7, and everyday a different kind of bread is being baked. To name a few: Tuscan, Peasant, Old World Jewish Rye, Sicilian, Olive Herb, Baguette, Focaccia, Apricot Almond and Greek Cheese Bread.

These varieties speak for the owners Greek heritage.

Mark and Tinker Mickalide are seldom there. The place operates on the HONOR system !!!, The bread is laying loose on the racks, a few hand written signs indicate the types and price, some vary. A couple brown paper bags are available, but to a place like this one should actually bring their own old fashioned cloth bread and rolls bag, I got some from my Grandmother, but for all you newcomers a nice canvas bag would do. Don't bring plastic, unless you are mean and want to desecrate the product.

I just stopped by yesterday, I live only 15 minutes, 12 miles, away from the Black Crow Bakery. Mark was working hard on squaring off fresh kneaded dough and rolling all by hand this lively mass into baguettes, placing them lovingly onto dusted canvas sleeves for the next day's bake-off. I think he starts at about 3 AM.

Anyway when you get there about nine or tenish, no-one is in sight, a banged up cooky tin is on the table with some change, coins, maybe three four dollars in bills and a sign: "Make Change here", all larger bills are told to be placed into a 1920 tiny metal wall mailbox, a slot will let you in, the money that is, and Mark or Tinker will take it out when they see " MY cup runneth over ". No worry about that, the whole operation is too small to get rich on, and I think not even big enough to make a living.

Most of the time I call ahead, the day before and order my 3/4 loaves, to then find it labeled and priced and "Wolf"ed.

The only thing commercial about the Black Crow Bakery is a nicely designed and stylish printed brochure of what and when these breads are available

 

I actually risked them still having any loaves left at about 4 PM. Well, Mark had three loaves of the Tuscan left over from the day before, and at $ 2.00 to boot.

Regular price is three dollars, and that is still a steal for the quality you get.

Now, these breads are heavy ! weighing in at about one kilogram, very firm but also airy, with nice 'wholes' when sliced to smear good country butter into.

This is the kind of bread, one must buy a proper knife for, I have a nice 12 inch serrated one, and only cut as I need it. Just cut myself a fairly thick slice, toasted it, got that butter on it and smeared some good New Zealand Thyme Honey on it

Directions from Gardiner ME, west on RT-126, across the street from Gardiner Middle School, turn-off “Pond Road”, go about 8/9 miles, just after an American Legion sign on the left, and before coming to a cemetery , the place is on your right., going any further gets you to an intersection with Hallowell-Litchfield Road , the Litchfield fairgrounds and a fire station. You missed it. Oh yeah, phone they have: 207-268-9927
holds99's picture
holds99

Peter,

Great story.  It's nice to know there are still places where they make great bread and the honor system is alive and well.  Thanks for sharing.

Howard

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

I know this would be a place I'd stop by often, if I could. Growing up in New England there was something about the places with the honor system. It always made me want to patronize them all the more.

Betty

alconnell's picture
alconnell

That's what I'd like to do after reading your story.  I'm about an hour away in southern Maine, and I will be checking it out very soon.  In fact, maybe today!  Thanks, Peter. 

WheresTheGrub's picture
WheresTheGrub

::bawling and stomping the floor::

I wanna move to Maine!!!!

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Thanks, Peter, for the great post!

You just gotta love people like this. Like Howard I say, it's a blessing to us all that there are still places like this in business. I wish I could patronize the place, but it's too far from Connecticut.

I consider myself a lapsed, honorary, part-time Mainer (my father's family going back a couple of centuries all lived up the road about 80 miles from you, in and around Bangor) and stories like this make me wish I could go back. But the winters are too tough anymore!

Soundman (David)

joeredd11's picture
joeredd11

Nothing beats Black Crow Bread,It's simply the best bread I have ever eatin.Worth the trip from anywhere.One of a kind rustic breads that i strive to try and make.Good stuff,can ya tell i LOVE this bread.   Joe Redd 

agmss15's picture
agmss15

While there are so many good bakers in Maine now - Black Crow is still one of the or the best.  Much different than when I was a kid and it was homemade or wonderbread.

varda's picture
varda

I just looked at the map.   It's a three hour drive.   It will have to wait until the next time I head north.   Thanks for sharing your secret.   -Varda