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January 27, 2016

Bowl Scraper of a Master Bread Maker


Ligaya Mishan's December story follows.


For Bien Cuit's Zachary Golper, the Bowl Scraper Fits Like a Glove

Zachary Golper learned to make bread in a sheep barn, under guttering candles in the dead of night.

He was 19 and living on an organic farm and meditation center in Oregon, where he had discovered that he was better at manual labor (driving a tractor, tending the orchard) than freeing his mind. He offered himself as an apprentice to the resident baker, who insisted that he start work at 1 a.m. and mix dough by hand, because "electricity creates negative vibrations."

The process is slightly less primeval at Bien Cuit, the artisanal bakery that Mr. Golper and his wife, Kate Wheatcroft, opened in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. To meet production volume, he uses standing and spiral mixers, but only for small batches of dough at a time, with the power set low to approximate kneading by hand.

(The fastidiously rustic aesthetic carries over to his new cookbook, "Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread," which has an exposed-spine binding, so the stitches show.)

In his heart, Mr. Golper, now 38, still agrees with his former mentor. "There has never been a need for a mixer in the history of bread," he said.

At home and at work, he relies on a bowl scraper, a piece of flat white plastic, pliant and slightly rounded on one end like a front tooth. It looks cheap and is — only 75 cents at Kerekes, an encyclopedic baking-supply store in Borough Park, Brooklyn — but woe to anyone who would try to take it from him.

The curved end is for gently dislodging, lifting and shaping the dough, the flat end for smoothing, scoring and cutting, then sweeping off the work surface afterward. Mr. Golper wields it almost unconsciously, as if it were an extension of his hand, tucking it underneath a mass of dough, pulling upward and swiping across the top, in a motion that suggests a cresting wave.

He didn't realize how important a bowl scraper was until he showed up at his first formal bakery job empty-handed. He asked a colleague if he could borrow one; the response was a suspicious glare. "It's like a chef with his knives," Mr. Golper said.

Mr. Golper has a second, almost as beloved scraper that he reserves for mousse. It bulges outward, like the lens of an eye. "They don’t come to you that way,” he said — you mold them over time, until they conform to the shape of your hand. At one job, Mr. Golper found himself inexorably drawn to his boss's scraper, which had achieved what he considered perfect convexity. "I really contemplated stealing it," he said.

Once Mr. Golper was given a stack of 100 bowl scrapers free. He dangled them in front of his employees like bribes, saying, "I’m going to give you this and you're going to come to work on time.”

He had 40 of them left when he opened Bien Cuit. "My staff found the stash," he said with a sigh. "They're now in a locked cabinet."



Golper's prized bread scraper costs 75 cents (bread starter et al not included).


January 27, 2016 at 08:01 AM | Permalink


I have had the fortune to grow up in a wonderful, ethnic neighborhood with all

the grandmas extremely talented in comfort cooking. A few made the most magical

breads and Buns. One was called an "Anchovy Loaf", Divine! You must put this

Sfogliata on your "Make & Eat" Bucket List!


Posted by: Joe Peach | Jan 27, 2016 4:29:00 PM

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