This Lakewood bakery sometimes feels more like your favorite bar than a bread and pastry shop. Take the spot’s daily happy hour, where all baked goods are half-off and the lime-green-walled cafe is hopping with locals. On Saturday morning, it’s standing room only with people drinking coffee, talking and eating pastries. “We were aiming to be the living room of the neighborhood,” says Tom Clark, who owns Blackbird with his wife, Adria. With a dedicated staff committed to handcrafting items such as hearty focaccia, levains, scones and croissants, Blackbird fills its cases and racks each morning with an impressive bounty only to be quickly snatched up by customers. And don’t forget to snag Blackbird’s mind-blowing chocolate chip cookies topped with coarse sea salt before baking. The thick, free-form treats are worth a trip alone. “People bring their out-of-town family members here,” says Adria. “It’s a spot people want to show off." 1391 Sloane Ave., Lakewood, 216-712-6599, blackbirdbaking.com
Our Pick: Don’t overlook the simple baguette ($3.25). It’s dense, slightly nutty with a thick, chewy crust that goes great with cheese or butter.
“The time invested is why you really notice the flavor. You use less yeast and more time to develop the flavors and not rush the process.” — Tom Clark, co-owner of Blackbird Baking Co.
2 cups water
½ cup and 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoon dry active yeast
1¼ tablespoons salt
Add water, extra-virgin olive oil, unbleached all-purpose flour, dry active yeast and salt to a mixing bowl. Mix with the bread hook on low speed until evenly incorporated, 3-4 minutes, then move to high speed and mix on high until it comes together as a cohesive dough and comes clean from the side of the bowl. Put in an oiled container and fold into a tight mass. Cover container, put in a warm place and let ferment for one hour, then fold into a tight mass once more. Let ferment one more hour. Turn out onto a floured surface and cut into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rectangle. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, then stretch and press out into two heavily oiled sheet pans. Brush generously with olive oil and top with your choice of ingredients such as fresh herbs, olives, feta cheese, roasted vegetables or salumi. Preheat oven to 475 degrees and let dough proof for a half-hour or so. Bake until cooked through and golden brown, approximately 20 minutes.