Upper Crust

East Bay bakeries show off their finest breads


Artisanal bread-making is alive and well, thanks to corner bakeries and the early risers who run them. Fresh and hand-crafted, these breads are baked with more than dough and yeast: a good measure of tradition and personal craft are mixed into every loaf.

Taunton Avenue Bakery
“This is Pão da Avó, or ‘Grandmother’s Bread,’” says Maggie Soares, owner of Taunton Avenue Bakery. Taunton is a busy little shop with extensive Portuguese fare, of which Grandmother’s Bread is a staple. The bakery’s display cases are packed with pastries and sweets, but this simple bread wins over a lot of mainstream customers. “We make it every day,” Soares says. “People are usually looking for an Italian bread, but they see this and they ask, ‘What is that?’ And they love it.” East Providence

Vienna Bakery
Joe Balasco has spent a lifetime working in his family’s bakery, and he can explain the bread making process with scientific precision. “This is a whole grain Italian,” says Balasco, holding up the loaf with pride. “The dominant base is wheat flour, which doesn’t have any gluten, so we have to add it. You see gluten free bread in the store, but it’s hard as a rock. What makes bread light is its elasticity.” Barrington

Seven Stars Bakery
For more than a decade, Seven Stars has become the most prolific bread maker in the region, and other bakers gush with admiration. “We bake all day and night,” says Jim Williams, the company’s founder. “We even grind our own flour.” Seven Stars’ Pawtucket facility is built into a former factory, and its massive freezers and ovens put the vast industrial space to good use. But the craftsmanship remains intact: its “Country”-style loaf is a sourdough bread composed of wheat and rye. East Providence

Beehive Pantry
The Beehive Pantry is always abuzz with pastry production, and if you visit this bright little cafe on the weekend, you’ll find an ever-changing menu of specialty breads, along with a weekly batch of donuts. Beehive’s multigrain loaves are baked every day, and they’re a robust mix of oats and cracked wheat, as well as flax, sunflower, and sesame seeds. Bristol

Batista Bakery & Pastry
Standing on a quiet corner, Batista is like the neighborhood bakeries of yore. The unassuming little shop sells a variety of Portuguese loaves, but the sweet breads are a favorite. Sugary and light, “pão dulce” is especially popular around major Christian holidays. Bristol