At Branchville train station, the Whistle Stop bakery makes a name for itself
Lolly Turner is an unstoppable force. For the last 20 years, Lolly has single-handedly turned the dumpy train station in Branchville into one of the best bakeries in the state.
With a huge injection of charm, vintage nostalgia and serious cooking skills, the Whistle Stop has made a name for itself. It is a bakery, but the kind of bakery that most people dream about having access to for the dreary morning commute.
From first sight, you can tell that there is nothing mass market about the place. Ironically, it is across busy Route 7 from a Dunkin Donuts, but seems to exist in a dreamscape of its own kind.
The Whistle Stop has short daytime hours, breakfast to 3 p.m. There are a few little tables inside, but it is really a “grab and go” place. Get a cup of coffee, a pastry and jump on the train.
The signature items are the splendid muffins. There is always a good selection, but blueberry and corn are my must haves. I get them every time. These are not the biggest muffins ever, they are not filled with weird stuff (Snickers bars or beef jerky) like some cutting-edge moderne bakeries offer. These are simply perfectly made muffins made from real butter and high-end ingredients.
The Whistle Stop’s other claim to fame is their pies. Like the muffins, the pies might be called “understated.” Unlike the ubiquitous monster pie slices sold at diners around the state, these boxed pies are small and slim and not jazzed up with globs of whipped cream or other decorative fancies. The key lime might be the best one (or the pumpkin) and they are not inexpensive. Once you have tasted one, you will happily tithe some of your income to the theWhistle Stop.
Let me take a brief minute to ascend my soapbox and lecture you on baked goods.
My favorite TV show is “The Great British Bake Off” where Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (two legendary professional British bakers) give 12 amateur home bakers their personal recipes and then judge the results. Each week one baker is eliminated until the final star baker is announced.
What is fascinating to me about this show is how many things can go wrong with something as simple as a cupcake or a loaf of bread. Baking is pure science; one teaspoon too many or if a pan is left in an oven set too high, and it is a disaster. I am a good cook, but a lousy baker. I am messy and “creative.” I stunk at chemistry at school, so is it any wonder I don’t weigh all my ingredients or level off every spoonful.
That is why the Whistle Stop appeals to me. I know how after biting into one too many icky baroque wedding cakes or cookies that taste like nothing but sugar, I admire Lolly’s simple delights.
By the end of the day the cases will be empty because the Whistle Stop does not sell pastries they made a week ago.
There are some popular Italian bakeries in Connecticut, but only recently did I realize that the cookies and cakes never seem to run out. Like a cornucopia, the horn is never empty. The simple reason is that these treats are filled with preservatives and made from ingredients that will still look fresh in 2020.
Maybe it is just me, but I would rather have a fresh little corn muffin or a skinny slice of mouth-puckering key lime pie. My hands and brain write these reviews but my mouth is the judge and jury.
The Whistle Stop
20 Portland Ave., Ridgefield
Jane Stern, a Ridgefield resident, co-authored the popular “Roadfood” guidebook series.