Ross Bread Shoppe has better-than-average babka, other goodies
If you know what a babka is, you will know that 99 percent of them are awful. A babka is a yeast raised loaf-shaped pastry with swirls of dark chocolate inside. It is somewhere between a bread and a cake and utterly delicious.
If you want to see why centuries of Jewish food mavens swoon over babka (and why one of the funnier episodes of Seinfeld contained a fistfight for the last chocolate babka at the bakery) buy one at Ross Bread in Ridgefield. It is worth taking one on the chin for.
Then again, if you want to see why babkas are no longer talked about much, compare Ross’ version to the over-sweet, limp, deflated and generally sad “babka” sold at most any grocery store.
But it is not just this particular treat that makes Ross Bread Shoppe so special. Unlike certain popular Italian pastry shops in Fairfield County, this little bakery does not overwhelm with a zillion types of cookies, overwrought cakes and not very good semolina breads. When I go into these pastry shops and see a limitless bounty, instead of going “ahhhhh,” I wonder how long this cornucopia of goodies has been sitting in the case. How long will a lacy Florentine cookie or cannoli last until sold? I suspect you could carbon date it.
What makes me a serious Ross groupie is that by late afternoon, they will pretty much be sold out of that day’s offerings. Before they close mid-afternoon, there is a very good chance that what you came in for is gone. This can be annoying, but once you get the rhythm of the place, you will get there in time to enjoy the best.
So get there early if you want a fresh-from-the-oven croissant, or monkey bread, or citrus olive oil cake, vanilla pound cake or knee-bending chocolate caramel brownies with little pebbles of sea salt in them. If for no other reason, go there for their “everything” bagels, which like the babka is the standard against all other bagels should be judged.
Like a true bakery, the staff at Ross is up and cooking at 4 a.m. When they open the doors, the smell of fresh bread and just-made pastries and fabulous Stumptown coffee is overwhelming. I have never been able to go into Ross’s and get a single bagel, or a slice of cake, or a cookie. By the time I leave, I look like a survivalist who just heard it was time to run to my underground bunker. Recently I discovered Ross’ apple loaf cake. I could go into a long poetic description of how it is filled with chunks of apples and perfectly spiced, or I could just say I went back the next day and bought three more “just in case.” In case of what, I have no idea, but it made me feel prepared for anything.
The name of this store is Ross Bread and this is not by accident. In 2009, when this small shop opened, it served the kind of perfect crusty loaves Europeans take for granted. Making a perfect loaf of bread is like running a time smashing marathon or buying a winning lottery ticket. The odds are against you. It may look easy but it is far from it.
At Ross, the plain baguettes, the Sweet Earth bread, the sourdough bread, the curry sweet potato raisin bread, challah and Belgian milch bread are all on the rotating list of what’s made here.
Civilized people ask them to slice the loaves, but I prefer to just tear off warm and crusty hunks. That is the way I and my imagine hidden bunker-mates like to eat.
Ross is a small store, but it contains enough tables to make it not just a popular all-day coffee shop but a lunch and breakfast stop, as well. If the weather allows, it is very pleasant to sit outside at one of the tables for two and sip your coffee. I see many of Ridgefield’s dog lovers here. Ridgefield is a very dog friendly town, which is part of its charm.
Let me call your attention to the soups here. It would seem a cruel joke for a bread bakery to serve no soup or bad soup. Happily, this is not the case. I tasted the corn chowder, which was as perfect as can be. All soups here are vegan or vegetarian, but nothing tastes “health foodie,” if you get my drift.
There are small salads available, highlighted by crisp croutons made from loaves of their own bread, and a terrific lemony vinaigrette dressing that you can buy and take home.
Ross Bread does not have billboards on the highway or blinking neon signs. It is discreet and perfect and a huge bonus for the town.
Jane Stern, a Ridgefield resident, co-authored the popular “Roadfood” guidebook series with Michael Stern.
Ross Bread Shoppe and Coffee House
Copps Hill Commons
109 Danbury Road, Ridgefield