bread loaves from union loafers cafe and bread bakery photo by carmen troesser

Loaves we love

Small-scale bakeries are changing the St. Louis bread scene in a big way. Diving deep into the bread rabbit hole – from swapping commercial yeast for natural leavening to riffing on traditional recipes with unexpected ingredients – these five bakeries produce loaves with more complex flavor and superior texture. Here, proof that artisanal bread is on the rise.

Union Loafers Cafe and Bread Bakery
Picking out a loaf at this bakery is foolproof. Every one at Loafers is nothing short of excellent. Cutting the crusty dark and mild reveals big pockets of air resulting from the fermentation that delivers a complex, almost beer-like flavor. The caraway rye is even more intense with additional nuttiness and the bittersweet spice of caraway. Even the baguette has an unexpected depth of flavor.
Prices vary. 1629 Tower Grove Ave., St. Louis, 314.833.6111

J. Devoti Grocery
J. Devoti’s rich and cake-like brioche has a yellow crumb as sunny as a June day from its abundance of egg yolks and butter. It would be ideal for BLTs, PB&Js or simply toasted with butter. The boule also shouldn’t be missed. This high-hydration loaf translates to a custardy crumb and a crackling, burnished crust.
Shop open Saturdays, otherwise call for availability. Brioche: $8. Boule: $6. Five Bistro, 5100 Daggett Ave., St. Louis, 314.773.5553 

Truffles Butchery
The dense and funky fermented country loaves made by Truffles’ baker Cesar Calderon have piqued our interest. The confit orange took us by surprise with a sophisticated sweetness, as did the rosemary bacon, which was smoky and herbaceous with a spicy finish. Varieties rotate. Look for other adventurous versions like beet and blue cheese and turmeric-Kalamata.
$6. 9202 Clayton Road, Ladue, 314.567.9100 

Winslow’s Home
The focaccia at Winslow’s is spongy with grassy, spicy notes from a glug of olive oil and a subtle flavor boost from rosemary and freshly ground black pepper. This soft bread is topped with a showering of crunchy sea salt for added bite.
$4. 7213 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314.725.7559

4 Seasons Bakery
After you try a pastry or two (you won’t be able to resist), order one of the bronzed loaves on offer. We particularly like the tangy ciabatta. This soft, airy bread is perfect slathered with butter or any cheese that involves the words triple creme.
Fridays and Saturdays only. $4. 2012 Campus Drive, St. Charles, 314.288.9176 

*In late February, 4 Seasons Bakery will change its name to Sucrose and move to 700 S. Fifth St. in St. Charles.