Like sawdust in a carpenter's workshop or metal filings on the floor of a jeweler, a thin layer of flour is starting to settle in the corners of On the Rise, Adam and Jennifer Gidlow's nine-month-old bakery in Cleveland Heights (3471 Fairmount Boulevard; 216-320-9923). The sight of the fine white dust is a reminder of the care and craftsmanship that goes into the Gidlows' artisanal breads and pastries. Beginning at 3:30 a.m. (3 a.m. on weekends!), Adam Gidlow is at work, tending to his starters, fermenting his batters, and proofing and baking loaves of unsurpassed beauty and flavor. His approach is patient and meticulous, informed by love, chemistry, and a "slow food" mentality that finds him spending as many as 30 hours creating long, golden baguettes or chubby loaves of rustic Italian bread. (His newly introduced Fairmount Sourdough, made with three-year-old starter he brought with him from Boston, takes even longer.)
This painstaking approach, Gidlow says, is what separates his loaves from the ones at popular chain bakeries, where breadmaking, start to finish, typically takes no more than five hours. "They don't give the natural flavors a chance to develop," he explains. "There's no taste of wheat in their bread. It's just flavored with lots and lots of honey and salt, and all you smell is yeast." In contrast, when you walk into the Gidlows' bakeshop, the aromas speak of nuts, toast, and smoke, and when you sink your teeth into a warm slice, the flavors are deep and subtle in ways you may have never before encountered.
Among the pastries, plump little sticky buns are extraordinary, made with a rich laminated dough, flaky outside and buttery within, and traced with a ribbon of caramelized sugar. The buns are as close as Gidlow comes to making actual croissants at this point, although he promises he'll get to them soon, along with the rustic fruit tarts that are also on his "to do" list. For now, though, when our sweet tooth niggles, we must content ourselves with tender scones, moist brownies, and the popular "Jennifer cookies," made with pulverized oats, toasted pecans, chocolate chips, and grated chocolate. Luckily, this suits us just fine. On the Rise is open Tuesday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The shop is closed Mondays.