If you’re seeking comfort in the form of carbohydrates right now, you’re in luck: There is a trio of new Front Range bakeries—Fox and Raven Bakery, Bakery Four, and Good Bread Bake Shop—unafraid to push boundaries when it comes to heirloom-grain breads, doughnuts, and pastries. Get ready to get in line, for fans already know that these goodies are worth lining up for.

Fox and Raven Bakery at Corvus Coffee Roasters

5846 South Wadsworth Blvd., Suite 3500, Littleton; daily, 6:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m.

A box of goodies from Fox and Raven Bakery. Photo courtesy of Fox and Raven Bakery

Inside Corvus Coffee Roasters’ spacious Littleton location, its third, the goodies behind the glass counter may look fairly typical at first glance. But once you ask about what Fox and Raven Bakery is up to, eyebrow-raising details are revealed: Its classic butter croissant is made with rye flour; a dark sourdough loaf features smoked spelt; and the pastries are seasoned with ingredients like fenugreek, tahini, and miso.

“I think people’s palates need to be challenged, so I put a twist on familiar baked goods,” says Claire Czarnecki, head baker of the two-month-old bakery. “I have to have a brownie, but it isn’t super-sweet. I make mine with 100 percent rye, bean-to-bar chocolate, and cocoa nibs.”

Czarnecki studied geophysics and was working for an oil-and-gas startup when she decided to do something she really loved instead. That meant working for Denver’s Cultura Craft Chocolate, later becoming an apprentice at Longmont’s Babette’s Artisan Bread, and even baking at Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine.

Locally grown heirloom grains milled in-house form the foundation of Fox and Raven’s rotating menu of pastries and breads. The lineup on any given day might include pillowy focaccia topped with potato, dill flowers, leek, and olives; rye, cardamon, and cocoa nib morning buns; and cakes infused with kamut, fennel, and blackberry. “Freshly milled heirloom and ancient grains are easier to digest and more nutritious. So many people think they can’t eat bread because they have been eating bread that’s like sawdust,” Czarnecki says.

As the winter holidays approach, Czarnecki is tinkering with a few coming attractions, including panettone, a brown butter bourbon maple cookie, and a savory pumpkin sourdough loaf. “This is the way bread should be,” she says.

Bakery Four

3712 W. 32nd Ave.; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 8 a.m. until sold out

Shawn Bergin had a modest goal this past spring, when he opened tiny Bakery Four in the Highland neighborhood. “I wanted to bake what I wanted to eat, using natural sourdough and the best ingredients I could find,” he says. Bergin, who started baking as a teenager, had a successful career in sales and marketing at a commercial real estate firm in Washington, D.C., before moving to Denver with his wife in 2019 thanks to a job transfer.

Soon after, Bergin began baking sourdough loaves at home under a Colorado cottage foods license, selling his wares at local bakeries and pop-ups. In February, the popularity of his goods led him to sign a lease for the space that previously housed Bug & Belle Bakery, just about the time that the pandemic was taking hold.

Sourdough loaves at Bakery Four. Photo courtesy of Bakery Four

“We opened in mid-May, and from the first day, there was a line,” Bergin says.

Fans wait patiently for his signature sourdough breakfast pastries made with stone-milled flour and Isigny Sainte-Mère butter imported from France. Favorites include cardamom and maple-glazed morning buns, pain au chocolat, and croissants filled with local River Bear American Meats ham and cave-aged Gruyère. All of Bergin’s pastry and bread production happens in the 350-square-foot space, and Bakery Four is only open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings. “Right now, by 9 a.m. we’re sold out of pastries, sometimes earlier,” he says.

Head there early for your pick of Bergin’s rotating selection of sourdough country and sandwich loaves, spelt baguettes, and porridge loaves baked with oats and flaked purple barley.

Good Bread Bake Shop

1515 Madison St.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. until sold out

Pastries at the Good Bread Shop. Photo courtesy of Gabby Yezbick

Early on weekend mornings, a socially distanced queue forms in front of Good Bread Bake Shop, located at the corner of Madison Street and East Colfax Avenue, in the same building as Pete’s Corner House Lounge. Some people are there for baker-owner Gabby Yezbick’s sourdough country loaves, chewy seeded fennel fougasse, apple pie bear claws, and spot-on everything bagels. But most want to get their hands on her distinctive sourdough doughnuts, decked out with elaborate, Instagrammable garnishes. The flavor roster has included prickly pear, pomegranate lime, fried chicken, mango lassi, and chocolate-rye-spiced fig. “I like to have fun with flavors,” Yezbick says.

With a master’s degree in food science and technology from Ohio State University in her tool kit, Yezbick loves pairing her sourdough starter with freshly milled flours to craft everything from fluffy whole-wheat challah to Reuben-ready marbled rye. Since the onset of the pandemic, she has happily answered customers’ queries about making their own loaves at home and even provides them with a little starter. “Sourdough makes such a big difference in the flavor and the digestibility of bread,” she says.

On Saturday and Sunday, the petite bakery is open from 8 a.m. until the goodies run out, which tends to happen early; and on weekdays, the breads and pastries are available at Lula Rose General Store, located just across the street. Do your best to pre-order your boxes of bagels and doughnuts online early in the week, otherwise you may be out of luck. Also, take note that whole pies, loaves, and Japanese milk rolls are available for Thanksgiving pre-orders now.

John Lehndorff
John Lehndorff
John Lehndorff is a Colorado food journalism veteran. He hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU.