BY ERICA SAGON
Sweet Claire Gourmet Bakery is Bloomington’s newest place for fresh breads and pastries whose recipes come from around the globe.
Located in a renovated house on East 3rd Street near Grant Street, the bakery sells the likes of brioche, Mexican sweet bread (pan dulce), crumb buns, and big, square cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting.
Sweet Claire has the vibe of a café, with plenty of seating. It offers organic coffees and teas served in cast-iron pots to those who take a seat. For lunch, the bakery features sandwiches on focaccia, a flat Italian bread.
Owner and baker Nel Hostetter says her bestseller is the fruit brioche, a puffy French bread about the size of a grapefruit and topped with glazed berries. It’s the right size for one good eater or split between two. Other varieties are chocolate and plain.
The bakery ramps up Friday through Sunday and expands its selection with full-size loaves of challah and babka, a bread swirled with chocolate or cinnamon. These traditional Jewish breads cost about $8. The challah is also available in mini-loaves.
Another weekend-only item is pandesal, a slightly salty roll topped with breadcrumbs that is popular in the Philippines.
Baking hasn’t always been Hostetter’s vocation. Until a few years ago, her career had been in information technology.
But baking was something she always did in her free time, and she especially loved to dabble in making French and Italian breads. In the summer of 2006, Hostetter decided to make a career change. She left her job as the IT director for an aerospace company in Southern California and headed to New York City, where she studied artisanal bread baking at The French Culinary Institute.
Born in the Philippines, she has degrees in accounting and information technology and an MBA. Still, Hostetter says, she finds baking bread to be stimulating. “Bread excites me in a lot of ways because there is something scientific about it.”
Sweet Claire is open from 7 am to 6 pm Tuesday to Sunday. For more information visit sweetclaire.com.