"One of my missions on this planet is to serve bread," declares Michael London, co-ownerwith his wife, Wendyof what is possibly the country's most fabulous bakeshop: Mrs. London's, in Saratoga Springs, New York. The Londons, who met 25 years ago in (where else?) a bakery and were married "literally between batches," as he puts it, have many missions, all currently being realized in this sleepy horse-racing town four hours north of New York City. They make pastries that rival the best in Paris. They run a consulting business to teach others the theory and practice of baking. And they produce spectacular loaves of rich pain de mie, earthy chestnut bread, French rye, Nyons olive, walnut, ciabatta and their signature "fire bread" that, with its dense, chewy crumb and its crackling crust, is the American equivalent of Paris's legendary pain Poilâne.
But for Michael London, to serve bread means not only to bake it and to sell iteven, as in the recipes that follow, to use it in bread pudding and other dishesbut also to be its servant. "Bread is the guru," declares Mrs. London's new Web site, summarizing the philosophy that underlies everything the Londons have done.
The Hollywood biopic of the Michael London story could open with his father, Danny, who was born deaf and dumb, had both hearing and voice bestowed on him at the age of 19 by a blow to the head in the boxing ring and went on to become one of the leading featherweight contenders of his day. But Michael's story is really the saga of a perfectionist. Trained as a pastry chef, Michael opened Mrs. London's in 1975. His pastries and breads were praised by Craig Claiborne and doted on by George Balanchine, but lovely as it was to have food writers and ballet masters salivating, London was never quite satisfied. "In my heart of hearts, it was always bread," he says.