SHARON SPRINGS — The top of the cherry ginger upside-down cake shone with sticky nectarous syrup. The soft crumb, gently sweet and cinnamony, offered a balance to the bursting sour of the dark cherries.
The blueberry lemonade, a deep and rich maroon color, has sparks of fruity tang and blossoms of floral sweetness — perhaps the perfect drink to have under the shade of a tree on a hot summer day.
Chilled soups aren’t super popular in the U.S. but the chilled potato leek soup, known more professionally as vichyssoise, makes one wonder why. Creamy and velvety, the soup provides a base of delicate leek and mild potato and could turn anyone who swears by hot soup into a cold soup devotee.
All crafted by world-renowned chef and food stylist Anthony Leberto, such luscious creations would seem fit for Paris, New York City, or any other culinary empire. But Brimstone Bakery is actually tucked into the quaint Schoharie County village of Sharon Springs.
Although the village can be recognized for its presence of the famous artisanal business Beekman 1802 and the reality show that followed, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, finding a bakery with such high-quality products in a town of around 600 people may come as a surprise.
“In smaller towns, you know, they have a pizza place and that type of thing but to find food of that caliber in that small of a town, it’s hard,” said 63-year-old Rhonda DeCann, who visits Brimstone Bakery every time she comes to town. “It’s a plus for Sharon Springs.”
Established by both Leberto and international wine marketing consultant Ross Wassermann, Brimstone Bakery, named after a local creek, has been a Sharon Springs gem since 2018.
Well, kind of.
The kitchen found a home in the building of a former shop in the village but the business itself was born online, with its boxes of brownies, cookies and jars of jams and jellies sold exclusively through its website and shipped off to customers.
“We decided to buy an existing business that was making artisanal products for Beekman,” Leberto explained. “It came with a kitchen, it came with some equipment, and we ended up starting Brimstone and it started out as basically a website.”
It eventually began collaborating with wholesale clients until the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020. While other businesses were forced to shutter down, because Brimstone was primarily online, its operations were able to trek on. Along with its online shipments and wholesale partnerships, the bakery managed to open a takeaway window on Saturdays.
That endeavor, in addition to catering during the pandemic, gave Leberto the idea to open an actual brick-and-mortar building for lunch services as the pandemic began to calm.
So, after spending part of 2020 and 2021 renovating their existing space, Brimstone Bakery opened for retail in August of 2021.
Now the bakery is owned solely by Lebert after Wassermann left the business in mid-2021.
“I owe a lot to him because the two of us really formulated and put it together and created it, and it’s changed and evolved from the beginning but it was really the two of us thinking that this was a great place,” said Leberto. “Doing this on my own, you know, it’s challenging.”
Since its beginning, the menu has expanded to include hand pies, soups, cake and several beverages from steaming chipotle hot chocolate to a bright red raspberry iced tea.
Then there is the fan favorite: the brioche pecan sticky buns. These pillowy golden rolls, with bites of cinnamon sugar, pecans and thick pools of brown sugar butter caramel, receive rave reviews in the bakery’s Facebook comments: “So delicious!” “The best sticky buns ever!”
“They’re ooey-gooey and delicious,” Leberto said before making sure to mention that they aren’t too sweet due to the balance of the dense brioche. “People love them.”
The roasted vegetable quiche is DeCann’s favorite, though she is also quick to mention the several other goodies that she thinks are impeccable, including the s’more blondies, carrot cake and white chocolate, pistachio and dried cherry biscottis.
“There wasn’t anything there I didn’t like,” said DeCann. “All of his food — I like it because I’m really allergic to preservatives and his food is no-preservatives, all-natural ingredients, everything is baked fresh there.”
And according to Leberto, that’s the point: for ingredients and products to be of such high quality that anyone can find something to eat, even with dietary restrictions. That’s also why Brimstone Bakery orders ingredients from 20 to 30 places, both online and in person.
“We use fresh everything in all of our ingredients,” Leberto said. “I think Brimstone is great because we offer a lot of different things and there’s something for everybody.”
In fact, Leberto says that everything at Brimstone Bakery is food people have had before, just simply “turned on their side.” Exhibit A: the brownies. They seem pretty standard at first glance — a decadent treat of milk chocolate, a dash of salt and, oh yeah, a dash of chipotle.
“You get the salt and then you get the creamy chocolate and, just when you think the whole thing is over, you get a wash of heat at the back of your throat,” said Leberto.
The ginger snaps cookies have white pepper and balsamic. The snickerdoodles are topped with Heath bar chunks. Rocky Road makes a menu appearance but in the form of bread rather than ice cream.
But these creations, though perhaps strange to the average person, are nothing new for Leberto, who has had a lifelong dedication for all-things food.
Though he loved cooking and baking as a child, Leberto graduated from Syracuse University for communications and journalism. But, after moving to San Francisco and realizing that journalism wasn’t for him, he started working in restaurants to pursue his passion.
Since then, he has worked in a variety of roles, including as a recipe developer, a waiter and a private chef, at a variety of prestigious companies — Martha Stewart Living, New York Magazine, KitchenAid, just to name a few.
It was in these positions that he learned the secrets and ideals of the craft that now influence his own food.
“I’ve worked with the best of the best of the best, I’ve seen the best,” Leberto said. “I understand what it looks like, what it’s supposed to look like, and what it’s supposed to taste like.”
And, he says, it is also all of these positions that have enabled him to run Brimstone Bakery to be what it is today.
“I feel like my entire life and my career has been about being ready to do this,” Leberto said. “I’m pretty proud.”
Now, as Leberto continues to wake up at 4 a.m. every day to begin opening the bakery and strive for perfection in each cake slice, brioche bun and cup of lemonade, he hopes to see Brimstone grow even more — in whatever way that may mean.
“I would like us to succeed, I would like us to be profitable. I would like it to be something that I can pass on to someone or maybe have another Brimstone somewhere, or not,” Leberto said. “I would just like it to be healthy and successful and continue to grow, that’s my goal.”