Bread stories from
My Italian friend would not touch a bowl of pasta if it didn’t accompany a hunk of chewy white bread to mop up the sauce left on the pasta plate. When I apprenticed in France I remember having charcuterie plates accompanied by slices of rustic levain, which is crusty bread made with natural sour dough yeast culture. It lends the bread a welcoming sour flavor. Equally Parisian baguette stories can fill a book and indeed it’s quite magical to smear pate’ on a freshly baked baguette. Growing up in Austria, there was always a dark crusty rye bread on the table, which is a little heartier, compared to wheat-based bread. One of my favorite morning breads is Challah made with milk and butter, often dotted with raisins. I like to enjoy it with a thick layer of good butter. In the early 90’s when I arrived in New York I was surprised how little European style bread was available here. I missed artisan bread since I was used to fresh bread from the bakery daily. I still remember when I was first introduced to cushy, chewy bagels, still appealing to me these days. I used to be mortified to order such bagels at a busy corner deli just footsteps away from my apartment. My English wasn’t that great at that time and making the counter person understand what kind of bagel I wanted was torture to us both. Today a variety of freshly baked breads are abundant in New York, and my communication problems are a thing of the past – I am thankful for both!
(fresh ciabatta rolls - simple sammy)
In search of the
ideal sandwich bread…
There are three styles of breads that I find myself going back to frequently. My findings are as following:
These fast bake breads made with commercial “bakers” yeast leave much to desire in my opinion. The only breads I enjoy of this kind are multi-grain breads made with pre-sprouted grains. They appeal to me because they’re healthy and easier to digest. Pre-sprouting or soaking grains in water before they’re added to the bread dough boosts the nutrition value and makes grains easier to digest. I like them since I can keep them in the refrigerator for several days in their plastic packaging and toast them at any mealtime.
I find this type of bread appealing since they are often made with a sourdough starter resulting in a nice crust. Sourdough breads are often made with a mixture of rye and wheat flour and with natural yeast culture where lacto acid fermentation gives the bread a light sour taste. The process requires a pre-fermented “starter” or in French “levain.” These breads take longer to make compared to American breads and sourdoughs vary from bakery to bakery and are a great opportunity to showcase the signature style of the head baker. This type of bread can make wonderful sandwiches for lunch and dinner as long as it’s not older then two days, and kept at room temperature in a paper bag.
(freshly baked ciabatta rolls)
Italian breads are made with wheat and yeast to start with and often refined with milk and olive oil. The dough is rather loose which makes a more open texture, meaning it has large air pockets inside the bread. I like ciabatta rolls that are hand rolled flat and elongated, made with whole wheat flour and a sourdough starter for a crispier crust, porous texture but still somewhat soft. They are perfect for sandwiches but unfortunately they tend to get tough and chewy when they’re older than one day.
Drop me a line about your favorite bread.