Bread (and a Cookbook Giveaway)

I grew up in Germany eating good bread. My mother (the American parent) quickly learned my father’s old world tastes and became an expert bread baker. She made a dense, chewy rye bread with cracked coriander in it and one of my fondest childhood memories was eating that bread, sliced thinly, toasted, then cooled and then smeared generously with butter and topped with apricot or raspberry jam. Heaven! And just as good, topped with Gruyère or Swiss Cheese our Gouda, again on lots of butter. My mother also  made yeast rolls and whole wheat sandwich bread and I loved all of it and remember rounding up my friends on weekend mornings in the tiny village we lived in to come have warm bread right out of the oven.

My mother still bakes bread but she lives more than an hour away and now she’s most famous for her biscuits, but that’s another blog post. And now I live two blocks from Grand Central Bakery which is quite fortuitous since my first job out of college was at Grand Central. I arranged the bread and pastry displays, learned how to make good coffee and made sandwiches–mostly I remember the daily marathon of making sandwiches during the lunch rush. I’ve always loved their breads with their fabulous crusts and chewy interiors.

Grand Central Bakery's new Whole Grain Sandwich Loaf

Now, however, they have a new kind of bread which in some ways is nothing like the breads I grew up on and tend to gravitate towards. However, it is packed with seeds and whole grains (very German!) but is made in a more classic American sandwich bread style, i.e. softer and more tender. What I like about it though is that it still seems like a real loaf of bread, not something that is overly processed or engineered, which is what most sandwich bread seems like to me. Note the lovely mouse hole, as we called those irregular holes as children, which to me signals real bread. I recently picked up a loaf and used it every which way.

With Sharp Cheddar and my mother's Bread & Butter Pickles, about to be grilled. . .

The grilled version of the sharp cheddar and bread & butter pickle sandwich was not very photogenic but boy was it good. A friend inspired me to make the below version with fresh goat cheese, minced, fresh thyme and cheddar and then I made another version with a bunch of parsley in addition to the thyme. All are worth repeating and were devoured by neighborhood adults and kids alike.

With fresh goat cheese and herbs and more cheddar. . .

The crunchy, gooey, savory sandwiches before they disappeared.

And finally, the bread served as a good vehicle for my leftover slice of asparagus and snap pea frittata that I enjoyed in the back yard on one of the sunny (!!!!) days we’ve had recently.

Frittata sandwich with arugula and some sharp cheddar, again.

This bread is available in the Portland and Seattle areas at all the Grand Central Bakery storefronts but also in Portland at Pastaworks, Zupans, Whole Foods, New Seasons and Beaumont Market. And for those of you who do not live in the area, I hope you have a good alternative.

Lastly, to further honor my erstwhile employer, I’m going to give away a copy of the Grand Central Baking Book co-authored by the lovely Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. This book is a collection of many of the bakery’s beloved treats for any time of day, sweet or savory.  So leave a comment about bread and/or sandwiches and I’ll randomly choose a winner to receive this gorgeous book.

Lastly, there are still spots available in my June 23rd Lunch Time Class and the June 25th improv class in which we’ll truly cook with what we have and collectively come up with a menu.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Bread


Bread, toasted and rubbed with garlic, soaking up a kale and white bean stew.

Bread came to the rescue this weekend. A dear friend was visiting (the one for whom the wedding cake was made) from out-of-town. She showed up on Saturday mid-afternoon and both of us happened to be starving. I had some day-old white bean and kale soup on the stove. It was a fine soup, a good soup really, but there wasn’t a whole lot left. So I toasted a couple of slices of bread, rubbed a garlic clove across the warm slices, covered them with hot soup, drizzled on a little good olive oil and a bit more salt . . . And we enjoyed a most satisfying mid-afternoon meal.

Bread comes to my rescue a lot actually. In savory bread pudding, in bruschetta with stewed leeks, for quick lunches with a salad, for soaking up the tomato sauce in which I poach eggs, etc. Bread has been getting a bad rap lately and I want to counter some of that with a little bread appreciation today. And I do know and understand that some of you can’t tolerate bread and I’m not trying to rub it in, but for the rest of us, it can be a handy, tasty and nutritious life-saver. And of course it truly is a life saver in much of the world. A vast percentage of the world’s population subsists primarily on a variety of grains and for more than six thousand years people have been baking leavened breads with many of these grains.

75% Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

After many years of making the  no-knead bread made famous in the New York Times I still swear by it. I make a whole wheat version with 75 % whole wheat flour*, which is what you see above. It has a wonderfully open and airy crumb, loads of flavor from the wheat and the long rising period and a serious crust. It is definitely my pinch hitter. . . yesterday I toasted a slice and slathered it with almond butter as I ran out the door to pick up  my son. It’s one of his favorite snacks and mine as well. Yesterday I also made dinner for friends who just had a baby. I made winter squash and onion panade (for which I’m going to post the recipe soon) which consists of stale bread turned into a gratin with caramelized onions, diced winter squash, veggie broth and cheese and a raw kale salad with hearty bread crumbs and a garlicky lemony dressing. Because of bread’s long history, most cuisines/cultures have ways to use up the stale stuff which I think merits a post in-and-of-itself soon.

Fresh out of the oven

Until then . . . Happy Cooking and Eating!

* A quick note on flours. It’s important that you use bread flour in this kind of bread since it’s made from wheat that has a higher percentage of protein/gluten (than all-purpose flour) which is what gives bread its strength and structure.