September 30, 2004
everyone should have a good bakery just around the corner
In the late August we rediscovered a good local bakery. We had known it from before, had even bought their bread (mostly focaccia) now and then, but never really tried to actually go to the bakery; we would just buy from local natural food stores that carry some of their bread.
Before we found their bread, I would rarely buy bread from local supermarket. I don't eat bread every day, and when I do, I would want to have ones I really like - not cheap ones heavily loaded with preservatives, but more natural ones, preferably hard, dense bread for sandwiches and buttery sweet pastries.
It was at the farmer's market that we first discovered that our favorite bread maker was offering a bunch of different kinds of bread, not just focaccia. From their "branch" stand in the market, we bought a Jalapeno Cheddar loaf which we ate with spicy goat cheese from a local cheese maker. Both bread and cheese were really spicy and we both liked them a lot.
Our new favorite bakery, O'Keefe and Sons, has a satisfyingly large lineup of various bread and rolls, baked according to their monthly schedule, and a selection of pastries and ready-to-go sandwiches. When we first went to the shop, there were a flow of regulars coming in, getting bread of their choice, and leaving. That day we bought an Apple Sourdough, as well as a cream cheese Danish pastry and a small cinnamon pull-apart, or what I prefer to call monkey bread.
The monkey bread was extremely buttery and cinnamony - almost like a doughnut. mmmmm, yummmmy.
And I liked the Apple Sourdough, too. I cut it in thin slices, lightly toasted, and spread just a bit of Hawaiian white honey - I don't usually have honey other than in cooking/baking, but it has a very delicate flavor and went really well with the apple-cinnamon loaf.
We have since kept going back to the bakery, most often on Saturday. He eats more bread than I do (he eats sandwiches a lot), so tends to choose nice, hearty loaves for his lunches. On another day he got a Pumpkin Seeds Rye, with which he made a triple-decker loaded with turkey ham, cheese and onion slices.
I, on the other hand, seem to have a tendency to lean toward sweeter kinds. Once I got a heart-shaped Chocolate Sour Cherry loaf.
Well, it wasn't overly sweet, so I treated myself with an ice cream "sandwich", by filling slices of the bread with cherry vanilla ice cream.
There was one kind that we both anticipated to have from the very first day we walked into the bakery; Coconut Sweet Bread. It sounded like a really luscious, decadent bread. And a chance came on one day, we by chance went to the shop on a day that they were baking the bread. We got one loaf ourselves, and had one piece at a table right outside of the bakery. It was a loaf consisting of several sweet rolls, really fluffy and noticeably coconuty. We got a tip from a lady at the shop that the bread would make fantastic french toasts, so We did try that.
I might have made a mistake though, in making the french toast using cream, I figured. The bread was already pretty rich and creamy, and the addition of cream was just too much. He was nice enough to give me a rave, I liked it plain better, to be frank.
Overall we liked all the bread we got from the bakery, although there were a few mediocres. Their Challah, for example, turned out a bit too dry and bland, I thought. It might have been just the way any challah should be, and after all, I don't particularly fancy those brioche-y bread.
That said, their Chili Brioche was pretty good, in fact; the lightly sweet, cakelike bread subtly seasoned with chili pepper and charmed with small green chili pieces had a rather addictive taste... they offered this one as a sampler at the store, and we got one loaf after we sampled a couple of pieces. Samplers do work sometimes, don't they?
Well, like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I don't eat too much of bread. Sometimes I can't manage to eat bread while it is good, and in such cases I would put the leftover in the freezer. I just made some decadent dessert out of one of such bread: chocolate-sour cherry bread pudding.
My friend Joyce was making this treat before, using La Brea Bakery's Chocolate-Sour Cherry bread. I wasn't sure if my local bakery bakes this kind as good as La Brea, but I wanted to try it out anyways.
I used this recipe, but since I was horrified with the number of egg yolks used (eight!!!), I halved everything - I wanted to make it even smaller, but I don't own an oven-safe baking dish smaller than an 8-incher.
Today I used Scharffen Berger's unsweetened baking chocolate. I'd reduce the amount of sugar almost always when using an American recipe, but this time I used the exact same as specified in the recipe, since I thought it should make up for the unsweetened chocolate instead of bittersweet.
The recipe tells us to make sure that the bread pieces should completely soak the pudding liquid, and so I tried. It still looked like there was too much liquid.
After the 35-minute baking, however, it turned out that I hadn't done a very good job. When I pressed a knife into the still warm pudding, I found that the pudding mixture hadn't been absorbed in some parts of bread.
Oh well, that's that, and the pudding tasted so good I wouldn't complain much. It was unarguably very chocolaty, and the way it was bitter and sweet was just right for me. The texture of cream was so light it was almost like mousse (it was by no means "light" dessert, though, with all that much of egg yolks, cream, and chocolate). I would have liked it even better if the bread had more cherries (I couldn't taste much of cherry), but other than that, it was a great way to use bread in dessert.
Good bread obviously makes good dessert - well, only when you can't handle it all while fresh. Now the problem is, when I was suffering from the lack of sources of good bread, I managed to bring myself to bake some bread myself, and though I had been pretty bad in bread making, I was beginning to be a little more successful. But now that I can buy good bread just around the corner, why should I bother?? (Maybe I should, because I still have a lot of yeast left...)
posted by chika at: 9/30/2004 11:48:00 PM