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...)


Clandestined Surprise said...

I don't know about the other guys that read this site, but I love a woman who

Reid said...

Hi Chika,

You're very fortunate to have such a wonderful bakery nearby. There is a Great Harvest Bakery in the Kahala area that has wonderful bread, but if you don't get there early enough, it tends to sell out quickly. It been rare that I've been able to find bread that I like when I have the chance to go (usually early afternoon).

BTW...the bread pudding looks wonderful! I haven't made any in a while and I think it's about time. =)

Anonymous said...

Reading your blog always makes me hungry. Just thought to drop by to tell you that I tried your Gingered Pork Rolls with Cheese receipe (they worked out great!! Probably due to the fact that an oven wasn't involved. HEHE ;P) but I had to see those breads from your bakery (like your other half, I'm a sandwich fan) and began drooling again. After that, I saw the bread pudding and I died and went to heaven. Looks marvellous! Hahaha. Anyway, it's a real pleasure to read your blog. BLOG ON!


bad influence said...

Hello. I'm impressed by the quality of the images you have uploaded on your blog. I'm just wondering what type of camera of you're using. Are you using available light?


Anonymous said...

The recipe calls for letting the bread soak in the custard for 30 minutes before putting it in the oven, which doesn't seem like enough time to me -- especially given the combo of an artisanal bread like this, which has a lot more body than typical commercial bread, with what sounds like a fairly thick custard mix. For French toast, which we make with bread from our local wonderful independent bakery (let me quickly put in a plug for the two Arizmendi bakeries in Oakland, in case anyone reading this is in the SF area), we usually let it soak overnight in a zipper-lock bag in the fridge. We find it makes a big difference.

Come to think of it, the Arizmendi on San Pablo Ave makes chocolate-cherry sourdough bread on Saturdays. Hmmm... maybe bread pudding next weekend. :-)

-- EmilyB
(no Blogger account)

Yamila said...

Love ya blog
Love the photos, the stories behind them and the food.
We have a bread shop across the road and it is very poppular in our suburb. You can buy your typical french bread sticks to empanadas (meat filled pies), to chocolate bon bons to, crossiants filled with dulce de leche (caramel) and all types of pasteries. We love buying the premade miga sandwiches, which are made with fresh white bread or brown but without crusts and are thin and filled with delish savory toppings.

chika said...

Hi there,

Clandestined Surprise - so you love all the women in the whole universe, for sure! ;)

Reid - I would guess there should be a whole lot more of good bakeries in a big city like Honolulu... but overall it is definitely harder to find good ones in Hawaii, I guess, even compared to Tokyo. Next time you've got a chance to go to that Great Harvest Bakery, be sure to post about it in your blog! (Make sure you go there early enough!!!)

ALA - glad to know you liked the gingered pork :D
I bet you'll be fine with the oven, too, after several tryout runs... even this chocolate bread pudding could be an option!

bad influence - thanks, and I use a Nikon CoolPix 2500 that I bought a couple of years ago in Tokyo. Also I do try to use available light whenever I can.

EmilyB - I think you're right, 30 minutes wasn't enough at all for that kind of bread and custard. I do the same when making french toast, too, so maybe I should have thought of leaving it overnight or so instead of hurrying to bake it right after 30 minutes of sitting, although I suspect refrigerating might harden the custard mix containing that much of cacao-high chocolate before it is absorbed all the way... well, I'll see next time!

Yamila - you're fortunate, too! And what, croissants filled with dolce de leche?? You are making me suffer from dreaming of it night after night... ;)

Anuttama said...

Lovely blog and beautiful photos!

chika said...

Hi Anuttama,

thank a bunch!! :)