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Real Bread

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Any European-style, artisanal (real) bread being baked in the Austin area? Caliber of Sullivan Street in NYC or Acme in SanFran? Just moved to the Hill Country and will drive any distance.

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  1. This might be helpful:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/552110

    1. There is an artisanal bread maker at the farmer's market at Berger Stadium on Saturday morning. He makes all the bread himself and usually has several different types and flavors. It is fabulous and definitely worth the trip.

      1. Thanks to you both. I had searched for a bread thread and missed the one you recommended. It confirmed what I suspected. But what about Bona Dea bread? I found note of it on Edible Austin. AND J, if you can tell me more about the baker I'd appreciate it. I'm new to the area and don't know about the Sat. FM at Berger. I'm willing to drive if the bread guy is fairly regular.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pickypicky

          New Bread Rising is the artisanal bread baker at the Sunset Valley Farmers market. He is pretty regular. He says his bread is hand kneaded and is slow rise, using lots of organic ingredients. Huge variety. Pricey but the real deal.

        2. Funny, I've lived in Austin 15 years and noticed the lack of good bakeries early on. And I'm comparing it to Milwaukee, which no one would think of as gourmet - however, we had a lot of mom & pop European bakeries with consistent, yummy rolls. Hard rolls are a classic, along with kaiser rolls, semolina buns and onion buns. I haven't found equivalents in Austin. How "weird" is that? :)

          1 Reply
          1. re: mizznicole

            I wonder if it is the water? I don't know much about making bread, but I think our water is very alkaline.

          2. The bread maker is a regular and the Sunset Valley Farmer's Market is worth the trip. He makes the bread each week and has at least 8-10 different varieties from rosemary to chocolate. There is also a Greek guy who makes his grandmother's hummus that is the best hummus I've ever tasted, as well as many other natural and organic vendors. They are open year round every sat from 9-1. I believe they have a website for directions

            1 Reply
            1. re: jamintx

              thanks for tip! will definitely check this out. one more question: how does the SVFMarket breadman wrap his bread? does it come in plastic or paper? We saw some ok-looking bread yesterday at Central Mkt/San Antonio but but when we touched it was as limp as old tulip.

            2. I'm not a bread expert, and haven't tried the bread alluded to elsewhere in this thread, but I've really enjoyed the bread I've bought from Moonlight Bakery. http://moonlightbakery.com/

              2 Replies
              1. re: bubbleboy79

                Thanks for recommending Moonlight. I tried them out and am really enjoying their jewish rye.

                1. re: archivalquality

                  I'm glad and you're welcome. As a bonus, I've always found their staff to be really nice.

              2. There is nothing close to Sullivan or Acme in or around Austin. (BTW, if you haven't tried it yet, I think Tartine Bakery in SF is putting out the best bread in town. Only on certain days, late afternoon. Also available at Bar Tartine with dinner service.)

                But we might finally be close to getting something comparable. There's a woman in town who trained at Balthazar for many yrs and is now making croissants and other items for places like La Boite. Her almond croissants are off-the-charts good. I believe she hopes to have a retail space sometime this yr.

                http://www.barriebaking.com/

                1 Reply
                1. re: Steven Dilley

                  brilliant. thank you. and yes, love Tartine. i don't expect the same thing-- a TX variant is just as welcome, long as it's real.

                2. Thanks to you, Steven Dilley, for the Barrie Cullinan tip. I believe she is the real deal. We drove in to Boggy Creek on Wednesday to try and catch her. We did, but just barely. By 9:05 she'd sold out of plain croissants. We did score two chocolate and a loaf of pecan honey bread. The croissants were excellent. Nicely sized (I hate jumbo!) and quality chocolate. The humidity had taken their crisp away, but that's the weather's fault. The bread was wrapped in cellophane-- a step up from plastic. When we inquired about baguettes, Barrie says she only delivers those to restaurants right now. I wish we'd gotten a list of her supporters. As a sidenote: we also went to the San Antonio Farmer's Market and got a nice loaf of bread from Sol y Luna baking.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: pickypicky

                    So glad to hear it.

                    Ha... by the time I got there around 9:30, she was out of everything. I've still only tried her croissants but would love to sample a baguette. (You should definitely try her almond croissant, though I'm not sure if she brings any to Boggy Creek. La Boite usually has them but often runs out.)

                    1. re: Steven Dilley

                      Couple of things:

                      a) New boulangerie/patisserie opening at Hill Country Mall in late Aprill, Baguette Et Chocolat. Website is, well, you guessed it, http://baguetteetchocolat.com/
                      (Beware: lots of music). Looks interesting; perhaps even very interesting. Pastries appear a HUGE step up from usual Austin crap. Run by a husband and wife; husband trained in Paris and worked at a shop in Versailles. I hold out hopes it will be good. We shall see.

                      Bona Dea Bread, baker is Laureen Hubbell. http://www.bonadeabread.com/ Good, not great. Needs more depth of flavor, some items underbaked (!), which I guess is better than overbaked and dried out. Has some gluten-free breads and scones, and knock-off of the semolina-raisin bread from Amy's Bakery in New York.

                      Have had no luck with breads bought at the Farmer's Markets. Most are too dry and lack flavor and depth. I suspect they overknead and don't let the bread rise for the entire 18-24 hours needed to develop their full character.

                      Pain au chocolat at Walton's is pretty good. Very, very buttery, not quite the ideal butter-to-crispiness ratio, but close. Eat one and raise your serum cholesterol level by 10%. Their flourless chocolate hearts are also very good. But the breads are abominable.

                      1. re: Andrew Zachary

                        Have you tried the breads from the guy at the Saturday Sunset Valley market? He claims to sell a handful of breads leavened with a natural sourdough starter, but I haven't tried any of them yet.

                        Anyway, thanks for the rest of the news.

                        1. re: Andrew Zachary

                          wow! Baguette et Chocolat looks like something to get my hopes up about! AND it's on the Fbg side of Austin (our side). the photos look amazing, and his credentials are the real deal. even the little free-standing building is appetizing. we won't make the opening (will be in Sonoma) but will definitely hit it when we return. So whoever goes, please post.

                          Mr. Z, will you describe, if you know, how far out the Bee Cave highway (71) it is?

                          1. re: pickypicky

                            B&C is at 12101 Bee Cave Road, which is on the south side of 2244 just before it merges with 71. I plan to be there when they open!

                          2. re: Andrew Zachary

                            I finally drove the 20 miles to B & C on sunday. Although they close at 2 p.m on sunday's I was there by 10:30 a.m. and they were sold out of virtually all croissants.

                            I bought the batard (thick baguette) and thought it was wonderful! The crust was crunchy, the bread itself was tender and the bubbles were perfect; no huge holes. The bread was a tad on the bland side BUT it went perfectly with the pasta/pancetta/pea/asparagus dinner that I made.

                            The other bonus for me was the sell traditional french macrons! I bought the vanilla with chocolate filling. They were in a cooler so I pretty much thought they'd burst into a crunchy, sugary mess but they did not dissappoint. They were slightly crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. They were double stuffed with chocolate ganache. I thought they were excellent!

                            1. re: chispa_c

                              I stopped by on Saturday and they were out of croissants as well.

                              I thought the texture of the macarons was pretty good but wasn't a fan of the chocolate filling. It might be harder to find a good macaron than it is to find good bread.

                              I grabbed a baguette as well, but because of a change in weekend plans didn't get around to eating it. I'll use it for something, but a proper evaluation will have to wait. Personally, I tend to prefer a scattering of irregular-sized holes in my bread, depending on the type.

                              1. re: Steven Dilley

                                it might make for good french toast...

                                I will admit, the double ganache filling was a huge hit for me on the macrons. I've tried the ones at Walton's (Sandra Bullock place on 6th) and at Enoteca and thought they were both dry and awful.

                                -----
                                Enoteca
                                1610 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

                                1. re: chispa_c

                                  The ones at La Boite aren't bad. She had a salted caramel one awhile back that was pretty good.

                                  Thanks for the heads-up on Walton's... I still haven't been.

                                  1. re: chispa_c

                                    I've had good ones from Walton's. It's been a while since I've gotten any there, though.

                                    1. re: hlk

                                      I am not sure, but I believe Walton's no longer makes or sells macarons. However, to assuage the situation, the store Extraordinaire does sell locally made macarons, and they are quite good. Extraordinaire is on 5th Street across from Whole Foods.

                                      1. re: Andrew Zachary

                                        Ooo, thanks! I didn't know about that one.

                                        1. re: hlk

                                          So what time should I get to B&C to get croissants?

                        2. There's a french bistro in lakeway called Artisan, they've been open about a month. The french onion soup is awesome AND they sell their homemade breads and pastries in store. There's not a huge selection just 4 or 5 I believe, but they are crusty and "magnifique".

                          1. If you have not made Jim Lahey/Mark Bittman's no knead bread, give it a try. It's so easy kids make it. I used to bake in an excellent scratch bakery in VT, and this is as wonderful a loaf of bread as I have ever made, including the ones I made there. Using google you can find lots of links and videos to help you make no-knead bread. But here is a start:

                            http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/din...

                            I realize you are looking to "buy" bread and not bake it, but you said you are willing to drive anywhere, and making this bread is much easier than driving, and when you are done, you are--yourself-- a baker of excellent bread. Teach your kids to make it. I always bake two loaves and give one to a neighbor.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Dave Westerberg

                              I second this recipe recommendation! I've baked bread for years but now pretty much only make this no-knead bread. It's ridiculously easy and delicious. (I use half whole-wheat and half white flour, though.) There's one whole-grain boule no-knead recipe that I like even better, but the rise is even longer and the timing a little trickier.

                              It beats most any bread in Austin.

                              1. re: storefronteats

                                thanks, dave. my husband, a chef on sabbatical, and I, a 40 yr veteran home cook, bake bread 3-4 times a week. my husband prides himself on his homegrown starter and dreams of a wood-fired oven some day. His quest for [boughten] bread is to honor those who do it well, as well as to explore the possibilities. I have made the recipe you mention and it's very good. The suggestions here are terrific-- and I must say far more helpful and interesting than what we used to find on San Diego Chow, our last home. Much more dissing and attacking there by a few know-it-alls.

                                1. re: pickypicky

                                  Ah good! Sounds like you are wonderful folks. Supporting good bakeries is a noble thing.

                                  I run into lots of folks who lament a dearth of good bread, and who are afraid of baking. But between Bittman's NKB and and James Beard's "Myrtle Allen's brown Bread",
                                  http://www.frontiernet.net/~rang/Myrt...
                                  there is no reason people can't have really good, primal, nutritious bread very easily. I re-read the introduction to "Laurel's Bread Book" about twice a year. It's great inspiration. Thanks for your post.

                              2. re: Dave Westerberg

                                going to try this one out... i seem to kill yeast :( the only bread I have ever made right is beer bread one bottle of beer( i check with mom first) one cup of sugar and flour till smooth dough...

                              3. Recently, I was served "real" baguettes which were par-baked and passed off as hand-made. One, in a family bakery in the Hill Country where we live. The other from a restaurant in this area as well. Of course, I didn't ask if the loaves were handmade, and it wasn't until I got home that I realized the similar paper sheath, exact form and texture, consistent tastelessness, insipid crust color. (Like HEB and Whole Foods breads that tout themselves as "Artisanal.") From now on, I guess I have to ask bakers if their breads are from scratch. However, Matt of -Crumbs, an American Bakery- is showing up every week at the Fredericksburg Farmer's Market with hand-made breads. He's young, hardworking and dedicated to learning the craft which he is still mastering, but at least his bread is honest.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: pickypicky

                                  Par baking is just a process of slightly underbaking to finish on site. It has nothing to do with whether or not the bread was made from scratch or hand made. They can be both.

                                  1. re: LeroyT

                                    I may have used the wrong word. But I'm also trying to figure out how "finishing on site" figures into the artisan loaf equation.

                                    1. re: pickypicky

                                      I guess the question is, if two loaves are made by hand with organic flour, water, and yeast or natural levain and salt, one fully baked and the other par baked, and then they are shipped to a store, and the store puts the par baked one in the oven for 10 minutes, is one of them artisan and one of them not?

                                      1. re: LeroyT

                                        Anything frozen, then baked and sold in a different location than in which it was formed, in the guise of being made in-house - I would not call artisanal. I would call that loaf "commercial." Artisanal not only applies to the mixing and forming of the loaf. It also applies to the baking, which is an art unto itself. (as anyone who has made bread at home can attest to) Of course, I am not an authority. This is only my opinion.

                                        1. re: pickypicky

                                          Ok, but my example was of a loaf that was baked in the same place it was shaped, then finished at the retail spot. I can understand that in the case of say, La Brea, where the lion's share of the work is done by machine. But for smaller bakeries that do everything but mix by hand? Is that not "honest" bread? I'm not even arguing that a place like panera that ships dough around for proofing is artisanal (though I don't know that it's "dishonest"), I just think that to call those breads not honest or dishonest is goign too far. Nothing personal, just a quibble.

                                2. I just got back from Tahiti. The French influence is profound in French Polynesia. On Bora Bora, many houses have a Breadbox. It looks like this:
                                  http://www.pengelly.net/images/Bread_...
                                  It's like a mailbox where the baker can deliver your perfect (and I mean perfect) baguettes twice daily.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Dave Westerberg

                                    Dave, what a cool thing!!!

                                    1. re: Dave Westerberg

                                      Wow, I want a breadbox like that--how cool! Thanks for sharing the photo. Something to dream about...

                                    2. I used to go to Austin (from Kerrville) to get the bialys from Sweetish Hill bakery, but haven't been in several years. Are they stil baking? The bialys were terrific, as were their
                                      filled sweet rolls. I didn't buy other breads there so can't comment on them but the stuff I
                                      did buy was very good.

                                      1. Just saw this interesting post from Robb Walsh about David Norman, a baker at Annie's:
                                        http://www.robbwalsh.com/2010/06/mast...

                                        Sounds good.