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Dec 2, 2013 11:04 AM

The Great American Bread?

I've heard it said, on this site and elsewhere, that bread-making is not a strength of American cuisine, and I tend to agree. France, Italy, Germany and Russia put the US in the shade when it comes to bread-making. Having said this, is there any single distinctly American bread that you'd put up against that of the continental powers? I'd offer true San Franciscan sourdough as the great American bread. The one that could go toe-to-toe when it comes to dough.

Any other nominations?

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  1. I believe the USA invented machine sliced bread. Which required a lighter than normal texture. Hence the ubiquitous airy loaf found throughout the country.

    1. Nope. I don't think SF sourdough would be the peer of the great European breads. It's a good bread, but not in that league.

      The ur American bread would have to be some version of cornbread, fwiw. That doesn't mean it would meet your standard of competing with the great European breads. (It's kinda hard to make a non-yeast bread compete with a yeast bread.)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Karl S

        I've got to disagree - a great SF sourdough is one of the truly great breads of the world, period. The Acme Bread sourdough is world-class in every way and can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any bread, anywhere - just as Acme is one of the greatest bakeries in the world, period.

        I'd agree with jmckee that sourdough is an especially typical American bread quite generally. Also with the nomination for Parker House rolls.

        More generally, though, I want to caution against the idea that a given country is quite generally "better" for bread or more specifically against the idea that it's possible to walk into a random bakery in any given country and expect great bread. More typically quality is much more a function of the individual bakery's commitment to excellence than it is of being in a particular country. If you go to an ordinary bakery in France or Italy or Germany you're likely to get a bread that's fairly...ordinary. Nothing wonderful. And as often as not people are buying their bread from the supermarket, with predictable impact on quality.

        That said, there *are* countries and cultures which are more likely to value high-quality bread than others. That may make finding good bread easier but it doesn't change the inherent potential of typical regional styles; it just means it's easier to find the regional style, done well. SF sourdough is one that's developed a reputation for greatness I think precisely because the prevailing culture in the Bay Area values bread, to a similar degree to what you'll find in the countries you list.

      2. the three American "breads" that I would nominate are:

        Boston Brown bread

        Not sure these are in the same category, since only one uses yeast There are plenty of local bakers that can rival anything made in Europe, even if "invented" elsewhere. In fact, it is likely that what we think of as a country's "signature" bread did not originate there....but they have had a lot longer to wage their PR war

        1 Reply
        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

          I was thinking of those but you beat me to it. Except for anadama bread, these aren't suitable for sandwiches, but they're bread nonetheless.

        2. I suspect a true southern biscuit would not qualify as bread...... But that would be my nomination.
          And yes, a true SF sourdough.

          The european countries are also significantly older with many more generations of bread bakers- not an especially "fair" comparison

          2 Replies
          1. re: Ttrockwood

            Agree that a warm biscuit is world-class. Don't see why it wouldn't qualify.

            1. Well. No. I tend to disagree.

              American bread is the equal of anything I've had in the European styles. It's just different -- made from flour with different protein levels, for one thing.

              I think of sourdough -- not just from San Francisco -- as a very American bread.

              I think of traditional salt rising bread.

              I think of a loaf I've had in several cities that has buttermilk and some fat content -- butter, or oil, or lard; it's light without being spongy, with a crust that heft but won't tug at -- or shatter -- a tooth.

              I think particularly of the south, where hot bread is a way of life -- cornbread, biscuits, corn pone, yeast rolls.