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Aug 6, 2014 03:14 PM

Favorite Bread(s)

I want to know about your love for bread. What's your ranking? With apologies to Baguettes, Matzo, Focaccia, Challah, Crepe, Ciabatta, Ezekiel, Banana Bread, French, Injera & plain white - here's my list:

1) Tortilla - the ultimate vehicle. with butter, cheese, meat, vegetables, prepared or raw, a good tortilla is the perfect size (both diameter and thickness) to accompany the filling yet also provide sturdy smokey corn flavor. tortillas can also be re-prepared into some awesome dishes, eg nachos, chilaquiles etc. gold medal winner for me.
2) Baguette - if it has that crispy crust, chewy dough and little middle speck of yeasty moisture, it's perfect. with butter, with cheese, with charcuterie, with nothing at all but a ripped hunk in your mouth, this is the best for me.
3) Bagel - I mean super awesome, great texture (for me it's heavily texture-based), perfect chewiness with a great crisp (if toasted).
4) Cornbread - even the fake stuff at El Torito. any bready, sweet corn - as long as it's moist - is awesome with me. add butter or honey and i'm in heaven.
5) Biscuit - almost the same visceral pleasure as cornbread, but a little sturdier. kind of annoying that the perfect biscuits are so flaky that they make a mess so my OCD takes over, but man again butter or honey or just plain biscuits - or with gravy! - pure awesomeness.
6) Pita - best conduit for stuffing your face, and it can be packed into a no-mess pocket if the pita is prepared well enough. very convenient, very earthy taste with a subtle toughness, and when slightly warmed it becomes a comforting blanket for any ingredients.
7) French Roll - similar to the baguette but sans the subtle sour tanginess - in other words just the perfect sandwich medium, for which you can use literally any toppings. hell yeah.
8) English Muffin - the OG Thomas version. i'm a sucker for these, and it may well be because my Mom had them in the house religiously while I was growing up. I love them super crispy and with butter or any variation of sandwich (or cheese, for that matter).
9) Pan Dulce - probably the only bread for me that goes equally well for breakfast and dessert without any alteration. definitely need a good coffee (breakfast) or milk (dessert) accompaniment, though.
10) Sourdough - unique and so enjoyable heated to a crisp and with butter or cheese. wow. I don't know enough about elite sourdoughs to really have this seriously considered, but those I've tried in L.A. and SF are spectacular.

What breads satisfy your craving?

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  1. For me, the following bread list (ahem):

    1) Cornbread- no questions asked, and I enjoy the savory version, usually made with real bacon grease, rather than the Yankeefied sweet dessert version.

    2) Knot rolls- they're knot that hard to make

    3) Cardamom-cinnamon bread from Finland (pulla, I believe) Just smell it next time you walk into a Scandinavian shop (if you ever do), and you will be willing to pay extra for the cardamom.

    4) Pretzels- No, not the packaged imitations worthy only of hospitals and discount airlines. I'm talking about the real-deal pretzels, piping hot with coarse salt, served with plenty of mustard for dipping.

    5) Tortillas-- The real flour ones I believe use lard. Sadly, these real ones are only available at Fresh Mex restaurants and tortilla factories.

    6) Naan- The Indian version of pita is my favorite of all of these. Crispy yet flaky inside, slightly charred, and deliciously tangy (thanks to the yogurt), it may very well be the next pita.

    7) English muffins- I love bay's refrigerator version, especially served with spun honey and peanut butter.

    8) Biscuit- The real deal is made with buttermilk and lard, though butter is very delicious indeed. Shortening is a passable substitute, but tends to make them taste like Bisquick biscuits (which I don't particularly like.)

    9) Brioche- The eggy French bread is very good, but a bit too sweet and rich for everyday sandwiches. If you can get ahold of some (challah is basically the same, just in a twisty shape), and let it stale a bit, it makes a killer good pain perdu/ French-style French toast.

    10) Pumpernickel- Many people don't like this bread, which means more for me! I suppose it's the Northern European in me that enjoys the flavor of caraway.

    2 Replies
    1. re: abfan105

      The cardamom-cinnamon one, is that semla?

      1. re: BuildingMyBento

        No, although it is similar. In Finland, it is known as a "pulla", and looks somewhat like challah, but with almonds studding the top.

    2. I should preface my preferences that I prefer breads on their own rather than as a vehicle for something else. Not that uses as a vehicle are bad, but ultimately it's the flavour of the bread that I'm looking for.

      Listed here in order of preference, 1 being most preferred and going down (only in a relative sense, all of these well loved):

      1: Pane Toscana. Love the ultra-crisp crust, the dense, glutinous crumb, and the lack of any extraneous ingredients getting in the way of tasting the flour the bread was made from.
      2: Typical salted Italian bread, such as you'll find in e.g. Rome. These don't have quite the crisp, thick crackling crust of the Toscana, but are still yummy.
      3: A good white English tin loaf, such as was once made in many bakeries, now hard to find. The ultimate bread for toast. As it happens, also a super vehicle for jam, although as I've mentioned bread-as-vehicle isn't my preferred eating mode.
      4: Pane Carasau. The iconic flatbread of Sardinia. A thin, crisp disc of semolina. Every time I go to Alghero I pig out on it. Another one with interesting uses as a vehicle. Try dipping in olive oil.
      5: Proper German pumpernickel. If it doesn't weigh almost as much as a brick, and have similar density, it's not the real thing. In German bakeries it's deadly. You can survive an entire day on a loaf.
      6: Caraway rye. Another German specialty, typically with similar densities to the pumpernickel. Shelf life is extraordinary, without requiring strange and frightening chemicals or additives.
      7: Pa de Pages. The Catalan take on great white bread. Fluffier than Italian breads but still robust and full of flavour. For those seeking uses as a vehicle, the classic of course is pa amb tomaquet. Good with ham too. Or most other things come to think of it. I still prefer just eating it directly.
      8: Lavash. The typical bread of Iran. Take something about halfway between a pitta and a naan bread, and make it in big, rectangular pieces, and you've got the idea. Ideally accompanies kebabs too. Should be tried grilled.
      9: Baguette. The only real limitation is that they must be had in France and nowhere else - it seems no other country can replicate them. I think there are 3 main reasons for this: 1) Freshness. Almost all boulangeries turn out baguettes continually throughout the day. 2) French flour. That unique medium-protein variety is difficult to replicate anywhere else. 3) Purity of recipe. French law doesn't even *allow* tinkering with the ingredients, much less encourage such tinkering.
      10: Corn tortillas. Regrettably almost impossible to find in almost any quality in the UK. But when I visit the USA I wolf them down. I might be one of the few people alive to love tortillas absolutely plain. Steamed corn tortillas, stacked on top of each other, and then cut into cake-like slices, are addictive to me.

      1 Reply
      1. re: AlexRast

        Hi, AlexRast,

        Your list looks better than mine, especially since it also includes some rather obscure types and some trivia about French bread I never knew. I completely forgot Potato Bread. Oh, and Moravian sugar bread.

        There is one heavily underrated bread I'd really, really like to try: It is Maltese in origin, and is known as Ħobż (pronounced CHOHBZ, sort of like Calvin's accomplice from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, but with a hack at the beginning.) Apparently it is commonly served with what looks like a salade niçoise on top of it minus the lettuce:

      2. I'm responding before reading others' response.

        My favorite bread is home made Italian (seeded) O.M.G.

        Next is San Francisco Sourdough.

        Then we have the whole wheat, pumpernickel, rye group.

        Pitas and tortillas, both excellent.

        I don't care for biscuits or cornbread at all. You can have mine.

        1. One cannot forget the most important bread-devoted Reddit page, Breadit. I read about it while perusing Flipboard, and I may join the discussion just based on its content

          1. Whoops, forgot kulich. While the rest of the world is indulging in chocolate eggs and jellybeans on Easter, the Russian Orthodox are baking their ubiquitous cake-like yeast-risen bread for Pascha (the Orthodox equivalent of Easter). Definitely a stand-alone bread. I have a recipe in my old Southern Living cookbook, which thankfully is available online.


            3 Replies
            1. re: abfan105

              I'd think of kulich as a cake rather than a bread; it's yeasted, yes, but the intended flavour and texture is that of cake.

              Here is a splendid recipe for kulich. It's complex but the results are worth the effort, at least at Easter. It's designed to be made on Good Friday. In the Orthodox church, there are three services on Good Friday, one in the morning, one in the mid-afternoon, one in the evening. You interleave the making and baking of the kulich between the services, and then it will be ready to bring to church on Saturday evening to be blessed by the priest when the Easter service ends (usually sometime about 3 am or so). This recipe will make enough for a large kulich, the one that you'll put on the feasting table in church for the feast after the Easter service on Saturday night/Sunday morning, a small one that you can give as a present to your priest or best friend or whoever you want, and a medium-sized one for the family on Easter Sunday afternoon (with possible leftovers for the rest of Bright Week)

              For the cake

              900g-1kg (approximate) strong white bread flour
              625 ml whole milk
              400 g unsalted butter
              8 egg yolks (UK large/US extra large)
              250 g sugar
              75 g (or so) almonds, blanched and slivered
              125 g (or so) currants
              125 g (or so) raisins (or I actually use dried blueberries)
              (optional) 125 g (or so) candied lemon peel (I usually omit. Opinion is divided as to whether lemon peel is proper or a Western innovation)
              about 10 g fresh yeast (a piece the size of a die is usually right)
              zest from 1 lemon
              (optional) 1 vanilla bean (almost certainly a Western innovation but I usually use)
              1/2 tsp salt

              For the icing
              100 g sugar
              a few ml, perhaps 10, of milk

              [STAGE 1] Do this before the morning service.
              Heat 375 ml of the milk to lukewarm and dissolve the yeast in about 50 ml thereof. Wait about 5 minutes, then stir it and the rest of the milk into 275 g flour in a large bowl. Mix until it starts to look a bit stringy and is fully incorporated, cover with a towel, and leave to rise.

              [STAGE 2] Once you come back from the morning service, do this.
              Combine 250 ml milk and 60 g butter in a saucepan, bring to a boil. Add 75 g flour, mix with a wooden spoon until smooth, and set aside to cool.

              At this point zest the lemon, separate the eggs, and prepare the almonds (blanch, skin, sliver. If you've bought pre-prepared almonds, that's OK although they won't be as fresh, most likely, and you don't strictly have to do this step exactly now either, but it's a convenient moment to do so)

              Cream the rest of the butter with the lemon zest (it doesn't have to be totally creamed, just enough that it will be easy to incorporate).

              Split and scrape the vanilla bean insides into the sugar, mix until the seeds are well-distributed, then beat with the egg yolks until the mixture is fully bulked, very pale in colour, and very thick.

              Combine the first 2 flour mixtures already prepared, mix well, then add the egg mixture, the creamed butter, the salt and mix. Now add the rest of the flour; exactly how much you will have to judge, but be aware that for a while it's going to be VERY sticky indeed. That's normal. You want just enough that you can knead it and get some weight being applied to the volume of dough. Knead fiercely for a long time; and it really is a while, probably 30 minutes or more. The dough will stick to your fingers for most of this time but suddenly towards the end it will glutinise, and when it clears the hands completely, it's ready. You can, of course, use a stand mixer in this step if you like (although it doesn't give as good a feedback for when it's done). Once it is ready, add the almonds and dried fruits, mix well, cover, and leave to rise. At this point you can go to the afternoon service

              [STAGE 3] Do this before going to the evening service.
              Prepare your tins. These should be very tall, cylindrical ones. A variety of different possibilities exist including large juice cans, empty cans of beans (thoroughly washed of course), metal kitchen implement holders, pork pie moulds - you have to be creative most of the time because most kitchen shops have nothing like the right sort of shape. In any case, trace out a circular base of parchment paper for the bottom of the tin, line it with that, then unroll enough parchment to line the sides completely. It's easiest if you place it in the tin reversed from its direction of roll in the package, because otherwise it tends to curl up into a scroll inside the tin, making putting the dough in difficult. Once this is ready, and the dough has risen to twice its original height, divide it amongst your tins so that each is about 2/3 full. The easiest way to fill them is to pull out a suitable-sized ball of dough, then let gravity stretch it into a long shape similar to a baguette, before dropping it into the tin. Be careful not to let the dough catch on the parchment lining the sides before hitting the bottom of the tin or else it will pull all the lining down into a crumpled mess at the bottom.
              Set aside and allow to rise. If you've timed things right, this should be just before you go to the evening service.

              [STAGE 4] Do this when you get back from the evening service.
              Empty the oven of all racks except one right at the very bottom. Preheat the oven to 175C/350F. By now the dough should have risen to within a cm or so of the top of each tin. Bake for 1/2 to 1 hour, depending upon size. Test with a bamboo skewer inserted all the way down into the centre. It should come out with sticky crumbs - not either clean or covered in dough. At this point take the cake out and lay on a pillow or other soft thing (made of a heat-resistant cloth like cotton, not synthetic) until completely cooled.

              When cool prepare the icing by mixing enough milk with the sugar to make a mixture that just flows, with very high viscosity. Pour it over the top of each cake (the pour should take some time, be patient) and let it drip down. If you've judged the consistency right it should run down the sides of the cake in thick rivulets, like icicles.

              Kulich can be frozen very effectively and doesn't seem to lose much in flavour or texture. Don't ice the cake if you plan on freezing it, though, just wrap tightly in parchment, then foil.

              1. re: AlexRast

                Very nice explanation. You definitely seem to know your Eastern Christian desserts. :)

                1. re: AlexRast

                  Wow. What a wonderful example of religion and culture and food co-mingling. Not to mention delicious!