A lot more than just a slice!

September 25th, 2013 | Posted by greg in Daily life...

Staring at a beautiful bread loaf straight in the eye is of course very inspiring and it has certainly brought you from the simple breakfast toast or the tentatively French looking Jambon Beurre sandwich to the more complex garlic parsley butter croutons, delicious coconut milk French toast and, of course, to the highly secretive ritual of your very own Christmas turkey stuffing, from that one recipe handed over by your ancestors many moons ago.

Bread can be more than just a slice indeed. My cerebrum, if there is any left up there, started to tickle about this during summer, when I was watching my father making wood fire raclette with slices of rich sourdough rye bread underneath it to soak up the cheese drippings. Once the dinner was about to be done, he would take the breads that have been soaked by the precious cheese drippings, slowly caramelized (think dark brown and shiny) in front of the wood fire and would call that his dessert. I was in awe and had nothing to say with my mouth full of it! Awesome! The purpose of that practice had nothing new and had never been intended to be creative with bread, but to rather avoid the drippings to fall into the fire and burn; and well… it turned out as one of the most amazing bread and cheese experience I’ve ever had! Think about it like a slow baked bread and cheese toast in a wood fire oven…

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With that cheese smell up my nostrils, I thought; well… bread is definitely more than just a slice! There is a lot more to bread than meet the eyes. Just like that delicious white chocolate ice cream infused with burnt brioche and sea salt or perhaps that green tea brioche, dried and shredded into fine bread crumbs to coat the most delicate piece of fish. Today I was baking Panettone to test recipes for the upcoming festive season, and I was just joking with my colleagues about making doughnut from Panettone dough – a Pannut or a Dottone? I’ll let you be judge, but no… I wouldn’t; then I thought that a very thinly shaved panettone toasted into crisps would be pretty awesome to nibble on with perhaps a foie gras terrine? A mango chili jam? Possibilities, again, are only limited by one’s imagination and flair for good food. I like to think of bread as my multi-faceted buddy. It can satisfy my cravings, sweet or savory, at any time of the day or night, it can support all of my wildest creativity and transform into anything I can dream of.

Like a domino game, everything falls into place. It all starts from the ingredients used, from the passion put into the breads making and baking to the transformation of the bread into any delicious creation. You would probably achieve a different dish if, from the start, none of the above condition were met. Yes, I agree, quality comes at a cost, but rest assured that the most costly part of that equation is time, something that sadly, our society has a hard time finding enough of nowadays. For us bakers, time is something that works for us – time allows Mother Nature to accomplish its magic in our loaves and to produce amazing breads…

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To consider bread as something more than a “slice”, one has to see it as more than a daily staple, and to see it as something special. Because of course, being a bread snob, if you give me a slice of crustless bleached industrial bread in a plastic bag, I can’t really argue my point here, because that would be merely a slice, and I mean merely; I could not be inspired to create above and beyond on that, really…

Oddly enough I visited a new restaurant in town last night and I was really excited about discovering the dishes I had order. The wine came first, crisp, yet fruity, and there came the waiter with a little amuse bouche; a delicious buratta cheese with a rustic tomato & bell pepper preparation and guess what was on top on the dish? A melba toast made with rye sourdough, tossed with olive oil and crunchy just like it should. Here the Melba toast became our spoon to scoop out the oozing cheese and the scrumptious tomatoes, and let me tell you, bread was once again way more than a slice!

The above was featured on my regular column on Tatler here!

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