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All photographs by Todd Coleman for Saveur
In seventh grade, my English teacher asked us to write a one page essay about what our favorite food was and why. I chose bread. At the time, this seemed the absolutely obvious and necessary response — the biggest "No Duh" of my life. Bread was my favorite food. I considered it a texturally perfect creation, toasted just-so and consumed over newspapers or after school or during dinner with a few slow, steamy pulls. I never used butter, and only occasionally bothered with jam, because bread at my family dinner table was primarily a tool for transportation: how else was my Dad's unstoppably addictive tomato sauce going to get from our plates to our mouths? It's also worth noting that, back then, "bread" meant one of two things to me: French, from our neighborhood grocer, or classic San Francisco sourdough. An encounter with the latter usually meant I was digging into a bowl of cream-heavy clam chowder post-visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, at that one beautiful restaurant with the outdoor patio, oldies on the FM radio, and a permanently salty sting to the air. Ahh, the memories.
Suffice it to say, I adored bread and was heartbroken when my middle school classmates reacted to my paper with merciless teasing. "Bread!?" they hooted, waving their own papers in my direction. "What about lasagna? Cheeseburgers? Banana splits?" These were all obviously smart choices — a more complex foodstuff would probably equate to a more interesting paper, but I just liked my darn bread, you know?
Ever since then, I've been hungry to find others who share in my doughy delirium. Bakers, food writers, self-confessed bread enthusiasts, French people (joking!), so you can imagine my excitement when I noticed the cover girl of this month's Saveur. Bread! An entire issue devoted to my most coveted food item. I bought it right away, of course, but only recently stumbled across their accompanying online photo gallery, Best American Bread. For it, they sampled hundreds of loaves from aristan bakeries across the entire country, and parsed their findings down to 45 of the most essential, must-seek-them-out-immediately loaves. Before I die of happiness, a quick recap of the most covetable:
"Lusty" olives and toasted black nigella seeds are what make this organic sourdough shine. Wer'e sure the eucalyptus wood-fired oven they're baked in doesn't hurt, either.
A loaf of sourdough filled with hunks of hickory smoked contry bacon and caramelized onions? A noble goal for any ambitious road-tripper.
A unique take on the traditoinal Native American preparation of cranberries and wild rice, Bit of Swiss punches up this fragrant loaf by adding oranges to the dough.
Sometimes, the classic-with-a-twist formula really, really works. Such is the case with this slow-fermented, satisfyingly chewy rye. Perfectly shaped for tearing off that covetable end piece during your walk home.
This seed-studded loaf is described, simply, as "the best everything bagel on Earth." That's literally all we need to hear — we're there.
A "dense sourdough boule studded with bittersweet Callebaut chunks." You had us at hello, my dear.