“Stars, bread, libraries of East and West,
playing cards, chessboards, galleries, skylights,
a human body to walk with on the earth,
fingernails, growing at nighttime and in death,
shadows for forgetting, mirrors which endlessly
falls in music, gentlest of all time’s shapes,
borders of Brazil, Uruguay, horses and morning,
a bronze weight, a copy of Grettir Saga,
algebra and fire, the charge at Junín in your blood,
days more crowded than Balzac, scent of the
love, and the imminence of love, and intolerable
dreams like buried treasure, generous luck,
and memory itself, where a glance can make men
all this was given to you and, with it,
the ancient nourishment of heroes—
treachery, defeat, humiliation.
In vain have oceans been squandered on you, in
the sun, wonderfully seen through Whitman’s eyes.
You have used up the years and they have used up
and still, and still, you have not written the poem.”
— Matthew 25:30, Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Alistair Reid
2018 saw a lot of delicious gluten consumption at different corners of the world: Madrid, Bologna, Bangalore, Montréal, San Francisco, Rome, London, Lisbon, and of course, home in Brooklyn.
Whole Rye, Panic, Madrid, Spain (Jan)
Pane Integrale di Tumminia, Forno Brisa, Bologna, Italy (Feb, Jun, Dec)
Tumminia is a an wheat varietal from Sicily. The one that Forno Brisa uses comes from Castelvetrano in the province of Trapani. The grain has a slightly sweet profile, and as is common in much of Italy, the crust is barely dark. Euro 7/kg.
Forno Brisa now has multiple locations in Bologna. I normally get my bread from the Via Galliera location or the one on
Forno Brisa on Via Galliera is at Via Galliera, 34D, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy
Forno Brisa on Via Castiglione is at Via Castiglione, 43, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy
Whole Wheat Micca, Saraghina, Brooklyn, NY (Feb)
Primarily a Neopolitan pizza and restaurant, Saraghina is also a bakery that makes naturally leavened breads using organic flour. Their whole wheat micca has a beautiful crust, and isn’t as dense, with a light and airy crumb structure.
Red, White and Rye, Josey Baker Bread, San Francisco, CA (Mar)
I find Josey Baker’s breads to have the most wonderfully burnished crusts. This particular specimen, made using stone-ground whole-wheat and whole-rye flours is slightly dense, with an incredibly moist crumb. $6.99 for a loaf.
Sourdough Bread, Aster, San Francisco, CA (Mar)
The bread at Aster is made using 35% whole wheat with 82% hydration, fermented for 20 hours. You can order the bread at the restaurant, where it is served with excellent house-churned butter which, to me, was reminiscent of Strauss Creamery’s 85% butterfat butter, but milder in taste, which I prefer.
It wouldn’t surprise anyone that chef Brett Cooper was the chef at Outerlands, another bastion of excellent bread, before opening his own restaurant.
The breads at Aster are primarily for use at the restaurant, but a limited supply, when available, can be bought for $7.
Ancient Grain Einkorn, Tartine Bakery, San Francisco, CA (Mar)
Barley and Rye, Krumb Kraft, Bangalore, India (Apr, May, Jun)
A dense bread using stone ground barley and New Zealand rye, this was an experiment for Nityananda and I think it turned out damn well. The loaf exuded a heady rye scent. When I say dense, I mean it, this was a bread better sliced into using a regular knife than a serrated bread knife. Inside the bread was incredibly moist. We typically ate this plain with butter; another time Maria Elena made a delicious bruschetta using olive tapenade, tomatoes, mozzarella and olive oil.
The bread is sold by weight. This dense load, at around a kilogram, was ₹ 600 (around $9).
Krumb Kraft does not have a storefront, but bakes on order.
Sourdough Boule, Krumb Kraft, Bangalore, India (Apr, Jun)
A more traditional sourdough made using a mix of whole wheat and white flour. ₹500 (around $7.5) for a boule.
Miche Campagne, Automne Boulangerie, Montréal, Canada (Apr)
Made using flour from a mix of buckwheat, oat, whole wheat and white flour. I ate this with avocados, plain with butter, with Le Cendrillon, a delicious ash-ripened cheese from Québec, with peanut and sesame butter procured from La Finca in downtown Montréal, and with olive oil from Cilento.
$5.25 CAD (around $4) for a miche.
Miche, Brick House, London, UK (Jun)
My dad, by way of my brother Vinod, dispatched this loaf for me from Bombay when he returned from London. Brick House’s miche is moderately dense (you can cut into it without a serrated knife), emanating a faint earthy scent. I typicallt ate this plain with butter, and on one ocassion with mozzarella from Vallombrosa Cheese Shop in Bangalore.
Pane di Campagna, Panificio Bonci, Rome, Italy (Jul, Nov)
I bought myself a 1.3 kilo (almost 3 pounds) loaf of country bread at Panificio Bonci’s outlet at Mercato Centrale inside Roma Termini train station. I have noticed that in Italy, even very good panifici don’t bake the crust very dark or hard (well-done, extra cotto), but if you’re lucky and you find a pane di campagna at Bonci, you are likely to experience some of the tastiest sourdough breads you’ve had. Euro 7.5/kg
Panifico Bonci in Meracto Centrale is at Roma Termini, Via Giovanni Giolitti, 36, 00185 Roma RM, Italy
Panifico Bonci is at Via Trionfale, 36, 00195 Roma RM, Italy
Brown Sourdough, Little Bread Pedlar, London, UK (Aug, Oct)
Little Bread Pedlar’s brown sourdough is made using British wholemeal flour and a mix of cooked whole wheat and rye grains, cracked wheat and various other grades of milled wheat and rye. The crust is beautifully burnished, and it’s wonderfully chewy.
A loaf at 480 grams was £4.80 (around $6.25)
Sourdough, The Dusty Knuckle Bakery, London, UK (Aug)
Dusty Knuckle’s sourdough, made using a mix of whole grain wheat and rye, has a deep crust, and is moist and quite airy inside. We made a lot of avocado toasts for breakfast using their bread.
£3.80 (around $5) for 800g.
The Dusty Knuckle Bakery is at Abbot St, London E8 3DP
Country Loaf, Josey Baker Bread, San Francisco, CA (Sep)
100% Whole Glenn Wheat, The Midwife and The Baker, San Francisco, CA (Sep)
The Midwife and The Baker’s 100% Whole Glenn Wheat bread is made using fresh milled hard red whole grain wheat. Not quite as moist inside, this dense loaf was beautifully burnished and had a deeply caramelized flavor melding in with the earthy wheat.
Midwife and The Baker doesn’t have its own location, but their breads can be found at several Bay Area restaurants, stores and farmers’ markets.
I got my loaf at Fort Mason Center Farmers’ Market at Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA
Porter & Rye, Little Bread Pedlar, London, UK (Oct)
I bought this loaf at their Spa Terminus Market location, open to the public on Saturdays, at Dockley Road Industrial Estate, Dockley Rd, London SE16 3SF
Field Loaf, The Snapery, London, UK (Oct)
Tori’s 100% Organic Einkorn, Bozeman, Montana (Oct)
My friend Tori made this heart loaf made using 100% organic Einkorn.
Tori’s Winter Red Blend, Bozeman, Montana (Oct)
Whole Wheat & Rye, Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Lisbon (Nov)
Copenhagen Coffee Lab is an early specialty coffee purveyor in Lisbon. In addition to coffee, they also make really good sourdough. This whole wheat, rye and white flour loaf was 2.90 euro for around 460g. I often ate this with canned sardines.
Copenhagen Coffee Lab has several locations in Lisbon now.
The bread is baked at their Alfama location, serving as a commissary for their other locations, at Alfama, Rua das, Escolas Gerais 34, 1100-213 Lisboa, Portugal
I normally go to their Príncipe Real location at R. Nova da Piedade 10, 1200-192 Lisboa, Portugal
Pão de Castanhas, LAB A Padaria Portuguesa, Lisbon (Nov)
A Padaria Portuguesa is a mini-chain with several locations in Lisbon and one in Cascais. Pretty much any Lisbon neighborhood you find yourself in will likely have one. While their ubiquity might lessen the appeal of wanting to step into one, their LAB has a wider selection of breads than their “regular” locations.
I stumbled upon LAB on my walk toward the National Library, pretty far out from the center, roughly in the Saldanha neighborhood, and was happy to procure a loaf of Pão de Castanhas, or chestnut bread.
This medium-sized boule was €3 (around $3.4).
A Padaria Portuguesa – LAB is at Av. da República 39, 1050-186 Lisboa, Portugal
Pão de Centeio, Gleba Moagem & Padaria, Lisbon (Nov)
Gleba, which not only bakes bread but also mills its own grains, is seeming to me to be the standard-bearer of excellent bread in Lisbon. I got a loaf of their extremely dense 95% Rye loaf on a pleasant walk from my Príncipe Real apartment to their space in Alcantara.
This loaf was €5.68 (around $6.5) for 1.48 kg.
You can find their breads at several locations all over Lisbon.
Gleba is located at Lisbon’s Alcantara neighborhood, not far from the water, at Rua Prior Crato, nº 14, 16 e 18, 1350-352 Lisboa, Portugal