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Archive for Bread, Crackers, Muffins, Sandwiches

TIP OF THE DAY: Gazpacho Sandwich

A “gazpacho sandwich.” Photo © Fruttadi |
Avocados From Mexico.


Unless you’re a vegetarian, a “salad sandwich”—dressed salad on toast—might not sound as appealing as other options.

But call it a “gazpacho sandwich,” and ears perk up.

So today’s tip is: Create a refreshing summer sandwich or snack by chopping up your favorite salad vegetables, tossing with vinaigrette to moisten, and serving on crunchy toast or grilled bread. Call it a gazpacho sandwich.

We went through our vegetable bin and pulled out:

  • Avocado
  • Arugula
  • Basil leaves
  • Bell pepper
  • Cucumber
  • Grape tomatoes
    We took two slices of rustic bread from the freezer, grilled them and added the thinnest slick of wasabi mayonnaise (The Ojai Cook’s Green Dragon Lemonaise, one of our favorite spreads).

    If you serve the sandwich open-face, you can call it gazpacho crostini.


    How about a “gazpacho sandwich” with a gazpacho chaser?

    Gazpacho is a cold raw vegetable soup that originated in Andalusia, the southernmost region of Spain. There are many variations based on local ingredients and preferences. Over the centuries, fruits were added to the vegetables. (Chilled fruit soup without vegetables is simply “fruit soup.”)

  • Avocado Gazpacho (recipe)
  • Gazpacho Verde (recipe)
  • Mango Gazpacho With Fromage Blanc Sorbet (recipe)
  • Melon Gazpacho (recipe)
  • White Gazpacho (recipe)


    TIP OF THE DAY: Panzanella, Summer Bread Salad

    Panzanella, Tuscan bread salad. Photo by
    Jerry Keith | Wikimedia.


    Bread salad, like French toast and croutons, is one of those delicious recipes invented by necessity: Poor people needed to get another meal from leftover bread that had gone stale.

    Panzanella is a Tuscan-style bread salad made with a loaf of day-old (or older) Italian bread, cubed into large croutons and soaked in vinaigrette to soften it. Chopped salad vegetables are added. The translation we have found for “panzanella” is “bread in a swamp,” the swamp being the water or vinaigrette in which it was soaked.

    While today’s recipes are rich in ingredients, the original preparers foraged to pull together vegetables from the garden—cucumber, onion and tomato—and possibly purslane, a salad green that grows wild. Early recipes were heavy on the onions, the cheapest ingredient to pair with the bread. When there wasn’t enough oil to spare, the bread was moistened in water.

    Today, this peasant dish is a popular first course in Italy. It doesn’t appear often on menus of U.S.-based Italian restaurants. That’s too bad, because it’s a dish worth knowing. So today’s tip is: Make a bread salad! It‘s a refreshing summer dish that takes just minutes to whip up.


    As long as you have vinaigrette-soaked bread, you can create the salad from anything. It‘s a great way to use up any leftovers—including beans, cheese, fish, meat and rice—and aging produce.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 cup or more vinaigrette, 3:1 proportion of olive oil to vinegar, divided
  • 1 pound loaf rustic Italian bread*, ideally 2 days old, sliced into large, square croutons
  • 6 large basil leaves (more to taste), chiffonade (shredded)
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and sliced
  • 1 small sweet onion (e.g. Vidalia) or red onion, sliced, rings separated
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 3 or more tablespoons good olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Minced parsley for garnish
    Optional Ingredients

  • “The kitchen sink”: anchovies, bell peppers, capers, celery, carrots, hard cooked eggs, lettuce, mozzarella, olives, tuna, zucchini, whatever you have
  • Seasonings: garlic, lemon juice, mint, wine
    *Be sure to use a loaf that has a firm crust and dense crumb, with enough body to be be soaked in the vinaigrette without falling apart. Too many American-style “Italian” breads are soft and airy.



    1. MAKE vinaigrette and toss bread in half of it, allowing it to soak for 20 minutes or longer (this step can be done hours in advance). Continue to toss as necessary to fully moisten the bread.

    2. PREPARE the salad. Toss with the remaining vinaigrette, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.

    3. MIX in the bread and serve.


    Croutons or crostini required a fire. In the heat of the summer, panzanella requires no cooking.


    Try grilled “panzanella crostini” as an appetizer. Photo courtesy Nestle.



    If you’re using a grill to cook other food, you can turn the panzanella recipe into an appetizer of crostini of salad-topped grilled bread.


  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Peeled garlic clove, halved
  • Bread, sliced into crostini-size pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: fresh basil, chiffonade

    1. SOAK garlic clove in oil for 30 minutes or longer. Then make vinaigrette: Whisk together oil, vinegar and garlic, with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

    2. HEAT grill. Brush bread on each side with oil, then sprinkle lightly with salt. Grill for 30 seconds on each side or until nicely browned. Set aside and cool to room temperature.

    3. TOSS salad ingredients of choice with just enough vinaigrette to moisten. Top crostini with salad, garnish with basil and serve.



    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Blueberry Muffin Day

    Homemade blueberry muffins. Photo © Klikk
    | Fotolia.


    July 11th is National Blueberry Muffin Day. If you’ve never made blueberry muffins from scratch, today‘s thee day. Use seasonal fresh blueberries. Most commercial blueberry muffins use frozen blueberries, which can get watery. There‘s nothing like the real deal.

    The creator of this recipe is unknown, but it appeared in early versions of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. The name evokes Twin Mountain, New Hampshire, a pair of mountain peaks called North Twin and South Twin. The recipe is not in the current edition, but you can purchase a reprint of the Fannie Farmer 1896 Cook Book.



  • 2 cups pastry flour*
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup blueberries
    *You can substitute 1-7/8 cups of all-purpose flour, but pastry flour creates more tender muffins.


    1.PREHEAT oven to 400°F. COMBINE 1-1/2 cups flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. In a second bowl combine eggs, milk and butter. In a third bowl, sprinkle 1/2 cup flour over the blueberries.

    2. POUR the egg mixture over the flour mixture. Stir only enough to dampen the flour; the batter should not be smooth. Gently stir in blueberries.

    3. SPOON into buttered muffin tins. The batter should fill the each muffin cup two-thirds high. Bake for 15 minutes.


    Muffins are often referred to as “small cake-like breads” and quick breads, but this explanation needs to be rethought. As recipes have evolved over time, the sugar and butter content of many muffins put them into the cake category—more precisely, the cupcake category. Many of them can pass as un-iced cupcakes.

    That’s why you can serve them for dessert. Cut the muffin in half, toast it lightly if you wish, and top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or mascarpone.
    See all of the July food holidays.



    PRODUCT: Wheat Thins Lime, Limited Edition

    Limited-edition Lime Wheat Thins. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    “Taste the bold lime flavor,” beckons the entire back side of the new, limited edition Wheat Thins.

    Fans of Wheat Thins, those crunchy little cracker squares from Nabisco, might note that lime and salt are also flavors of that popular drink, the Margarita. In fact, we received two boxes of Wheat Thins from the manufacturer, along with two Margarita glasses (we enjoyed them with a beer, instead).

    Wheat Thins are one of the few foods we enjoyed in grade school that are still on our grocery list. We like them instead of chips with a beer, with soups and salads (use them instead of croutons), and as a better-for-you snack, with or without a nonfat yogurt dip.

    Wheat Thins are made with whole grain flour. Each serving of 14 crackers (30g) equals 20g of whole grains. That really helps toward the 48g RDA recommended by the USDA (more about whole grains).

    Nutritionists recommend that we consume at least 3 servings of whole grains daily. It’s fun when Wheat Thins is one of those servings.




    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: King’s Hawaiian Sweet Breads & Rolls

    Bet you can‘t eat just one of King’s Hawaiian
    sweet dinner rolls. Photo by Elvira Kalviste |


    Most Americans are not familiar with Portuguese sweet bread. But if the Taira family of Hawaii has its way, every home will be feasting on their version of it: King’s Hawaiian Original Sweet Bread.

    A rave in Hawaii, where people line up around the block to purchase it and tourists send gift boxes of the bread back to the mainland, King’s Hawaiian is now produced on both coasts of the Continental U.S., ready to reach a grocer near you.

    When you see it, grab it: the dinner rolls, hamburger rolls, hot dog rolls, sandwich rolls and the round loaves that are just perfect to slice into French toast or scoop out to turn into a bread bowl for dips.

    Sweet and buttery, a fluffier cousin of brioche, we’re hooked.

    Read the full review.






    RECIPES: Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

    April is National Grilled Cheese Month, a sandwich we love so much we could eat a different recipe every day.

    We’re beginning our “grilled cheese coverage” with two creative recipes from Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company, an artisan creamery.

    The first gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches is called the French Connection, because it uses the creamery’s Lille cheese, patterned on the French cheese Coulommiers a member of the Brie family. The difference between the two is that Coulommiers is smaller with a thicker rind and a nuttier paste than Brie. But you can use any of these cheeses to make this delicious sandwich. The addition of fresh basil is simply delightful.


    Ingredients For 2 Sandwiches

  • 4 slices of French bread (we cut long slices from a

    This sandwich combines creamy, sweet, tart and fresh and is splendid. Photo courtesy Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company.

  • 4 ounces Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company Lillé or Brie-style cheese, sliced
  • 10 strawberries, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon granulated sugar

    1. CLEAN strawberries 30 minutes before making sandwich. Wash, pat dry, hull and quarter the strawberries. Combine them with the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a bowl and gently toss. Let the ingredients sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or longer. When ready to make sandwich…

    2. BUTTER sliced bread. Place bottom bread slices butter-side-down and layer the cheese and basil leaves. Top with the strawberry mixture and the top slices of bread.

    3. TRANSFER to a hot skillet and cook until cheese is melted and bread is nicely browned. Serve immediately.


    Add Brussels sprouts to your grilled cheese—
    really! Photo courtesy Vermont Farmstead
    Cheese Company.


    And now for something completely different: grilled cheese with Brussels sprouts. This creative combination rocks! TIP: Never overcook Brussels sprouts or any of the cruciferous vegetables family (broccoli, cabbage, etc.): It breaks down chemical compounds that create the infamous unpleasant sulfuric aroma and flavor.

    This recipe was created with Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company’s BrickHaus Tilsit. Tilsit or Tilsiter cheese is a versatile, semi-hard cheese originally produced by Danish settlers in Prussia. It is now commonly produced in Switzerland. You can substitute Havarti or Monterey Jack cheese.


    Ingredients For 2 Sandwiches

  • 6 ounces Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company BrickHaus Tilsit?
  • 6 Brussels sprouts, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces turkey breast, sliced
  • 4 slices of marbled pumpernickel rye bread
  • Lemon aïoli (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
    Ingredients For Lemon Aïoli

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ?1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
    1. BLEND aïoli ingredients in bowl and set aside.

    2. ADD 1 tablespoon butter to a heated skillet; once melted, add the Brussels sprouts and 2 cloves of garlic. Stir while cooking until Brussels sprouts are slightly wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

    3. TRANSFER cooked Brussels sprouts to a bowl and set aside.

    4. WIPE out the skillet. ??Butter one side of each slice of bread and place butter-side-down. To construct, lay sliced bread butter-side-down and layer with cheese, turkey and cooked sprouts.

    5. SPREAD the top slices with aïoli and close the sandwiches. Place butter-side-up on the bottom half of the sandwich.

    6. CAREFULLY place sandwiches in skillet and grill over medium-high heat until cheese is melted and bread is nicely browned. Serve immediately.
    Stay tuned for more gourmet grilled cheese!


    TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Meatball Sub

    Nice enough, but you can make a meatball
    sub that soars to new heights. Photo
    courtesy Earl of Sandwich.


    As popular as meatball submarine sandwiches are, they’re pretty ho-hum. Even if you make the tastiest meatballs and marinara sauce, there’s still room for improvement.

    Today‘s tip: Play around with different ingredients until you create your meatball sub masterpiece. You can turn the search into a build-your-own party buffet for the Final Four, Memorial Day, Father’s Day or just because it’s party time.

    Your first decision: what to put in the meatballs (a basic meatball recipe is below). Every ingredient counts, as does the quality of the meat and cheese.

  • Meat: beef, chicken, pork, pork-beef blend, turkey or vegetarian.
  • Meatball filling: bread crumbs or rice, onion, garlic, heat (crushed red pepper flakes, minced jalapeno), herbs (chopped parsley and/or cilantro, rosemary, thyme).
  • Cheese: Argentine Sardo, grated Asiago, cotija, grana padano, Parmesan/Parmigiano Reggiano*, Pecorino Romano, Sbrinz or other hard cheese.

    Next decision: bread and toppings. Beyond the supermarket-variety “hero rolls,” consider:

  • Bread: baguette, garlic bread made on long rolls, semolina rolls…or think outside the elongated shape and pick up any good rolls offered by local bakers.
    Next, what to layer atop the meatballs:

  • Cheese: crumbled goat cheese, shredded Gruyère or mozzarella (room temperature or melted under the broiler), grated Parmesan/Parmigiano Reggiano, sliced Provolone or Fontina.
  • Greens: arugula, shredded lettuce.
  • Heat: cracked red pepper, pickled or sliced fresh jalapeños (in addition to what you may have put into the meatball mix).
  • Herbs: chopped fresh basil, cilantro, parsley; dried oregano.†
  • Sauce: marinara, mushroom gravy, Parmesan cream sauce (recipe below), pesto, spicy Bolognese.
  • Garnishes: bacon strips, beans, caramelized onions, giardiniera, fried egg, sliced gherkins or other pickles, mashed potatoes, onion rings, sliced olives, sliced tomatoes.
    *The difference: The product called Parmigiano Reggiano can only be made from local milk in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, where it is carefully monitored for quality by a supervising consortium. The related product made in the U.S. is called Parmesan. More about Parmigiano Reggiano.

    †Oregano is the exception to the rule: It tastes as good fresh or dried.


    You can also elect to “go global” with creations like these (and others that spring from your mind):

  • Greek Meatball Sub: dilled lamb meatballs with crumbled feta and yogurt sauce.
  • Indian Meatball Sub: curried lamb meatballs (add almonds and raisins), grated paneer cheese and raita sauce.
  • Hawaiian Meatball Sub: pork meatballs, sliced ham, pineapple slices, sweet gherkins.


  • 1-1/2 pounds ground meat or poultry
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs or panko
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

    A glamorous and flavorful chicken meatball sub. Photo by Jill Chen | IST.

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

    1. PREHEAT oven to 450°F.

    2. PLACE ground meat in a large mixing bowl and with your knuckles or a large wooden spoon, punch a well into the center of meat. Fill the well with all of the other ingredients. Mix all ingredients until well combined.

    3. DIVIDE mix into 4 parts, and divide each part into 4 meatballs. Place on a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 12 minutes. Cut one meatball open to check doneness.



  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 cup quality grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 dash ground nutmeg
  • 1 dash pepper or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

    1. MICROWAVE cream cheese, milk and cheese on medium (50%) for 6-8 minutes or until sauce is smooth. Stir every 2 minutes.

    3. BLEND in seasonings. Serve.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Bruschetta Vs. Crostini

    Bruschetta and crostini are popular hors d’oeuvres that are easy to make. They also can be served as a first course or a light meal, with salad and/or soup.


    The answer, in brief, is the size of the slice, plus grilling versus toasting. Bruschetta (three or four inches in diameter) are cut from a baguette and grilled; crostini (about two inches in diameter) are cut from a thinner loaf and toasted.

    Bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEH-tuh) are grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with any variety of items. The toppings can be as simple as extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, to diced tomatoes and basil, to almost any spread, vegetable, cured meat or cheese—even fruit.

    Bruschetta originated in the Tuscany region of Italy, where it is commonly served as a snack or appetizer. It may have been the original garlic bread.


    You can top bruschetta—grilled bread—with anything, including rosy grapefruit. Photo courtesy Sunkist Growers.

    The word comes from the verb bruscare in Roman dialect, which means “to roast over coals.” If you have access to a grill, grill the bread for authenticity. If not, you can toast it.

    Some American manufacturers and others in the food industry misuse the term, using it to refer to the topping only and selling jars of “bruschetta” (it should be bruschetta topping). Show your superior knowledge and don’t allow the term to be distorted: The word bruschetta refers to the grilled bread, not the topping.

    Crostini (cruh-STEE-nee) are croutons: not in the American sense of small cubes tossed into soup or salad, but thin slices of toasted bread.

    Smaller than bruschetta, the slices are typically cut from a ficelle, a thinner baguette one to two inches wide (the word is French for “string). The slices are brushed with olive oil, toasted and then topped with spreadable cheese, pâté or other ingredients. Plain crostini are served with soups and salads, like melba toast, or set out with cheese.


    Crostini American-style: used
    a regular loaf of whole grain bread for
    appetizer- or meal-size portions. Also
    consider rye bread. Here’s the recipe.


    While lovely grapefruits are still in season, make this colorful and flavorful Grapefruit Bruschetta recipe from Sunkist (photo above).

    We especially like it with a Sauvignon Blanc, which often has complementary grassy/herbal or grapefruit notes. You can use any type of grapefruit, but rosy-fleshed varieties make the most beautiful presentation. Makes 8 servings.



  • 1 baguette, sliced (how to pick the best baguette)
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pink or red grapefruit, peeled and segmented
  • ½ cup basil, torn
  • ½ cup blue cheese (if you’re not a blue fan, substitute goat cheese)
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon red onion, tiny dice
  • Salt and pepper to taste, as desired (or add crushed red pepper for a touch of heat)
  • Optional garnish: honey


  • PREHEAT oven to 450°F.
  • PLACE baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Place in oven and bake 5-6 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove from oven and set aside.
  • MIX together grapefruit and basil in a small bowl.
  • SPOON onto toasted baguette slices and top with crumbled blue cheese and an optional light honey drizzle.
    Here’s another variation of grapefruit bruschetta that cooks the grapefruit topping.


  • Black Bean Bruschetta
  • Bruschetta With Radicchio Tapenade
  • Bruschetta With Prosciutto & Goat Cheese
  • Low-Carb Brsuchetta

    Turn bruschetta into open-face sandwiches for lunch by using regular loaves of bread. Cut the slices in half, as the blogger did in the photo above, with the most delicious-looking bruschetta we’ve seen in a while.

    You can also make “breakfast bruschetta” by placing eggs and breakfast meats atop the toast. Add a dab of garnish (diced tomatoes, fresh herbs, sliced green onions, a strip of roasted red pepper…). Does ketchup count as a garnish? Sure: This is America.



    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Find The Best Baguette

    Beautiful baguettes from Maison Kayser in
    New York City. The artistic flair of the bakers
    adds to the visual appeal, but the taste’s
    the thing. Photo courtesy Maison Kayser.


    There’s a lot of bad bread in America: spongy, flavorless, aroma-less, a waste of carbs masquerading as “good bread.” This is especially true when you have expectations for a specialty loaf like a baguette.

    The longest of loaves, a baguette is narrow with a very crusty, amber-colored outside and a delicate, tender crumb (inside). A baguette is three or four inches in diameter and can be up to a yard long, although it is typically about two feet in length. (See our Bread glossary for the different types of bread, including the different types of French bread).

    If you live in a large city, you can buy a baguette in any food-centric neighborhood. But is it great, passable or merely “masquerading” as a baguette?

    This article is a tutorial from Maison Kayser, a boulangerie and pâtisserie* that has people standing in line for its baguettes in Paris and at a number of global outposts.

    “Good bread doesn’t lie,” says founder Eric Kayser. “It says everything about the quality of its ingredients and the know-how of its creator.”

    Executive master baker Yann Ledoux of Maison Kayser in New York City gave us this valuable lesson in understanding great baguettes:


    All ingredients are not created equal, even when they’re as seemingly simple as flour, water, salt and levain (sourdough starter). (There’s more about Maison Kayser’s levain and flour later in this article.)

    And all training is not equal: The best bread bakers have extensive training from masters, and bring their own passion and commitment to quality and to creating loaves that lead to lines of customers snaking around the corner.

    Ledoux attributes these percentages to the creation of a great baguette:

  • Water:† 5%
  • Levain (sourdough starter): 15%
  • Flour: 30%
  • Kneading/Technique: 30%
  • Fermentation Time: 15%
  • Other (mixer and oven): 5%
    *A boulangerie is a bread bakery, a pâtisserie is a pastry shop. Traditionally in France, the two crafts are separate, as each requires a different artisan skill set.

    †Each municipal water supply imparts unique undertones of flavor.


    You can tell a lot just by looking at the baguette. If you want to follow this lesson closely, pick up all the different baguettes you can and compare them to each other. You can turn it into a wine and cheese party and demonstrate this information.

    Start By Looking

    A Great Baguette

  • The shape says a great deal, says Ledoux. The perfect baguette should have enough shape and volume (enough air inside the baguette). It should not collapse (flatten) when you hold it to slice it.
  • The loaf should be straight, but not flat.
  • The loaf should be golden (we like to think “amber”) in color.
    A Mediocre Baguette

  • The loaf will not have a good shape (for example a flat or bloated shape). Cracked sides indicate a lack of fermentation time.
  • It will be pale in color and not the rich golden amber-brown color it should be.
  • An overtly moist crumb is wrong the baguette too chewy.
  • The use of commercial yeast combined with reduced fermentation time (faster production) will yield baguettes that are lacking in flavor, and that will quickly dry out and become very hard.


    Bread is divided into the external crust and the internal crumb. Cut a six-inch piece from the baguette in half and examine the crumb.


    The perfect crumb should have small air holes that are present consistently throughout the baguette. It should have a certain level of elasticity, so when you press it with your fingers it always returns to its original shape and form. If it does not return, it is because the crumb is either too dense (not fermented enough), too moist (not baked enough) or too hard (not fresh enough).

    The texture of the crumb should have a creamy color, taste and smell of hazelnut and have a hint of acidity that brings a balance and enhances the flavors within the baguette.

    If the holes in the bread are vastly varied in size, if the color is cream rather than white, if you can smell the delicious aroma of the levain and hear a crisp crunch while squeezing the crust, then (voilà!) you have the best baguette.


    The inside, called the crumb, of a great baguette. Photo courtesy Maison Kayser..


    The crust should have a beautiful consistent golden brown (amber) color throughout the entire baguette, except at the scoring, where the color is slightly lighter.

    Sourdough Starter (Levain)

    What sets a great baguette apart is the use of homemade, mineral-rich, natural liquid levain, which achieves a richer balance and flavor than commercially purchased starters. At Maison Kayser there is no commercial yeast or pre-mixed dough arriving in freezer containers from Paris: Everything is made from scratch on the spot.

    Although baking with liquid levain is a timely process, it is an essential element of a true artisanal, hands-on process to enable the sourdough to reach its full potential. At Maison Kayser, the liquid levain is constantly monitored by a trained baker and tested for acidity, texture and aroma. As a result, the baguette has a stronger flavor, a slight hazelnut taste in the crumb and an appealing—we say “beguiling”—aroma. As importantly, the baguette made with liquid levain bestows a longer shelf life (how often has the afternoon’s baguette become brick-hard by evening?).

    Baker’s secret: In addition to the organic flour sourced in upstate New York, Maison Kayser uses a little bit of Gaude flour imported from France. Made from roasted corn, Gaude gives the bread the nutty, sourdough flavor and creamy, yellowish hue, rather than the stark white of too many American baguettes.


    “Greatness cannot be rushed,” says Yann Ledoux, and the best baguette doesn’t rush things. The proper method involves a longer and slower fermentation or rising of the dough. Each of Maison Kayser’s baguettes takes 12 hours from mixing to baking.


    Great bakers enjoy creating a “signature” baguette. Eric Kayser likes to create different signature baguettes based on the neighborhoods in which his bakeries are located. For example:

  • For his Bakery Boulevard Malesherbes in Paris, Eric Kayser created the Baguette Malesherbes, which is shorter with square ends. This makes it easier for the busy working folk to carry home after at the end of the work day.
  • For the Upper East Side‡ of New York City, Yann Ledoux created the Epi-East Side Baguette, with a twisted end (see the photo above). The neighborhood is full of stay-at-home moms. This embellishment makes it easy for moms to break off a piece of baguette for their young-un(s).

    While it is the longest loaf, baguette means “a small rod” in French.

    ‡Maison Kayser is located at 1294 Third Avenue, between 74th and 75th Streets.


    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Effie’s Semolina Crackers

    Forget the saltines, the Triscuits, the wheat thins and the Ritz.

    Go artisan with Effie’s new semolina crackers.

    An artisan cracker, handmade in small batches with superior ingredients, is a little thing that makes a big difference. Whether for snacking, garnishing or turning into canapés, people who know good food appreciate the nuances of flavor.

    Of the three flavors—Roasted Garlic & Coriander, Sea Salt & Lavender and Sunflower Seed & Sesame Seed, we favor the Lavender—but we favor anything with lavender. All three flavors are equally delicious with cheese, dips, salads and soups.

    Read the full review, which also answers the question: What is semolina?



    Effie’s Lavender & Sea Salt semolina crackers. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.




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