On bread

Happy autumn?

In the comments on last week’s post, Tom noted how annoying some people can be about New York bagels. I don’t think I’m too bad, but I do have strong opinions on them. In any case, this led me to hang a post off bread this week.

I grew up eating bagels, along with bialys and onion sticks, all from small, family owned bakeries mostly on streets in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in NYC before this area became fancy.

Saturday breakfast was one or more of these with butter, cream cheese and smoked salmon in some form (frequently the cheap, salty and delicious belly lox).

And Friday evening meant challah with dinner, an egg-based bread almost any fairly religious Jewish household will eat.

I love bagels in particular and if I can’t find proper ones I will sometimes still even eat the really pedestrian, card-boardy ones that come in plastic bags in supermarkets (the ones that last for weeks – no self-respecting bagel should last more than a couple of days). They can be made bearable via toasting and a load of cream cheese.

You can get decent bagels in London, but as I noted last week, the really stellar place in Northwest London I used to go to closed during Covid.

There are a number of famous bagel places, most notably the Brick Lane Beigel Bake, in the east end, near loads of great Indian restaurants. I am however not that impressed by the BLBB.

However, I recently read about a New York transplant to London who started a NY-style bagel place and it is on my list for visiting.

When I visited my father in Brooklyn, an everything bagel with cream cheese and an iced coffee with half-and-half was a morning ritual. Even his local bakery, just a deli on 7th Ave, had more than adequate bagels.

But onward – because bread isn’t only about bagels, is it.

Over time I have found that I prefer rolls, baguettes, hogies, etc, to sliced bread. I think they make better eating whether you’re just having something toasted in the morning with butter or are wanting a sandwich of simple to complex proportions.

And one always needs a roll etc rather than sliced bread with soup.

Over time the things I recall bread being a great vehicle for include meatball heroes and Philly cheese steaks during the period we lived in Pennsylvania; crusty Italian loaves for smoked mozzarella and tomatoes, and soft rolls for Panelle (fried chickpea fritters served with home-made ricotta) sandwiches at the local foccaceria when I lived in Brooklyn.

Then, there’s pizza dough. What would pizza be without its base of thin, chewy/crispy loveliness?

I realise in the past few years there’s been a big thing about sourdough – and that being better for you and the starter being fairly easy to get going. But, for reasons I don’t understand, I sometimes find sourdough bread doesn’t sit well with me.

I’m not a consistent baker, but I have had periods during which I’ve done bagels, soft pretzels (both take time but aren’t terribly complex); I’ve tried challah (baked it 5 minutes too long), regular white and white rolls (wasn’t impressed with former; I tried to upload a pic of my challah from the iPhone but it decided I couldn’t transfer it over to the laptop — so no pic of my challah).

I think if pushed to the wall on this, I’d choose savoury baked goods over sweet – no matter how much I love the Saturday treats from Sara’s Petite Cuisine. Bagels, lox, cream cheese, a bit of tomato and some lettuce and you have a relatively healthy meal.

And needless to say, the kitchen smells amazing during baking.

So, where do you stand on bread? Obsessed, meh? Do you need things to be gluten free and how have you managed that? Are you a regular baker?

Pics: Pexels

  • VerbenaLuvvr says:

    I have a hard time turning down most baked goods in general, sweet or savory, but my all-time favorite is a German style pretzel, followed by good quality chocolate cake–well frosted 🙂

    • cinnamon says:

      Is this a big soft pretzel with salt? I sometimes feel I like the frosting on cakes more than the cakes. A nice butter cream is a great great thing.

  • Dina C. says:

    I bake pies, cookies, and cakes, but not bread. I tried making bagels once when I was about 21, but the yeast was expired. I didn’t realize at that time that yeast has to be fresh. So they turned out like hockey pucks! I love watching The Great British Bake Show — a favorite!

    • cinnamon says:

      Hockey pucks. I’ve made scones that have come out that way. I haven’t watched GBBO since it moved from the BBC to the other channel here. It was so good and so funny. Is it still like that?

      • MzCrz says:

        GBBO came under a lot of criticism for their international food challenges. Mexican week caught the most flak so I think there will be no more of these kinds of challenges. One of the group, Matt (bald fellow) was extremely unpopular so he is now gone. The show is getting old and tired, but if I had to choose between this and 99% of American cooking competitions, GBBO wins. People are kinder, gentler with each other and simply more courteous in general than American contestants.

  • March says:

    I polished off an entire loaf of Sage Bakehouse bread (local bakery, very good) all on my own this weekend. Green chile and cheese, so it was zesty with a bit of heat. I love bread, all the bread (okay, maybe pumpernickel a bit less). I bake it sometimes, but why not leave it to the experts, especially at this altitude. I stopped buying loaves of challah because I can’t control myself. If I want slightly sweeter I get pan dulce (Mexican sweet bakery rolls) or a brioche from our good French pastry shop. I’ve even bought day-old rolls to make bread pudding. If I’m having a bagel it’s an everything with lox and cream cheese.

    • cinnamon says:

      Green chile and cheese. Oh, my. The farm shop has very good focaccia but it doesn’t have add-ins. Pan dulce sounds interesting. One of the things with sweet bread vs less sweet is you usually get a really lovely crumb that is even better than the crust (imho).

  • Portia says:

    YES to bread, love it all but Sourdough is the best for my diabetes and that’s cool.
    Nope, not a regular baker. Love bagels, even the crappola bagged supermarket ones with sesame seeds.
    I’m a sliced bread friend. Best for jaffles, that we call squishy sandwiches.
    I love that you have real deal bagel memories, so coo Cinnamon.
    Portia xx

    • cinnamon says:

      I don’t know why sourdough makes me twitchy (so does Irish soda bread) but good stuff really does taste wonderful. Sometimes only a bagel will do. Jaffles … what a great name.

      And happy day of entering the world 🙂

      • Portia says:

        Thanks Cinnamon,
        It’s been a dervish of a day. So fun and action packed.
        I’m trying to get my head around writing the weeks trivia Q&A and failing miserably. Might need to throw in the towel tonight and get up at sparrows fart to have it finished by lunchtime tomorrow.

  • Tom says:

    I love bread. More than sweets. From toast and jam, rolls with cheese, herbs, and dressed greens, bagels (or better bialys) with cream cheese all the way through to bread pudding for dessert. I’ll take it all. I won’t however bake it- I’m just too lazy, ill equipped (in both skills and utensils) and impatient. Besides, there are so many others willing to step in.

    A few years ago was the Centennial of Beverly Hills. One of the things the city did was compile a short movie called “Beverly Hills: 100 years, 100 stories” several people mentioned their memories of the Wonder Bread Factory on Foothill Road and the smell of the Helms Bakery trucks. My friend Terre put it “That’s living!”

    • cinnamon says:

      Ten years ago I would have put sweet before savoury. How life changes. I’m not that fond of bread pudding. Sometimes the bakery here makes it with heavy cream and caramel and that is a different story. A Wonder Bread factory. Now, that’s history.

  • Maggiecat says:

    We’ve been making our own sourdough bread for years now, well before the pandemic, and with the same starter. I also love bagels, but haven’t had good ones lately.

    • cinnamon says:

      That’s a long-lived starter. I actually don’t think there are huge numbers of great bagels out there. A pleasure when they can be found.

  • alityke says:

    Sourdough. I started baking sourdough in Jan 21. I struggle with bread that isn’t made slowly. No one wants the effects it induces! I do cheat occasionally, who doesn’t love a slice or too of Warburtons thick toastie, golden brown & slathered in Lurpak?
    Back to sourdough. Many sourdough loaves sold in supermarkets & bakers use commercial yeast & baking methods but add vinegar to give the sour flavour!
    I bake every week & experiment occasionally. I do have recipes for sourdough bagels & might have a go one day.

    • cinnamon says:

      When I do get sliced bread (which isn’t often) it comes from the farm shop. So, fewer ingredients and no major chemicals. I saw a back and forth on FB of a baker complaining about an idiot customer who asked why his (the baker’s) loaf was worth so much more. The customer comments taking the idiot down were hysterical. Bagels are sort of fun to make but time consuming.

  • Tara C says:

    I love bread in pretty much all its forms and bake my own challah. But for bagels, I am a Montréal purist. New Yok bagels are like eating a bag of pillow stuffing. The smaller, denser, honeywater-dipped woodfired bagels they make at Fairmount Bagel are the best.

    • cinnamon says:

      I don’t know why it took me so long to try baking challah. It’s not hard (though my braiding was not pretty). I guess I am at the other end. I like chewy bagels, but ones where the insides are not so very dense.

    • AnnieA says:

      Tara, agreed! That said, Siegels bakery in Vancouver will have pumpkin bagels next month and they finally lured me away from just black or white purist choice.

  • ElizaC says:

    I could very happily live on bagels, lox and cream cheese. Thank you for reminding me that there is a new bagel/smoked fish place near our house! Years ago, a new Middle Eastern restaurant, Mamnoon, opened and we were absolutely blown away by their bread service. Because of Mamnoon, I am obsessed by man’oushe in any variation! Wasn’t there a L’ Artisan perfume that had a bready note?

    • MzCrz says:

      I think that L’Artisan scent was Bois Farine.

    • cinnamon says:

      Ah, yes, bagels, lox and cream cheese but also pizza bagels I made as a teenager. The last place I lived in London, beyond having that great bagel shop, also had a Middle Eastern grocery across the big road near where I lived. Baked their own bread. Good lord, that was good. Oh, and the baklava.