Friday, November 30, 2012
The Staff of Life
The staff of life - bread. It is the manna from heaven. The substance that was sent out of heaven to the Israelites as they struggled through the wilderness. It tasted like a wafer made with honey and kept them on their journey. From then on -basically since the beginning of recorded history - food made by mixing flour and water (and at times, various other ingredients) is bread. It's basic nourishment.
Hudsonians have recently been blessed - yup, blessed - with a kind of manna from another place. Can't say where but sure am glad that Bonfiglio and Bread (no website yet - but LIKE them on Facebook and you will receive daily updates) has landed on our side of the planet.
Gabriele Gulielmetti and Rachel Sanzone, formerly of Loaf, have opened their bakery/cafe upstreet on Hudson's main drag, Warren Street. I became a Loaf fan a few summers ago when visiting friends in town and was directed to Swallow where Loaf was selling their wares at the time. I was won over at first bite. I blogged about my experience and two weeks later received an email from Gabriele that said, more or less, " If you're the same Susan Simon that I think you are - I was your neighbor on 5th street (NYC)..." you see, e piccolo il mondo.
Now that he and partner, Rachel, in business and in life have an expanded space - resembling a panetteria in the hippest Roman neighborhood - they have also been able to expand their repertoire. You can watch their minds singing through ideas as they bake several varieties of bread, sweet breads, cinnamon buns topped with vanilla caramel, bialys, and pizzas daily. Special breads such as challah are baked for the Friday night Sabbath, and panettones and other specialties will show up for holidays and other special events. In addition, there's always a sandwich of the day - the day that I took these photos (notice I didn't say "the day I was there" because it seems that I'm there just about everyday) it was grilled cheddar cheese with roast loin of pork and pickled jalapeno peppers. The bakery's thickly sliced, buttery, grilled "sammy" bread oozed with molten cheese that seemed to erupt over tender slices of pork and bits of firey peppers. Look for Rachel's soups and baked pastas too.
This place is dangerous. Now I have an additction to their pain Viennoise - a sweet bread studded with chunks of chocolate or raisins and glazed with honey and butter.
Relative youngsters, Gabriele and Rachel haven't even turned the big 3 - 0 and look what they've done. Gulielmetti thought he would be a sculptor and Sanzone turned her college major from biology to history and then just like that they became bakers using the same kind of mind sets that would have propelled their original career paths.
I knew Gabriele's late mother and father. Maybe they sent that manna from the place where they now reside. Without a doubt, they are very proud.
SUSAN SIMON SAYS: Try this recipe using Bonfiglio and Bread pain ancienne - baguette, with its perfect crust and crumb.
My friend Contessa Nally Bellati, true to her half-English heritage, regards "pudding" (British for dessert) as her favorite part of a meal. In the decades of our friendship, Nally has made more versions of trifle and bread pudding than I can remember. What I do remember is how much I loved them all. Here's a bread pudding that she made on one of her visits to the States.
THE CONTESSA'S BREAD PUDDING
1 crusty baguette
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sweet orange marmalade
2 crisp sweet apples such as Gala, Fuji or Golden Delicious, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the baguette into 1/2-inch slices. Butter the bread and cover each slice with marmalade.
2. Butter an 8-cup baking dish. Cover the bottom of the dish with about 1/3 of the bread slices, butter and marmalade sides up (you may have to cut a few slices to makes a good fit). Place a single layer of half of the apple slices on top. Scatter half of the cranberries or raisins over the apples. Repeat with another layer of bread, the remaining apples, and the remaining cranberries. Finish with a layer of bread, butter-and-marmalade sides down.
3. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, and Grand Marnier or Cointreau together. Add the milk and cream and whisk to thoroughly combine. Pour over the bread. Use your hands to press down the bread to assure that the top layer has saturated with the liquid. Evenly distribute the sugar over the top. Bake for 45 minutes or until the custard is set and the top layer is golden. Place under a preheated broiler for exactly 2 minutes to caramelize the top. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.