The Joy of Bread
“Bread is bread.” The Boy claimed. And I shook my head and told him he was completely and utterly wrong.
I have not had good bread — proper bread — for at least 15 years. That’s when I became allergic to nuts and had to stop eating baked goods from bakeries. Most bakeries make things with nuts and the risk of cross-contamination is just too great. Ever since, I have obsessively read labels and been stuck eating the kind of bread that comes in plastic bags. Not bad for sandwiches or toast, but does it really qualify as bread?
I have longed for proper bread ever since. Good, crusty bread. Bread that bites back. Bread with flavour.
Growing up in Denmark gave me free access to amazing bakeries that provided freshly baked bread and heavenly pastries every day. Once, coming home from a party held in celebration of graduation, a friend and I dropped by a bakery at 8 AM to bring home fresh bread and danishes still hot from the oven. Is there anything better?
And by the way, you haven’t tasted danishes until you’ve had the real kind. From Denmark. I highly recommend you put that on your life list.
If you do an Internet search for nut free bakeries, you will find a plethora in the city of Toronto, but any lists tend to focus on the sorts that make cupcakes, cakes, cookies, and the like. And although some of them have absolutely wonderful products, it’s no good when all you want is bread and pastries.
But then, thanks to someone with whom I work, I was introduced to that other kind of bakery. Because it turns out that kosher bakeries may at times be nut free. Apparently, nuts are not kosher, although I don’t know why — do you?
But there was a bit of a wrinkle to that. Most of the time, our availability is on Saturdays and kosher bakeries tend to be closed on that day because of the Sabbath.
And then The Boy took Friday off. And went to Grodzinski’s to pick up a selection.
There are many reasons why he is the best partner ever. His dedication to feed me yummy things is one of them.
There were three kinds of bread, fresh bagels, rugelach, wee danishes, and yes: croissants! And he arrived just in time for breakfast on Friday. I spent the next three days scarfing down an excessive amount of carbs and being very, very happy.
The thing about bread is that it also facilitates other foodstuffs. For instance, ham and cheese breads. I first learned how to make these in grade 4 Home Ec and ever since, my family has used them as a go-to dinner when we don’t really want to cook. Except I haven’t had them for a very long time, because they really do require somewhat sturdy bread.
Home Ec Ham and Cheese Breads: spread a thin layer of butter on slices of bread, then add ham of your choice. My mother swears by cooked ham, but I used a Tuscan pepper ham and it was delightful. Spread Dijon mustard on top of the ham (other mustards work as well, as long as they has a bit of a kick), then add slices of tomatoes and whatever cheese you have that’s good at melting. Sprinkle a bit of paprika on top for colour. I didn’t have regular paprika, so added smoked paprika. Turned out this brought out the smokiness of the ham, making everything even more delicious. Put in oven under the grill until the cheese is melted to your taste.
And then there was an added treat. The Boy also picked up a couple of Napoleons and Eclairs. Which had the most amazing aroma, leading to a new catchphrase among us: “I have to smell the Napoleon.” Something I did at least five times a day (an act that’s a lot less perverted than it sounds).
All of this yumminess was a bit of a shock to my system. I don’t normally eat much bread or sugar at all — or any sugar — and usually stay away from cheese, as it tends to give me migraines (except I have recently discovered that Jarlsberg cheese doesn’t). As a consequence, I’ve spent the last couple days with a bit of a roiling stomach and a significant migraine.
And it was absolutely worth it. I’d do it again, but perhaps not immediately. The rest of the goodies are in the freezer. We also have plans to check out Isaac’s and Hermes, two other nut free kosher bakeries.
In a couple of months.