Category Archives: Bread

How Breadcrumbs (and Milk or Broth) Will Feed the World

An explosive web of silence, thrusts of gluten birth an ancient and savoury cadence…

Isn’t it an interesting evolution to realize that baked bread can sustain people even if they have nothing else to eat, while raw flour cannot?

Bread in its most basic form is often composed of nothing more than flour, water and salt. Bread can be combined with other very simple ingredients of nutritional value to form a basic diet that sustains us.

I am deeply inspired by Italian chef, Massimo Bottura, whose Osteria Francescana restaurant in Modena, Italy was named the top restaurant in the world earlier this summer by World’s 50 Best. Bottura has founded a non-profit organization, Food for Soul, that is partnering with Gastromotiva, founded by chef David Hertz, ┬áto promote social change through gastronomy.

Refettorio Ambrosiano, Hertz’ community kitchen in Rio de Janeiro, will open its doors on 9-Aug to offer free meals to Rio residents who need food services. It will be open for dinner every day and Bottura and more than 30 guest chefs will cook with whatever surplus ingredients are available from the Olympic Village, local catering services and sponsors.

There are additional components to the future success of Bottura’s plan to open soup kitchens in other major cities around the world, including creating recipes with leftover bread, leveraging food waste and creating a sustainable food culture. It’s a much broader mission than just one event.

Lara Gilmore, Bottura’s wife says: “Massimo is very interested in creating recipes with leftover bread, so perhaps a pasta such as passatelli made with breadcrumbs in a broth of ‘everything’ or a dessert inspired by ‘Bread of Gold’, a recipe we serve at Osteria Francescana based on a milk and breadcrumb dessert from Massimo’s childhood.”

I often say that bread is my favorite food group. I love the easy juxtaposition of crunchy crust and crumb. A focaccia of humble beginning is easily elevated to art through the addition of fresh, inexpensive ingredients such as heirloom tomatoes, fresh garlic, onion, basil, fresh herbs and a bit, yes, a bit, of Parmigiano Reggiano. Oh yes, a few gobs of glorious olive oil. Accompany as you wish: roasted fresh vegetables, pickled and grilled local fruit or, oh well, a berry dessert.

Roasted heirloom tomato, onion, garlic and herb focaccia
Roasted heirloom tomato, onion, garlic and herb focaccia

Bread’s simple complexity has the power to sustain the world. As projects of this type and scope succeed and we, as a society, find ways to successfully redistribute food resources, we can, indeed, feed the world.

As a pastry chef, that’s a process I plan to actively support.

I Can Wear Nail Polish for Two Weeks

Tintinnabulation of bells in the perfumed halo of the fir trees; ’tis the season...

Odd, the little trade-offs that go with professional baking. There’s a clear standard of professionalism that, the truth be known, all bakers subscribe to whether they admit it or not. The individual features of the code aren’t really important; however, in scheduling a manicure today… today being two days into a two-week winter break at OCI… I humored myself at the thought that a specter of my past was once again a possibility, if only for the duration of the vaca: a French manicure with polish.

IMG_6331I guess there’s other humor in baking. Naively assuming one has the physical stamina to haul 50-pound bags of flour. Acknowledging that the product the baker is producing has virtually no shelf life. And, oh, yes, remembering that offering fresh bread at retail each morning requires getting up in the middle of the night. Only bakers can see humor in these things. Devotion to the craft is a great companion to humor.

I’m unsure if there’s a baking mantra, but there certainly is a logo, nail polish or not.