Celebrating bread and its traditions


February 23, 2005|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,SUN STAFF

Thank heaven the low-carb craze is on the wane and we can get back to the guilt-free consumption of (OK, whole-grain) breads.

And The Panera Bread Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2004, $18.95) is the place to renew our relationship with a staple that we have abused, misunderstood, ignored and distained.

Produced by the folks who brought us the chain of bakery-cafes, this cookbook includes recipes for soups, salads and appetizers, as well as an array of sandwiches.

But more than that, it is a step-by-step course in how to make many of their breads in your own kitchen in three hours - much less than the days-long fermentation processes its own bakers use.

The cookbook opens with a tribute to the ancient storytelling traditions of breads, in our culture as well as others, written by Peter Reinhart, who teaches bread-making, much like a priest might teach religion, at Johnson and Wales University.

He writes with reverence about "evoking the full potential of the flavor trapped in the grain," and says that by the end of his five-week course, his students' relationships with this basic food are changed forever.

Reinhart writes that bread is at the heart of so many celebrations and festivals because "bread tells a story."

He writes that we are in the third wave of a bread revolution that began in the late 1960s as part of the back-to-nature movement, when the notion of whole grain reached just a small segment of society.

After the explosive exchanges between European and American kitchens in the 1970s, the bread revolution - artisan and whole-grain breads - has now been brought to the masses, he says.

After Reinhart's poetic tribute to bread, authors Ward Bradshaw and Joel Cammett, and a group they identify as the Panera Bread Team, lay out in easy-to-understand steps the process of making bread.

Even so, the idea of making bread can be intimidating. If that's the case for you, skip the bread-making instructions and jump right into the recipes.

The good news is the artisan-bread movement Reinhart champions has taken such hold that many of these breads - challah, ciabatta, focaccia, sourdough, multi-grain and breads flavored with meats and vegetables - are available in the bakery aisle of Giant, Whole Foods and other major chains. All you have to do is toss a loaf in the grocery cart.

This cookbook was a gift from my daughter, whose weekly treat at college is a trip to the Panera franchise in town. I let her choose the recipes that we would try, and she chose this sandwich. Ironically, there is no recipe for tomato-basil bread in this cookbook and I could find none on my grocer's shelves. So we substituted tomato-basil bagels with great success.

Bacon Turkey Bravo

Serves 1

2 tablespoons Signature Dressing (recipe follows)

2 slices Panera Tomato Basil (or one tomato-basil bagel)

1 leaf romaine lettuce

3 to 4 slices tomato, 1/4 -inch thick

4 ounces smoked turkey breast, sliced wafer thin

1 slice smoked Gouda cheese

2 strips bacon, cooked until crispy

To make the sandwich, spread the Signature Dressing over 1 side of 1 bread slice to cover end to end. On top of the dressing, layer lettuce, tomato, turkey, Gouda and bacon, crisscrossing the bacon slices.

Top with the second slice of bread and serve.

Per serving: 667 calories; 51 grams protein; 33 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 43 grams carbohydrate; 6 grams fiber; 138 milligrams cholesterol; 2,113 milligrams sodium

Signature Dressing

Makes about 1 3/4 cups

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 teaspoon dried mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 dash Tabasco sauce (optional)

Combine the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 62 calories; 0 grams protein; 6 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 3 milligrams cholesterol; 92 milligrams sodium

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