I had to get past two monikers/descriptors before I could truly appreciate this loaf for what it is. Artisan is a word thrown around far too often– a judgment call of sorts, a cloak behind which some inferior products lie (“woo-hoo, look at me, I’m small batch and expensive and you may not have the ability to appreciate or even afford me”). Okay, then I had to get past country blonde – when I first heard it, it seemed like a cutesy name for a pale ale beer or a character out of Heehaw.
Once I tried this loaf (and every other exceptional products that seems to spring forth from Forkish loins), I came to see that its nomenclature alludes solely to the types of flour used and the style of loaf.
Go to the bakery on 21st Avenue and buy the loaf there. There are two reasons for this: first, the place is so beautifully turned out that even the smallest of waits will fill you with enough eye candy to hold you for the week. Secondly, at the bakery they will slice it for you if you like, and unless you plan to make croutons out of it or extra thick garlic bread or sandwiches, opt for the sliced (I don’t care how great you think your bread knife is, it can’t manage the OCD loveliness of two dozen uniformly sized slices). The bread will be cut in the ideal thickness for morning toast, sandwiches, or soup or salad companion. I guarantee you that you will walk out of the bakery feeling just a wee bit continental as you could easily delude yourself that you have just walked out of a St. Germain bakery. (the breads! The macarons! The perfectly wrapped little sandwiches in parchment awaiting new homes in pristine, oatmeal linen-lined baskets!)
But bakery appearances will only take you so far, and this loaf proves that it is simplicity perfected. On initial glance you see that CB has the dark coloration and heat blisters of a full-term bake at temperatures high enough to fell lesser bakers – and loaves (but happily not this one). Pluck a piece from loaf and upon first bite you will experience the slight tug of war between the almost-caramelized crust and the pillowy, air-bubbled interior, fragrant with a pleasingly sour tang. It is also the most French-y levain like loaf I have had this side of Poilane bakery.
One taste of this loaf, unadorned, without even a modest slather of butter or even salt or the nurturing of a warm toast – is like putting on noise protective earphones. Suddenly you are oblivious to all else—the snippets of conversation that surround you, the click of boots on concrete, even the sun indecisively peeking out on this late fall afternoon. All of a sudden, it’s you and this bread and the promise of so many lovely interactions to come. Your mind reels with possibilities.
Suggested usage: barely warmed through, spread with room-temperature unsalted butter and a flick of salt, or with your favorite soft goat or sheep’s milk cheese. Have just a tiny bit of salad to accompany it? Bonus points for you.