I was stuck in a bread rut, always going back to Swiss Bakery’s par-baked baguettes. Great baguettes with an almost-thin but robust crust and (on a good day) a crumb with great varied crumb structure and deep, complex, satisfying flavour with a hint of natural sourdough tang. I said “on a good day” because some batches seem to be deeper and richer than others. I’m not sure what magical yeasty voodoo happens in the back room at Swiss Bakery, but sometimes when I buy their par-baked baguettes (either from Swiss Bakery themselves or at Les Amis du Fromage), they taste a bit flat and one-note, but other times they’re a gorgeous, sweet, rich, multi-sensory experience.
Well, anyways, I’m now on the lookout for another bread experience that really hits my bread button. So after buying chocolate from East Van Roasters, I came across Nelson the Seagull, which is a cafe in Gastown that also bakes their own bread.
Nice logo. Evocative of French art deco style.
I actually walked past the shop, saw this, and HAD to turn around and investigate. I love me some baguettes, but I had to try out some rustic country loaves. What?! $8??? For one loaf? This better be damn good…
Great carmelized bake on the outside. Love the ridges that happen from the slashes.
I’m not used to this kind of bread. My initial reaction was, “wow, this thing is moist inside…almost too moist.” But I think this makes it robust enough to leave outside, perhaps in a paper bag, for a day or two and still taste good. The crust is a bit “tough” as-is, but it’s a great chew. If you don’t like a crust that makes you use your forearm muscles to eat, try refreshing it in the oven for a few minutes. The crust crisps up great.
Crumb is soft, moist, chewy and flavourful. It smells more sourdoughy than it actually tastes. I find most sourdoughs to be one-note sour with nothing behind it, but this one was intriguing. The rich aroma of sourdough but without the overt sour tang in flavour but still with a somewhat complex, multi-layered flavour. Tasted great with my stinky washed-rind cheeses and cured meats.
Here you can see the bake on the bottom. A touch dark in spots.
Minor complaint: the rather thick layer of black on the bottom. I don’t mind really caramelized bread, as long as it doesn’t hit that bitter burnt charcoal stage. Even though that layer was truly black, it only had a bit of bitterness.
I froze the partially-eaten loaf. If you’ve never frozen bread, you must try it. It keeps the flavour and freshness intact, and you can just whip out bread on a whim, let it defrost and freshen it in the oven. Bread defrosts quicker than you think! If you’re in a hurry, you can defrost bread in the microwave at the lowest setting for 5-10 minutes, depending on the amount, thickness and heaviness of the bread. I like to put a mug of water in the microwave at the same time to make the process even gentler. Rush the microwaving too much and you’ll get tough spots inside your bread. This particular loaf is very moist inside, so it freezes up rather densely and will require a bit more patience to defrost.
Would I come back for another $8 loaf? Too soon to tell. I’d love to try it again if it was a touch less “wet” inside. But my journey with country style loaves is just beginning, so I’ll have to try other places in town to see how this loaf stacks up.
Have any recommendations for other great bread? Add a comment below or contact me!