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dmaddox
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My wife and I ate well while in DC for our recent house-hunting expedition, but there was one common disappointment: the bread. So, I thought I'd ask you folks:

1. Are there restaurants that do their own baking and turn out really good, toothsome breads?

2. Is there a supermarket that bakes anything other than Wonder Bread? Whole Foods is a good start, but even some of their breads are a little short on character.

3. Are there actual bakeries that are worth driving across town for a baguette or a sack of croissants?

Believe it or not, all of the above are easily available here in Omaha, and I've gotten out of the habit of baking my own. I'm going to be really surprised if it's not available in DC.

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My wife and I ate well while in DC for our recent house-hunting expedition, but there was one common disappointment: the bread. So, I thought I'd ask you folks:

1. Are there restaurants that do their own baking and turn out really good, toothsome breads?

2941 in Falls Church. All the bread is baked by Jon Krinn's father, Mal, who is a and a retired ophthalmologist.

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2. Is there a supermarket that bakes anything other than Wonder Bread? Whole Foods is a good start, but even some of their breads are a little short on character.
Sadly, Whole Foods is about the best you'll do at a grocery store. Balducci's used to have a respectable ficelle but no longer.

Bakeries? Bonaparte sells at the Dupont Circle market (and others) and is decent. The Penn Quarter market (seasonal) has a good bread vendor also. I have heard positive things about the rye bread at Marvelous Market, but don't care for it in general. Firehook is not good.

ETA I forgot Atwater. They're OK.

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Generally speaking the best place to get good bread is at the farmers markets. The two standbys -- Marvelous Market (multiple locations) The Bread Line (Penn. Ave. near the White House) have declined in recent years. If Whole Foods is a C effort, they are B efforts == not bad, but they don't make the eyes roll back as they once did.

Atwater Bakery, which sells at Arlington (Saturday) and Dupont (Sunday) does a pretty good job, even if they did stop selling my favorite loaf (years ago -- that's how vindictive I am). There's a guy who sells at the Penn Quarter Market during the summer who sells one immense loaf (4 lbs?) that I think is my favorite in the City. I look forward to his seasonal return (and sneeking out of the office early Thursdays).

Man, I just got back from Napa a couple weeks ago. They know how to cooks some bread out there. I weep when I think of it.

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Marvelous Market Striata has become my go-to bread. As far as sandwich breads go, the rye at Breads Unlimited in the Bethesda Strosniders' strip mall is the best version near me. And Atwater Bakery from Baltimore, which comes to both Courthouse Market in Arlington on Saturday and Dupont Circle Market on Sunday has good sandwich loaves-- if you like a light whole wheat, try the struan.

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Sadly, Whole Foods is about the best you'll do at a grocery store. Balducci's used to have a respectable ficelle but no longer.

Though not as good as they were at peak, I would argue that the La Brea breads at Giant are better than most of the crap that WF passes off as bread.

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I'm a pretty big fan of the breads that I get at Shoppers in Seven Corners. It's the closest I've had to the seeded Italian bread we used to get when I was kid. I find the Whole Foods Italian (or baguette) to be a little too sour for my tastes.

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Best Buns in Arlington has the best bread IMHO. Firehook Bakery would come in second, there are a few locations in downtown DC and Alexandria VA. Best Buns is worth the drive for what you are looking for. Stay clear of any bread at Whole Foods or any other supermarket in the DC area.

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Some of their varieties are OK. But aren't the loaves trucked in frozen?

Very possibly. But they somehow get a crust on breads that are supposed to have one, which is a huge advantage over WF, IMO. I don't understand how you can sell a baguette that's soft on the outside...

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Best Buns in Arlington has the best bread IMHO. Firehook Bakery would come in second, there are a few locations in downtown DC and Alexandria VA. Best Buns is worth the drive for what you are looking for. Stay clear of any bread at Whole Foods or any other supermarket in the DC area.
Firehook makes some of the WF bread.
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Ugh. Except for those bricks of cornbread, WF bread sucks. I'd rather buy the gourmet house-brand from Safeway or Harris Teeter, which is no worse, often better, and a whole lot cheaper.

IMHO, the breads from Café 2941 and Breadline are as good as you'll find at retail in this area. A step down would be Bonaparte. And then you get into the also-rans: Vie de France, Firehook, Uptown (at Balducci's, since they shut down their own retail shops), Corner Bakery and the lot.

The fact is that bread, the staff of life, is in a sorry state here and in most of the country. Not enough Americans are willing to demand (and pay for) better bread. I've bought better rolls at gas stations in Europe, than most gourmet groceries here can offer. Too bad it doesn't keep, or I'd stuff the trunk full in Montreal.

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Ugh. Except for those bricks of cornbread, WF bread sucks. I'd rather buy the gourmet house-brand from Safeway or Harris Teeter, which is no worse, often better,

;) I've found WFs' loaves to be a better approximation of good bread than anything baked by HT, where the crust is almost but not quite as soft and white as the interior. :blink:

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Regarding comments on the bread at Whole Foods:

I purposely did not admit that I ended up buying a couple of bagels at the P St. store on Sunday. What can I say except that I was eager to get home from a stint at the market and have some sliced in the freezer for the week ahead without traipsing elsewhere?

In the bakery section, I ended up talking to two team members because someone putting out seeded bagels told me to wait a minute and she'd fetch the plain ones, just baked. I did, and was presented two piping hot, soft rings with a smile.

I thanked her, and gracious soul that I am, commented that they did not seem to be real bagels, that is, boiled before baking, with a chewy interior and hard, thin crust.

This led to an explanation concerning limitations imposed by the facilities. The City Paper probably mentioned the issue when it did an article on local bread some time before changes at BL & MM. I was told that the company inherited the building from Fresh Fields and there's less room behind the doorway leading to bakery staff's area than there is in the public space provided for shoppers. So there are no vats for boiling, obviously, and dough comes prepared for the department to bake themselves, as I imagine is the case for other supermarkets.

The sale of Firehook's baguettes compensates for changes at MM which used to supply an alternative to the baguettes WF bags as its own.

With all the changes being made to the three WF stores in D.C., it would have been nice to upgrade some of the facilities behind the scenes to redress gaps in the local scene, though it would be hard to expect a large company to offer what we generally find in small, independent businesses.

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Has anyone tried the Spring Mill Bread Company? We were out in Gaithersburg at the Wild Bird Center last week and noticed it, but didn't have time to go in and try it.

I actually really like some of their loaves, but they make a distinctly different style of bread from the European stuff everyone (including me) is pining for. Get the cinnamon swirl and make French toast with it.

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I've found WFs' loaves to be a better approximation of good bread than anything baked by HT, where the crust is almost but not quite as soft and white as the interior.

You have a point...I think I've been eating too many HT Asiago baguettes (which actually have a crust). Their round loaves are all soft-crust, rather like commercial sourdough. Meh. I wouldn't call them white though; they're a medium-to-dark tone, and a bit too glossy from the steam injection.

Has anyone tried the Spring Mill Bread Company?

Do they bake any artisanal loaves yet? Their stock-in-trade is to offer numerous grain/nut/other variants on a standard 2 lb rectangular loaf shape, suitable mainly for sandwich slices. And those are some dense breads.

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I was told that the company inherited the building from Fresh Fields and there's less room behind the doorway leading to bakery staff's area than there is in the public space provided for shoppers.

if you were at the p street location, they must be referring to some old building plans because when that store landed iin the neighborhood it was a whole foods and fresh fields was long gone. the location below calvert was a bread and circus, and it used to put a heavy emphasis on the latter. the first fresh fields store i can remember was near white flint on rockville pike and you could see into where the baking was going on. the loaves weren't that great then, and i believe there was a nutrition issue involved, certain ingredients were not allowed, but i don't recall exactly what those were. whole foods bread today is serviceable, usually. it doesn't seem thoroughly baked to me and the texture can be doughy. i have had a few loaves that you could barely slice. just the pressure of cutting it was turning it to dough. where does dean and deluca get its bread? close by, the bakery at the penn quarter is the best of the local farmers markets i have tried, but i am off in the opposite direction this afternoon. marvelous market ushered in the era of good bread in washington, but that movement seems bought out these days and this is just not a reliably good bread city.

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I actually really like some of their loaves, but they make a distinctly different style of bread from the European stuff everyone (including me) is pining for. Get the cinnamon swirl and make French toast with it.
Many thanks. Cinnamon French toast sounds delightful, and it's a shorter trek than the one to the Lancaster Market in the far, former pastures of Germantown. For baguettes and some interesting round loaves, I still shop at the Bethesda Co-op off of MacArthur where they carry Firehook and Marvelous Market. Not much like the ancient days of Avignon Freres in its prime, but not bad.
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Many thanks. Cinnamon French toast sounds delightful, and it's a shorter trek than the one to the Lancaster Market in the far, former pastures of Germantown. For baguettes and some interesting round loaves, I still shop at the Bethesda Co-op off of MacArthur where they carry Firehook and Marvelous Market. Not much like the ancient days of Avignon Freres in its prime, but not bad.
Wow, I remember Avignon Freres, from before I lived in DC when but used to spend time here. I remember helping a friend apartment/cat sit near there...cat sitting in a high-rise apartment building for two cats in heat. I remember it well.

On the Whole Foods issue, I used to like their oatmeal topped sandwich bread but found that it (and the other sandwich breads) started to fall apart when I tried to make a sandwich. I'm not sure what changed, but it just became complete mush. For a while, I had liked it and it was firm enough to work fine, then it just fell apart...literally.

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I just had a slice of the 4 kilo pane pugliese (sp?) from the Ovens at Quail Hollow (bakers that sell at the Penn Qtr. market). Damn that is good bread, especially toasted dark, brushed with olive oil, and sprinkled with kosher salt.

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How about Great Harvest Bread Company? I haven't tried their breads, except for the cinnamon, which is darn addictive. Where do folks see their breads in comparison to what else is out there? Better than WF or HT?

I really want to like them. Unfortunately, their breads have no real crust to them. All of their breads have a soft crust which has the same texture as the inside of the bread. Paula and I used to like their scones a couple of years ago. However, they seem to have changed their recipe, as the last few times we have gotten them all I could taste was cream cheese and raw flour. It is a shame, as the people are friendly in each location and we have one less than 5 minutes from our house.

For supermarket breads, we have had fairly good luck with the breads from Wegman's, particularly their Marco Polo bread. Their bagels, however, are average at best.

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I've looked far and wide and cannot find the answer. If anyone can help me, you guys can.

What is the effect of substituting skim milk for water in a bread and/or pizza dough recipe?

Just guessing here, but maybe the enzymes in milk soften the final product??

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I've looked far and wide and cannot find the answer. If anyone can help me, you guys can.

What is the effect of substituting skim milk for water in a bread and/or pizza dough recipe?

Probably not a huge effect, but it will depend on your bread recipe. You'll be adding a little more additional fat (which will most likely not be noticeable at all if the bread already contains butter/fat), some protein and some sugar. All can make a difference in the taste and texture (tenderness), but the biggest difference will most likely be that the bread will brown more because of the added sugars.

Scalding the milk (bringing it just to a simmer) before using it in bread is usually recommended because some say that one of the proteins present in the milk can inhibit gluten formation in bread dough. Other people do not think it makes that much of a difference. Since I generally want the milk to be warm anyway, I nearly always scald it (in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave). Just be sure to let it cool sufficiently if you plan to add the yeast directly to the milk. However, if you use instant/quick yeast and are adding the hot milk to the flour/yeast/salt/whatever mixture, then cooling is not necessary.

Go for it! If you like it, great. If not, you can always make croutons. :angry:

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Probably not a huge effect, but it will depend on your bread recipe. You'll be adding a little more additional fat (which will most likely not be noticeable at all if the bread already contains butter/fat), some protein and some sugar. All can make a difference in the taste and texture (tenderness), but the biggest difference will most likely be that the bread will brown more because of the added sugars.

Scalding the milk (bringing it just to a simmer) before using it in bread is usually recommended because some say that one of the proteins present in the milk can inhibit gluten formation in bread dough.

I looked in Cookwise, and she agrees with you :angry:. Basically, she says that milk proteins enhance the "nutritional profile," while minerals help the growth of yeast. Residual sugars from milk make the bread sweeter, while, as you mention, lactose also tenderizes and moistens the bread and affects the texture and color. She also comes down on the side of scalding due to something in the heating that affects a protein which can reduce volume (that's the gluten effect you mention). She also notes that using too much nonfat dry milk reduces the volume of a loaf.

I have this book out again after having not looked at it in a whlle. I had no success trying to read it as a book, but I find it good for reference.

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I looked in Cookwise, and she agrees with you :angry:. Basically, she says that milk proteins enhance the "nutritional profile," while minerals help the growth of yeast. Residual sugars from milk make the bread sweeter, while, as you mention, lactose also tenderizes and moistens the bread and affects the texture and color. She also comes down on the side of scalding due to something in the heating that affects a protein which can reduce volume (that's the gluten effect you mention). She also notes that using too much nonfat dry milk reduces the volume of a loaf.

I have this book out again after having not looked at it in a whlle. I had no success trying to read it as a book, but I find it good for reference.

Ok, so if it adds minerals, helps yeast grow, and moistens the bread... why use water at all?
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Ok, so if it adds minerals, helps yeast grow, and moistens the bread... why use water at all?
Because you don't always want to make a light soft white bread? The dairy is good for that kind of loaf, but it doesn't mean it's the best for all kinds.
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Anyone know where I can get a good, hot out of the oven, melt in your mouth loaf of olive bread? So authentic, the black olives are almost sweet?
I've seen olive bread at Gold Crust Bakery in Alexandria (Monroe Ave at Route 1). I'm not sure how authentic it is, and you'll have to call to find out when they're baking it if you want it fresh...

I usually stop in on Saturday mornings and have occasionally picked up some still-warm loaves. If you don't see what you like in their display case, they're usually happy to head to the back and see what's coming out of the ovens. I picked up a nice, warm loaf of 'pane bello' (an Italian bread) this week and have been enjoying their honey wheat on a regular basis too.

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no-one mentioned Vienna's Cenans Bakery yet? We practically live off their bread most warm weather days (we get their bread from our farmers market - when that is closed, we make our own ....).

I think the owners are Italian/Turkish and their breads are very good, nice crust, nice and heavy loaves, great flavor. Every week we get the 'Danish Kernel Bread' which makes a great grilled cheese or tastes really good with hummus and tomato.

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Anyone know where I can get a good, hot out of the oven, melt in your mouth loaf of olive bread? So authentic, the black olives are almost sweet?
The Shoe Box Oven email says she'll have "Crunchy Olive Baguettes" at the Courthouse Market tomorrow (10/06). (Description elsewhere in the email mentions olive and sesame poppy French baguettes, just FYI in case that's an allergy concern)
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I like Cenan's scones, coffee cake and croissants. I found their ciabatta bread to be, well, not good. Too think crust which cracked and crumbled into the huge air pocket below it. I'll have to check out their other breads.

I find Harris Teeter's breads to be very good. I picked up a loaf of pumpernickel which had great taste. They also have several breads and spreads out to try. Better grazing than Costco! :blink:

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Marvelous Market Striata has become my go-to bread.
I've been buying this a lot lately. I improvised a bruschetta using it that is somewhat pizzalike. I don't what to call it but it's excellent :blink: The bread holds toppings really well--gets crispy but not brittle and doesn't get soggy.

Bruschetta Pizza

makes 2 pieces

Italian striata baguette, 4 – 5” length, sliced in half horizontally

on each piece, arrange/spread in layers:

1/2 of 1 head of roasted garlic

several pinches of dried basil, thyme, and oregano

mascarpone cheese

tomato slices

Bake in a 400 degree oven until the edges of the bread brown and the tomato softens. It goes from not done to burnt quickly, but it's still good with the edges charred :P.

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FYI: The Magruder's in Cleveland Park was running a special on Uptown Bakery's bread two days ago and it may be ongoing since their weekly specials begin on Wednesdays.

All loaves, no matter size or type, are going for $2.99. I picked up a 3-pound white that is just a little tangy (not sourdough). Big tree-vent pattern on top. Big, irregular holes. Yummy toast. Such a deal.

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We have for a number of years on trips to NYC bought large sourdough or multi-grain boules from Balthazar Bakery in Soho, divided them into meal-size portions, and then put them into the freezer. They keep and defrost very well.

But we have not been able to get to Manhattan for over a year, and are running short of portions. Is there any reasonable substitute in the DC area?

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On 12/20/2008 at 8:13 PM, jml3 said:

We have for a number of years on trips to NYC bought large sourdough or multi-grain boules from Balthazar Bakery in Soho, divided them into meal-size portions, and then put them into the freezer. They keep and defrost very well.

But we have not been able to get to Manhattan for over a year, and are running short of portions. Is there any reasonable substitute in the DC area?

At retail it's tough....balthazar is by far my favorite restaurant/bakery. I feel your pain. They key is obviously "fresh" out of the oven all day long. balthazar's high volume forces them to have warm bread all day long. The closest i've come is the bread at Central and at whole foods farifax location only. Panorama bakers in VA makes all the variations. im fairly certain if you call them, you can make arrangements to pick some up. Also call balthazar, with a little begging they might ship it to you...

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On 12/20/2008 at 8:13 PM, jml3 said:

We have for a number of years on trips to NYC bought large sourdough or multi-grain boules from Balthazar Bakery in Soho, divided them into meal-size portions, and then put them into the freezer. They keep and defrost very well.

But we have not been able to get to Manhattan for over a year, and are running short of portions. Is there any reasonable substitute in the DC area?

if you are willing to trek down 95 head to Can-Can Brasserie in Carytown, Richmond Va for bread. Was there 2 weeks ago and it was spot on.

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I wasn't able to make it to a Farmer's Market this past week to get my fix of Atwater's kalamata olive bread. :(

But the good news is that I discovered Firehook Bakery's black olive and thyme loaf. :P

The bread smells of fresh thyme, and the other ingredients include Greek Kalamata olives, oil-cured olives,: organic white flour, and sea salt. It's not as hearty of a bread as Atwater's (and doesn't use large and whole olive pieces like Atwater's). It's more like a traditional sourdough boule with small olive pieces. Delicious!

I also picked up a loaf of Firehook's green olive bread, which is made with Sicilian jumbo green olives, fresh sage, and cracked pepper. I'm not enjoying it as much as the black olive and thyme bread.

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I was wondering if anyone knew of a bakery, preferably in NoVa, where I can get a good loaf of brioche? The only place I know of is the Quail Creek Farm bakers at the Courthouse farmer's market. Anyplace else, or is it just the usual suspects (WF or Firehook)?

If I get it from Quail Creek on a Saturday, will it stay fresh if I keep it in the fridge to use on a Thursday?

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If I get it from Quail Creek on a Saturday, will it stay fresh if I keep it in the fridge to use on a Thursday?

Bread tends to get stale pretty quickly in the refrigerator. It's better to freeze it if it's too long to hold at room temperature. It won't necessarily be as good as fresh, but it will be better than if refrigerated.

Are you near a Marvelous Market? I've bought brioche there before. (I'm a little fuzzy--maybe just brioche crowns.) I don't know if they stock it all the time or what they carry at individual locations.

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Ack. Double post. I'll take advantage of the opportunity to mention that, if you have any time to bake, Ina Garten has a good brioche recipe. It doesn't really take very long to make, but the dough has to be refrigerated overnight mid-recipe, so it takes two days. (It uses a mixer and doesn't require kneading.)

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Thanks goodeats and Pat! I think Buzz only does "breakfast brioche" muffin-type thiings...but Best Buns website says they make brioche. Never been to Marvelous Market but I see there's one in Ballston I can check out. Checked out Ina Garten's recipe...that would be fun to do, but I don't have a mixer...maybe Santa will bring me one!

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If I get it from Quail Creek on a Saturday, will it stay fresh if I keep it in the fridge to use on a Thursday?

Brioche goes stale really, really fast - like, the change is noticeable within a few hours. It does freeze well, though. You can keep it in the freezer for about two weeks. If Bethesda isn't too far away call Praline; I've never seen parisienne or nanterre there, but they always have brioche à tête, so it couldn't hurt to ask.

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