Now that spring is finally here (or so I hope!), I can scale down on typical comfort foods and go back to the dishes I crave the most: panini, sandwiches, light soups and salads. So easy to make, so flavorful, so nutritious and satisfying! We’re talking sandwiches, which means now’s also the perfect time to answer some readers’ questions regarding the bread I usually eat and use in my recipes. What is my go-to bread, and why? Do I have any favorite bakeries?
As someone who has lived in Chicago for close to 8 years now, I’ve had my fair share of good and bad bread-related experiences. I started off by using plain white grocery store brand bread, which was very unsatisfying in terms of both flavor (bland) and texture (too soft). I don’t usually like to make broad generalizations, but I think it’s fair to say that typical grocery store white bread has only one remarkable feature: hollow calories. It fills you up, but it doesn’t actually give you wholesome nutrients, on the contrary: as studies have shown, it’s full of either unpalatable or well-hidden ingredients.
Thankfully, the days of us eating plain white bread are gone. As I got accustomed to my new life, I started doing more research on the topic, and delved into Chicago’s artisan bakeries in search for the perfect bite. These days I look for bread that is sturdy and can stand up tall with all the added ingredients – yes, I do like to pile them high, lol! Second, I look at the nutritional content – the more protein and fiber, the better. From this perspective, a favorite of mine is Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery, a Canadian family-run business whose breads can be found in many Chicagoland grocery stores. Their Squirrelly bread variety has 5 grams of fiber per slice and is packed full of sunflower and sesame seeds (hence the reference to seed-loving squirrels 😉). Last but by no means least, I look at flavor (of course!). I like the bread I eat to convey the simple, unadulterated flavor of the grains it’s made of, which are usually whole wheat. Simply put, I want to feel that I’m really eating bread and can taste its original ingredients, and not some unidentifiable sweet, refined lump of carbs.
Narrowing down to Chicagoland bakeries, my absolute favorite for panini and sandwiches is Turano. I like the versatility of their breads, which work well with most of my go-to ingredients (think roasted peppers, rotisserie chicken and sour cream). I also like their sturdiness – in my experience, a sandwich or panino with Turano bread will never fail to hold up beautifully. I love their humongous Pane Turano (crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and overall exceptional for hearty – and heavy! sandwiches), and their chewy French rolls (perfect for dunking into soups or stews).
I am also a big fan of Liborio bakery products, a household name for customers of Italian grocery stores across Chicagoland. Their focaccias and French breads are crusty, filling and deliciously sturdy and satisfying. One bakery whose products I have yet to sample is Kolatek’s Bakery, another Chicagoans’ favorite. I have read many stellar reviews about Kolatek’s, which makes me really excited to give them a try. I promise to keep you posted 🙂
One important thing to keep in mind when shopping around for bread is that bread can make or break a sandwich/panino. A simple sandwich can be elevated by quality bread, or be a failure without it. The choice of bread is thus key, which means that you should give this topic some serious consideration during the recipe development process. Take the sandwich below, for example, which features rotisserie chicken with mayo, Oaxaca cheese, roasted bell peppers and mixed greens:
Use soft white bread, and the sandwich will be too classic to stand out. Use whole wheat, a quality Italian bread or a French baguette, and the sandwich will be one to remember! For this particular sandwich I picked whole rye bread from Ideal Bakery. Lack of time has made it impossible for me to visit this bakery and to purchase this excellent bread directly from the source, but I’m planning to rectify this. As you can see, the list of bakeries to visit is getting longer as we speak (lol)
Do you have a favorite bakery? What makes its products so special? Let me know in the comments 🙂