Two weekends ago Harold and I, accompanied by our friend Paul, visited the Breadsmith Bakery at 1710 N. Wells in Chicago. As you can see from the link, Breadsmith is a chain located throughout the Midwest. The bakery we went to is located in the upscale neighborhood of Old Town and the clientele seemed representative. I lived a few blocks from this bakery with my uncles for a few summers and had been interested in returning for some time.
Upon entering the store I noticed the dog biscuits for sale and almost turned around to leave. But, I was humbled when I made it up to the register and noticed that every penny of their sale goes to an animal shelter. I took a picture of their lovely ovens, but was confronted by the manager who probed me for information on what the photo was for. I was caught off guard and rambled about ‘really loving ovens. . ‘ or something like that. He asked if I was from a trade magazine and if so said they had stock photos. I regret not asking for one, because I would love a big glossy picture. This leads me to the question, would he consider this a trade magazine? Hrm. . . In any event, I am now afraid to post the lovely picture I took of their large and shiny ovens, so you will all just have to visit to see for yourself.
Here is what we selected (clockwise from the top ring):
Cheddar Jalapeno Sourdough
Salt Sticks (2)
The simit had a delicious aroma of nutty toasted sesame. It was moist and very sweet. The flavor was a bit odd. The crust too soft, actually the whole bread was so soft that it almost disintegrated in your mouth. Oddly, it almost tasted and smelled like a commercially produced soft whole wheat sandwich loaf. Simit is a traditional Turkish bread which is indeed supposed to be quite sweet and nutty. However, this crust was much too soft and should instead be quite firm and chewy. Here is a shot of the interior:
(l-r) Cheddar Jalapeno Sourdough, Focaccia, Simit, Sourdough Roll.
The cheddar jalapeno sourdough contained a massive amount of cheese with jalapeno slices and caraway seeds in the center. The bread was delicious and enjoyable, but this was mainly due to the cheese and not to the bread itself. The extra ingredients were spread onto the rolled out dough, it was rolled up into a loaf and baked. Without these extra ingredients the bread would be bland and unremarkable. It had a very soft crumb and chewy crust. Tasty, but solely do to the extras.
The salt sticks were covered in caraway seeds which went fantastically with the saltiness of the bread. This was a chewy bread with a nice, glossy, chewy crust and a soft, fine crumb. It would be lovely with a soup or pasta. Perhaps ideal with a warm carrot and caraway soup (ooh, I’ll have to make that!) or a caraway and tomato based pasta sauce.
The small focaccia was similar to the cheddar jalapeno sourdough in that it would be an uneventful product were in not for the ingredients the bread was stuffed with. (In fact, it tasted like the bread would be a mediocre over-sized pretzel without the extra ingredients). It was also a rolled dough, stuffed with chopped tomato, white cheddar/Parmesan, salt, and spinach. It was very tasty and soft. It unfortunately fell apart when cut. Golden, thin, soft, and glossy crust. It was not oily, which is a plus. A second shot of the interiors:
(l-r) Salt Stick, Cheddar Jalapeno Sourdough, Focaccia, Simit.
Lastly, the sourdough roll had a very hard crust and a moist light crumb. It had small, but plentiful holes and crustiness that would be ideal for soups but a bit too hard for eating alone. The aroma was indiscernible and while the taste was sour, I suspect (though am highly disappointed to say) that they must use an artificial sourdough additive rather than using a real starter.
Overall, this is a nice neighborhood bakery with solid products, but nothing to right home about. The salt sticks were the winner.