Over my daughter’s Spring Break from school we went to Dallas to visit my sister-in-law for a few days. Although I’m recovering from a cold, which put a damper on the whole thing, we had a good time, and the last day there I managed to get in two things I’d been wanting to do: go to an artisan bakery, and go to the Penzey’s Spices store.
We went to Penzey’s first. I have occasionally ordered from their online catalog. They have very high quality spices, and most are at prices very close to the prices of spices at the supermarket. The cinnamon, in particular, I have fallen in love with. They carry five different kinds of cinnamon. My favorite is Vietnamese cinnamon, which is strongest, but the China Tung Hing cinnamon is also very good and more affordable.
I am all stocked up on cinnamon, though, so I bought other things. The best thing about the store is that they have jars of each herb/spice that you can open and smell. We didn’t bring the kids on this outing, but if we had, there was a little desk area with crayons and paper to keep kids busy. It was made to look like a sailing ship, which was cool.
Then we went to the Village Baking Company. I wanted to try some professionally made artisan breads to get a better idea of what I am aiming for with some of my bread. I bought a pain au levain that is part whole wheat, and a sourdough boule (fresh out of the oven!), plus some small brioches.
Now that I am not at the bakery, of course I thought of a lot of questions I should have asked them while I was there, but oh well. What concerned me most at the time was the pronunciation of the French names of the breads. The artisan bread world is unabashedly Francophile, which I find extremely annoying since I don’t know how to pronounce anything in French. Give me Spanish, I’m good at that.
The bread was very good. Both loaves had a flavor that I am not getting from my starter. I don’t know if I should bother with trying to get it or not, since 90% of the time I don’t want a very strong sourdough flavor.
It wasn’t just a matter of strength of flavor, though, it’s some quality of the flavor. The sourdough at Panera had it too, although it was less subtle than in the sourdough from the Village Baking Co. It may not be something I can get, if the particular yeast/bacteria strains that cause it are just not present here.