Photo: tlboyd05, Flickr
"Top Chef" judge Tom Colicchio has written in the current issue of Saveur of his love for Parker House rolls, an American classic invented at Boston 's Parker House Hotel in the late 19th century. This being the 21st century, his version is smaller and less flattened than the original, and the top is sprinkled with salt, but he serves them every evening at his eponymous Colicchio & Sons restaurant in Manhattan, and reports that guests often eat three or more. It got us to wondering what other breads have become associated with renowned chefs.
Here, and after the jump, a half-dozen cooks and their favorite breads:
David Chang, who founded the Momofuku restaurant mini-empire, where Asian-American fusion is the rule, is a big fan of northern Chinese bao – puffy and pale steamed flatbreads that can be folded over a variety of ingredients to make little sandwiches that at Momofuku he calls ssams. The most popular is made with pork belly, but the same bread is served on the side with the entrée of pork shoulder and raw oysters at his East Village restaurant Ssam Bar.
Suzanne Goin, of Lucques, in Los Angeles focuses not on bread itself, but on bread pudding, and her famed rendition of this dessert favorite begins with brioche, the French bread that's rich with butter and milk, round at the bottom, and with a mushroom-shaped top. She makes the baked pudding with lots of custard, and the surface bakes up crusty and caramelized, while a molten pool of chocolate lurks at the bottom. Of the bread pudding, she says, "This recipe is a lifer. I've been making it for more than 20 years, and every time I file it away, someone inevitably comes along asking for it."
One wouldn't necessarily expect to find something as humble as bread at Alinea, Grant Achatz's temple of molecular gastronomy in Chicago. Thus the herbed scone he sometimes serves comes as a surprise. Shaped like a right triangle, it's supremely flaky and nicely browned. The chef – who recently recovered from tongue cancer – also likes to incorporate herbs or olives into the breads he carefully pairs with his multi-course tasting meals.
Marcus Samuelsson – one of Kitchen Daily's experts and an Ethiopian-born chef who was adopted by Swedish parents – reports that his first culinary job was selling freshly baked bread to tourists on tour boats by approaching them in a row boat. He returned to Africa to pen a cookbook (The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa) that features recipes from all over the continent. One of the most widely admired was a dome-shaped, yeast-risen honey bread rife with rosemary from South Africa.
Not unexpectedly, Savannah chef and Food Network stalwart Paula Deen's favorite bread recipe is for a sweet dessert bread with the outlandish name of Banana-Chocolate Gorilla Bread, which she whipped up on a recent segment of "Good Morning America." Of the bread, which is bundt-shaped and rich with butter and cinnamon, Deen noted, "It's bigger and better than monkey bread, plus it is so fun to make."
California doyenne of food writers M.F.K. Fisher was a champion of simple meals, and one of her favorite breads was her native sourdough, which she would often toast and serve with lentil soup. For her, though, the best part of bread was not eating it, but the fragrance that came from the oven, as she described it in The Art of Eating: "The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight."