The hum of this hive begins at 4 a.m., five days a week, and the steam oven continues its work until about noon. Batch after batch of crusty bread is carefully loaded by hand into a massive oven and turned out onto the bakery's display racks to cool. Some days there are more than a dozen bread varieties available, each one of authentic character.
Some people boycott bread. In reference to the ultra-refined industrial loaves commonly found on store shelves, I applaud them. The labels on these products display suspicious lists of unpronounceable ingredients.
The ingredient lists on display at Charleston Bread are simple -- unbleached flour, water, yeast, salt. Depending on the loaf, there are additions to this basic formula -- a variety of whole grains, local honey, fresh milk, whole eggs, sugar, butter, perhaps herbs or nuts, sometimes fruits, even locally produced finishing salt.
There are no preservatives in these loaves, and, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. One taste and you'll be hooked. My simple suggestion to you: Do not boycott bread. Follow tradition and break bread with family and friends. Wander into your local bakery and enjoy the bounty put forth by the happy hive.
(If you are among those who have gluten intolerance or allergy, I offer my sincere condolences and apologies. I will repay with an upcoming baking session and column featuring a local gluten-free fabulous home baker -- stay tuned.)
Once you have a fresh baguette in hand, there are numerous ways to enjoy the loaf -- the first and possibly most preferred is "caveman style" where the purchaser immediately begins consuming the bread, beginning with the pointy end, ripping it apart by hand. Depending on the commute and the time of day, a large portion of the baguette might disappear before it reaches its final destination. If you may potentially fall prey to caveman bread enjoyment, you might want to get two baguettes.
Once you have your baguette in your home kitchen, you can make any number of delicious creations. Dip it in soup, press a panini, make the best garlic bread, rustic bruschetta, enviable sandwiches, unparalleled French bread pizza.
You see, once you have a fresh baguette, it is ready to be eaten, enjoyed. If a portion of it remains beyond the day it was baked, the options continue. Make fabulous breadcrumbs, crunchy crostini, memorable croutons. Don't tell Libby, but I say you can freeze a baguette rather than see it go unconsumed. You will be thrilled to have it there in case of bread shortage. I call it bread management -- farmers have harvested, bakers have toiled and you have spent your hard-earned cash for good bread. Savor every last crumb.
TEAR a baguette into bite-size pieces. Place in a large bowl and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil.
SMASH 3 cloves of peeled garlic and toss with bread. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 350° for 10 minutes.
TOSS and turn the croutons carefully and continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes longer, until croutons are crunchy and golden.
April Hamilton has always said, "Cooking is fun!" She shares her easy, practical recipes for delicious food through her cooking classes for kids and families. April's husband and three daughters help with testing and tasting in their Charleston kitchen. April would love to hear from you: Email aprilskitchencoun...@gmail.com.