The Staff of Life

The Staff of Life
Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

La Brea Loaves, Grape Vine Market

Nancy Silverton's La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles was one of the prime movers in the Amer­ican artisan-bread movement of the 1990s. After several years of baking success, Silverton developed a process whereby her exemplary breads could be partially baked, flash-frozen, and packaged for wholesale to stores and restaurants. All that was necessary was to thaw the loaves, bake them according to the package directions, and then enjoy bread that was virtually indistinguishable from the best commercial artisan loaf available. With plants on both coasts cranking out frozen versions of her signature in-store bread line, the wholesale division flourished. The first time I bought a freshly baked loaf of La Brea Roasted Garlic Sourdough bread at Grape Vine Market, the aroma was so tantalizing I had to pull the car over and break into it before I could get it home. Silverton sold the wholesale bread operation to an Irish conglomerate some years ago for an enormous amount of money, but the quality remains impressive. I recently purchased a selection of frozen La Brea loaves at the Grape Vine Market deli, baking some for home enjoyment and sharing others with bread-loving friends. The crisp crust still crackles, the bread inside it is still hearty and substantial, and the yeasty aroma of bread baking in the kitchen is intoxicating. Grape Vine Market carries the full line of La Brea Bakery frozen bread loaves, ranging in price from 99 cents for a demibaguette to $3.99 for the sourdough or roasted garlic and $4.99 for the olive bread. It's the busy baker's path to bread nirvana. – Virginia B. Wood

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