Better Eating Through Chemistry
Miche Bread rules the boule
About a year ago, during one of the weekly tastings at Travis Heights Beverage World, a young man showed up with a perfect-looking, fragrant boule. I am not a bread aficionado, but judging by the excitement on owner Rohit Topiwala's face, I knew I should try it – and boy, was I glad. Outside of the magnificent bread I enjoyed during my visit to Finland, this was the best bread I'd ever tasted.
Thirty-six-year-old Sandeep Gyawali, who holds a job as a neuroscientist at UT, has a passion for the chemistry of baking. He started baking as a hobby, dedicating hours to researching traditional bread-making methods and developing recipes for rustic breads that used knowledge from "current research on dough science," natural leavening, and organic, home-milled whole grains.
"The breads are inspired by the traditional loaves of Europe," says Gyawali, "but I utilize the wider range of nontraditional bread 'grains' we now have available (buckwheat, teff, sorghum, etc). But since I'm really an experimental baker at heart, I'm using nontraditional and nonconventional methods for making my breads." He strives to only use organic flours and ingredients, fresh-milled for each batch to preserve the nutrients and flavor. The doughs are minimally handled to prevent oxidation. Combined with long fermentation and wild yeast, the light touch produces a more flavorful and healthier bread, easier to digest and with a lower glycemic index. "It is bread the way it was meant to be," says Gyawali.
By 2009, he had turned this hobby into a more serious endeavor, creating a micro-bakery and consultancy he named Miche Bread after the traditional French boule. In 2011, he developed several loaves for a start-up bakery in New York City, La Boulangerie, earning accolades from the New York press. Earlier this year, he wowed with three custom breads he made especially to pair with a sherry tasting at Beverage World: a salty, spongy anchovy focaccia, an earthy olive and caper focaccia, and a cream sherry boule with figs and almonds that had everyone chewing with their eyes closed, shaking their heads in disbelief.
His rye cookies with dark chocolate chips and bitters are incredible. The nuttiness of the fresh grain showcases the chocolate in a way I would not have imagined. The texture is rich without being cloying, the flavor balanced and unique – a chocolate chip cookie for grownups. Oh, and they pair marvelously with wine.
So far, his only gigs have been consulting and teaching classes in private homes. But there is good news for the rest of us. "I'm planning on starting a community-supported bread subscription," says Gyawali. "Folks will need to sign up for a flexible weekly bread subscription plan. I'll be offering two breads each week: a signature 'Miche' boule (a naturally leavened bread made with different whole grains that I mill myself), and a featured bread that will change regularly."
The breads will be available for pickup at a few locations around Austin on Saturdays. As expected, the first location will be Travis Heights Beverage World. "But I am currently looking for more businesses willing to partner with us," says Gyawali. "We're hoping to soft-launch in mid-September." Stay tuned to the Miche Bread Facebook page to sign up to participate, or follow on Twitter to see where he may pop up next. You can thank me later.