I’m waiting to start my second attempt at bread-making — I’ve ordered my first oven thermometer to ensure that my dough is rising and baking at the correct temperature. I’m new to this accuracy thing. Regular old cooking doesn’t necessarily demand things down to the degree Fahrenheit…I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that baking does.

As, I wait, however, I keep drifting back to bread that inspires me. Saveur had a wonderful feature on breadmaking in its May 2012 issue, which I highly recommend to other novice bread makers. The website also has a drool-worthy gallery of artisan loaves sprinkled across the United States. If I ever need convincing that a cross-country road trip is worth it — this is it.

Make This Bread -- I wish.

I’ll be baking my second loaf in the next day or two, but to bide my time I’ve been re-examining a few key loaves that have influenced my love affair with bread over the years:

1) Seven Stars — When I was at school in Providence, R.I., Seven Stars was the go-to location for delicious bread (and a cafe without Internet access…perfect for getting work done without the distraction). The bakery’s durum stick is moist, airy, with a delicious dark crust. It’s reminiscent of a sourdough in texture, but doesn’t quite go there in flavor. I love slicing this bread lengthwise, hoagie-style, for one of my favorite simple meals — the tomato sandwich. What do you get when you cross ripe, summertime tomatoes, a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, plus the dreamy crusty bookends of the durum loaf? A delicious mess, with tomato dribbling down your chin.

This artisan loaf demands attention. A beautiful airy interior pairs perfectly with ripe summertime tomatoes.2) Acme Bread — Let me introduce you to Acme’s sourdough. Like most Bay Area foodie success stories, this bread’s origins has ties to the locavore Alice Waters movement. Acme Bread was founded by Steve Sullivan, one of Water’s former bus boys at Chez Panisse, who went on to become the restaurant’s in-house baker. The company has since grown from its Berkeley, C.A. store front to a year-round stall at San Francisco’s Ferry Marketplace, the one-stop shop for city visitors seeking out local and artisan food (think gourmet blood orange vegan doughnuts and delicious pour over coffee). I was never a sourdough fan until I had this little number. I mean, look at that crust. The sourdough’s distinct flavor is due to a naturally-occurring wild yeast starter instead of baker’s yeast.

This sourdough is made with a wild yeast starter instead of traditional baker's yeast.3) Buono’s — This is an old school, Italian bakery bread with a flaky, dark smoky crust. Don’t be fooled by their website — while other bread makers spend time creating sexy marketing materials, the Buono’s crew is busy churning out delicious authentic bread again and again. My great-grandmother lived around the corner of this bakery when I was little, and I remember always scarfing down Buono’s bread (and pepper biscuits). Buono’s is a beloved favorite.

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