Let me tell you about my journey to find exceptional bread.
It started with a taste of Jamison B. Breadhouse Bakes' sourdough. I don't remember where I had it. But I do remember that the bread, slathered with other goodies like ricotta cheese, stood out. Solid crust, chewy interior, bursting with that slightly fermented flavor found in authentic sourdough.
Where could I buy this bread for myself?
Turns out, a lot of places serve the Ybor City-based bakery's products, local spots like Rooster and the Till, Haven, On Swann, Stillwaters Tavern and more.
But you can only buy them yourself on Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m., in a little showroom of sorts connected to a warehouse, all of it adorned with vibrant paintings of giant roosters, stalks of wheat and sayings like "Love is all we knead."
It took me about two months to work this specific bread venture into my schedule.
Finally, one recent Saturday, the skies cleared. I pulled up to a dirt parking lot off E Seventh Avenue on the outskirts of Ybor City. It was 11:55 a.m., and I was set to wait in my car and not in the 85-degree heat until the bakery opened. There were about a dozen eager customers already there.
Then I noticed the red ticket-taker, like those kind you see at the deli counter in Publix. And a large handwritten sign:
1. Take a number.
2. Doors open at 12 noon.
3. Wait to be called.
4. Please do not enter before being called.
5. We are fast.
6. Menu is posted every week at facebook.com/jamisonbakes
7. We love you.
8. Don't be late."
It all felt very Soup Nazi, in the most thrilling way possible.
They called my number after about 10 minutes (they really are fast), and I walked into a tiny room with bread lining the walls and counters. There were soft pretzels on one table, long baguettes poking out of a basket on another.
After making sure to ask whether the bread freezes well (it does), I ordered five different loaves, including a classic sourdough (presliced!), a smaller sesame loaf and a large pumpernickel loaf.
Back at home, I began to dream up ways to use my new treasures that didn't only involve toast. I thought back to a Blue Apron recipe I tried once that called for toasting bread crumbs with minced garlic and using it as a topping for a pasta dish.
I had rarely considered bread crumbs as a component in a dish and not merely as a coating for pan-fried chicken. But since that recipe, I work them into pasta dishes and other hearty bowls whenever I can.
So I toasted some of my new pumpernickel, ground it down into bread crumbs, then tossed the crumbs with some butter and other seasonings. It's a crunchy complement to this one-bowl vegetarian dish that gets deep flavor from roasted cauliflower and lots of garlic. The pumpernickel topper seals the deal.
Oh, and my car has smelled like bread for the past week, a glorious side effect I did not anticipate.
Cauliflower and Cannellini Beans With Pumpernickel Bread Crumbs
1 head cauliflower
3 to 4 slices pumpernickel bread
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can cannellini beans
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or broth)
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Half of 1 lemon
¼ cup shelled pistachios, for serving
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped, for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Chop cauliflower into florets, then toss on a baking sheet with a couple of drizzles of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Roast for about 20 minutes, until cauliflower is slightly browned and pretty soft. It doesn't need to be cooked all the way through, but most of the way.
Remove cauliflower from oven and transfer to a bowl. Set aside. Place pumpernickel bread slices on baking sheet, lower oven to 350 degrees and cook for about 10 minutes until well toasted but not burned.
Remove from oven, let cool for a few moments, then place in a food processor. Turn on food processor and let it go until bread has been reduced to crumbs. A couple of larger chunks are okay, but you want mostly crumbs.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil and the garlic. Cook for a minute or so, then add cannellini beans and season well with salt and pepper. Cook undisturbed for 5 minutes, then stir and mash some of the beans lightly with your spoon.
Add stock and reserved cauliflower and let cook for another 10 minutes.
While that's cooking, add bread crumbs to a nonstick skillet with butter and season with salt, pepper and caraway seeds. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until bread crumbs are coated with butter and seasonings and become fragrant. Turn off heat, but keep warm.
Add Parmesan to skillet with beans and cauliflower. Mixture should not be dry, but kind of creamy from the stock. If pan is dry, add more stock or even water.
Stir to melt cheese slightly, then squeeze lemon over mixture and stir once. Divide mixture among serving plates and top with pistachios, parsley and more Parmesan cheese. And, of course, your bread crumbs.
Serves 2 to 4, depending on hunger level.
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times