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The Art of Baking Bread

The Art of Baking Bread
We'll talk about the art of baking and buying great bread as part of our monthly segment on food.

Caron Golden, food columnist for and author of the blog San Diego Foodstuff.

Catherine Perez, owner of Con Pane Rustic Breads & Café in Pt. Loma.

Charles Kaufman, owner of Bread & Cie Café in Hillcrest.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. For those of us who grew up on Wonder Bread, the discovery of great, delicious breads comes as a revelation. The rich aromas, the crunchy crusts and the taste of artisan breads, almost make them a meal in themselves. As the weather gets cooler, the idea of baking bread or having freshly baked breads in the house becomes even more attractive. So we thought it might be a great idea to devote this month's food segment to bread - making it and eating it. I’d like to welcome my guests. Caron Golden is food columnist for and author of the blog San Diego Foodstuff. Caron, welcome.

CARON GOLDEN (Food Columnist, Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Catherine Perez is owner of Con Pane Rustic Breads & Café in Point Loma. Catherine, welcome.

CATHERINE PEREZ (Owner, Con Pane Rustic Breads & Café): Thank you for having me. Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: And Charles Kaufman is owner of Bread & Cie Café in Hillcrest. Charles, welcome.

CHARLES KAUFMAN (Owner, Bread & Cie Café): Thanks a lot.

CAVANAUGH: And, as always, when we talk about food, we invite our listeners to give us a call. If you have a question about baking bread or if you’d like to tell us about an exceptional bread you’ve tasted, give us a call. The number is 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. And before we begin, I just have to tell our listeners that I am absolutely surrounded in bread. I am surrounded in breads and yeast and wonderful sandwiches and cookies and pastries. If I get through this hour without breaking down, it’s going to be just…

KAUFMAN: Well, actually just to breathe the bread and what’s in the room, I think we’re all going to gain a few pounds.

CAVANAUGH: I think so. I think so. Okay, let me start out. Let me start out with you, Catherine, because you’re the owner of Con Pane Rustic Breads and have brought in this array of beautiful breads here. If you could synthesize, what’s the art to baking a good loaf of bread?

PEREZ: Well, you start with the best ingredients that you can find. You know, flour, not necessarily all purpose flour but flour that’s – that’s made for artisan breads. Taking your time with it, letting it rise, not trying to rush it through the process with a lot of yeast, and then baking it on a stone deck of an oven. And if you’re baking it at home, you can purchase those little stones that really help to give you the kind of crust that you need with artisan breads.

CAVANAUGH: When you say artisan flour, flour for artisan bread, what’s the difference between, you know, the Pillsbury? What’s the difference there?

PEREZ: It’s the amount of protein that’s in the flour. You know, I think before this artisan bread renaissance, people believed that you needed a really high gluten flour in order to make good bread. And what we’re finding is, is that with artisan breads with the longer fermentations, you actually want a little bit less protein in your flour, a little bit more than all purpose flour but less than what’s typically found in what people call bread flour.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Charles Kaufman, owner of Bread & Cie Café in Hillcrest, you’ve brought in a whole host of items here, including yeast and flour. What kind of flour do you – is that crucially important?

KAUFMAN: Yes, as we say at Bread & Cie, if there is a more painful, time consuming, expensive way to make bread, we don’t know it. Actually, what I brought, I think one of the important elements of both what Catherine and I do is the process we use by which the bread actually rises…

CAVANAUGH: Right, rises.

KAUFMAN: …and proofs. And I brought an example of two different ways. One is a commercial yeast, which is this block yeast and, as you can see, it’s a lot more dry, although this is kind of a high quality refrigerated yeast. And then the other is basically a sponge or a starter, which helps ferment the dough. Basically, there’s yeast, bacteria in the air around us, and the simple way to look upon it is if you take a little piece of old dough and if you put it in flour and water and if you give it enough time, the yeast will be attracted – the natural yeast will be attracted to the starter. It’ll – same process as wine or beer, and little by little, it’ll rise. And the point is that we believe, I think Catherine and I both believe, that the best tasting breads and the most complex are those that are made from kind of this starter fermented process. It’s moister, it’s a more interesting taste and it doesn’t necessarily have to – we kind of believe in a sweet sourdough as opposed to the…


KAUFMAN: …old ways of San Francisco.

PEREZ: That has that sort of tangy sort of – yeah.

KAUFMAN: Tart, right, and actually if you take a little bit of that, if you take a little bit of that in your mouth, you will see that there’s a tang to it.

CAVANAUGH: I’m afraid.

KAUFMAN: You may not be able to speak for the rest of the show…

CAVANAUGH: I’m afraid of it.

KAUFMAN: …but I think the…

CAVANAUGH: I wanted to ask you, Catherine, you know, I think people who are not bakers are a little afraid of yeast if, you know, if I could just talk personally for a moment, because, you know, you don’t know exactly what to do with it. You don’t know how, you know, how it should rise, how much the bread should rise. Some breads rise twice. What is a – is there any secret to working with yeast?

PEREZ: Well, as Charles mentioned, you know, in the artisan bread business, we use the starters and starters come in a lot of different forms. There’s poolishes, which are kind of a compromise between a sourdough starter and a straight yeast method. There’s a couple of different kinds of starters. There’s a more liquid sour, there’s a more stiff sour. So people can start off when they’re first starting off baking, I recommend that they start off with a poolish, which is a little bit of a compromise. It’s something that you make the night before and then you add it to the dough the day that you’re going to bake it, and it’s not quite as complicated as using a sourdough and maintaining that from day to day. And it’s really not that more difficult than just using a straight yeast method but you get that more complexity, that more flavor from using a starter than going with a straight yeast method. And there’s a lot of books out there now. Years ago, when I started and, you know, when Charles started the bakery, there weren’t a lot of books on artisan bread bakery and now there are, and a lot that are geared towards the home baker that can show them how to use yeast and pre-ferments in their breads and get more interesting breads.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take a caller. We have a caller on the line. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And Cameron is calling from San Diego. Good morning, Cameron, and welcome to These Days.

CAMERON (Caller, San Diego): Hi. Thanks for taking my call. I just wanted to, you know, at first let your guests know that I am, you know, in love with their products and shop at both of their places. I was wondering, have either of them published a book? Or is there a book that they would recommend for someone who’s wanting to get started in this?

PEREZ: Let’s see, there’s a few. I like Joe Ortiz’s “The Village Baker.”

CAVANAUGH: Say it again.

PEREZ: Joe Ortiz’s “The Village Baker.” It came out probably about eleven years ago. Let’s see, the Cheese Board in Berkeley has a great book that came out a few years back and I can’t remember the title of it.

KAUFMAN: I forget. But I think – I mean, for me, the way I really learned was to do it. I mean, books are one thing…

PEREZ: Yes, definitely.

KAUFMAN: …but it really – it ultimately boils down to how the dough feels and what’s, you know, you can read it up to a point.

PEREZ: Right.

CAVANAUGH: Caron Golden, you are struggling with a cold and I want to let everybody know that, and I also want to let everybody know that you, in your little home kitchen, over the weekend, actually baked some bread so…

GOLDEN: I actually did. What an achievement.

CAVANAUGH: …so – and so if you could – because I want to talk more about the specialized ovens and the specialized breads that both of these people have created here. But I want to talk just a little bit about how did you – how do you go about baking bread? What are your favorite things to have?

GOLDEN: Well, the pizza stone, I think, is a really important thing for a home baker because we – it generates more heat. Another trick that I learned from a book that I have called “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day,” was to keep – like get a broiler pan and when – and heat your oven and put your pizza stone in the middle rack and put another rack underneath that and add the broiler pan to it. And let it get hot with the stone, and when you put your bread in, have a cup of—and I mean literally a cup—of water that you put quickly into the broiler pan and then put your bread in and dough in and close the door. And that will give it some steam that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get in a regular kitchen oven. One of the tricks – this is a great trick because years ago I started baking bread other than just the challah that I grew up baking bread, I started doing it with Nancy Silverton’s book which was “Breads from the La Brea Bakery,” which was a great book and it was a really interesting book because one of the things she had you do to make starter was to ferment grapes. And you’d literally go and get a bunch of grapes and wrap them in cheesecloth and put them in with yeast and flour and water and let it all ferment and it got all wonderfully stinky and you felt like it was really doing something.


GOLDEN: But she kept saying, you know, open the door and spritz the, you know, the bread or spritz the oven and then close the door, and you’d do this periodically. Well, of course, what you’re going to end up doing is losing all the heat from the oven, which you really need to keep in particularly in a home kitchen. So putting the pan in and filling it with water is a really good trick.

CAVANAUGH: We are talking about bread, wonderful bread, baking it at home, eating it elsewhere. My guests are Caron Golden. Catherine Perez is owner of Con Pane Restaurant – Rustic Breads and Café in Point Loma, and Charles Kaufman is owner of Bread & Cie Café in Hillcrest. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And, Catherine, I’d like to talk about the kind of oven that you use. What makes your oven so special?

PEREZ: Well, it really goes back to the two things that Caron just mentioned. These are ovens that are imported from France and each deck has a stone deck and you bake directly on that deck. They also have steam injection, and so each deck can be injected with steam. And what that does is, the steam allows you to get a really nice golden color on the crust and allows the crust to stay soft long enough for it really to expand, to get what’s called a oven kick when it hits the oven, that last really quick proof. And then what the stone deck does is, it’s a different type of heat. It’s a direct heat transfer from the stone deck, and it allows that crust to get really nice and thick and crusty in the end.

CAVANAUGH: Now why did you have the oven brought in from Europe? Do we not make bread ovens in the United States?

PEREZ: You know, I believe there are a few manufacturers that do now but, again, you know, I opened my bakery ten years ago and so ordered it eleven years ago. I think, Charles, you’re at what? Fourteen, fifteen years?

KAUFMAN: Yeah, fifteen.

PEREZ: You know, so back then, no, there really wasn’t anybody in the United States doing that so you had to import them.

CAVANAUGH: That’s fascinating. So the whole idea of making artisan breads and – is relatively new in the United States.

KAUFMAN: In the States, for sure. Let me also add that I think Catherine did an excellent job of explaining the – what makes the ovens that we use unique but also I think that we heat the – when the oven heats, it heats from both the top and the bottom of the bread as well.

PEREZ: Umm-hmm.

KAUFMAN: Most of the time at home, the oven either the heating source is either from the top or the bottom…


KAUFMAN: …so the bottom will either get burnt or the top will get burnt. But this is an oven that kind of heats all around.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, so we’ve talked about the flour and we talked a little bit about the yeast, although I do want to go back to that, and we’ve talked about the ovens. Let’s talk about the time. How much time does it take for – Is that going to be different for you because you’re a commercial baker? Or would it be the same amount of time that people should give it at home, Catherine?

PEREZ: Well, all is relative. It depends on how much yeast or starter you put in the dough. It depends on what temperature you’re maintaining the dough at. Higher temperatures, it’s a faster rise so it’s going to proof faster. If you’re proofing your dough at a lower temperature, a cold proof, then it’s going to take a bit longer.

CAVANAUGH: Was this all experiment for you, Charles? Or did you know how to do this right off the bat?

KAUFMAN: Actually, I spent time in France. I had a very painful year in the south of France as I learned to bake there and I had to drink the French wine and…

CAVANAUGH: Oh, poor you.

KAUFMAN: …lie on the beaches and it was a horrible – But one must muddle through for one’s art. For me, actually, I also wanted to mention that when we, when Bread & Cie was beginning 15 years ago, when the ovens were being constructed, we were experimenting and baking our bread in a cloche, which also, I think, worked for us, worked quiet well. It’s kind of a clay pot. I don’t know how you would describe it. It’s kind of a…

GOLDEN: Well, a clay mold kind of – it’s a, I don’t know, it’s…

KAUFMAN: Yeah, it looks – it’s almost like a little clay – it’s a – you can…

GOLDEN: It’s a form. It’s a form.

KAUFMAN: It’s a form and you can buy it, it’s basically looks like an enclosed turkey baster or whatever.


KAUFMAN: So there’s clay in there. It maintains humidity extraordinarily well and it has the same qualities as stone a little bit.

CAVANAUGH: That’s – and…

KAUFMAN: So you can get close. We got fairly close with…

GOLDEN: Yeah, it’ll retain the heat because it’s completely covering the…

CAVANAUGH: And what’s the name of it again?


KAUFMAN: …which means bell in French.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, we have to take a short break. When we return, we will continue to talk about bread, all sorts of bread, and the specialty items that both of these breadmakers also make. And we’ll be taking your calls. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I’m Maureen Cavanaugh. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS. And we’re talking about the art of baking bread and having freshly baked breads in your home to enjoy. My guests are Catherine Perez. She is owner of Con Pane Rustic Breads and Café in Point Loma. Charles Kaufman is owner of Bread & Cie Café in Hillcrest. And Caron Golden is food columnist for and author of the blog San Diego Foodstuff. There’s so many people who want to talk to us on the phones, I want to go to them. But I want to ask you first, Caron, in addition to Con Pane and Bread & Cie, where else can you find good locally made bread?

GOLDEN: Pacific Beach, there’s a place called Charlie’s Best Bread, which has a pretty strong fan base there. It’s on Garnet and you can find it sold at places like Taste Cheese and also I think they’re at some farmers markets now. There’s a place called Belen in Escondido, which I haven’t been to but they sell at farmers markets and they do some very nice breads there. And there are some – you know, we’ve been talking basically about sort of hard crust breads but if you want to talk about croissants and those kinds of things, you can find some really good ones over at Carlsbad French Pastry Café in Carlsbad Village, and in Tartine in Coronado is known for their croissants. And Cardamom is an interesting place. They’re over in North Park and they do a variety of different kinds of breads.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s go to the phones. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And Tami is calling us from Paradise Hills. Good morning, Tami. Welcome to These Days.

TAMI (Caller, Paradise Hills): Good morning. I’ve had bread from both those places and it’s amazing. Trying to do it in my home. I have two questions. One is where do I find the special flour. Where can I buy it? And second, I keep trying to make those starters you talk about but when I feed it, it dies. What am I doing wrong?

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Who wants to take that? Feeding your starter.


CAVANAUGH: Not letting it die.

PEREZ: That’s – You know, that’s a tricky one without seeing kind of what’s going on. It could be the formula that you’re using, it could be too much water or too much flour, not enough starter, you could be not feeding it often enough.

KAUFMAN: It also depends on the heat.

PEREZ: Exactly.

KAUFMAN: I mean, the temperature. Bread is an interesting thing because on one hand it is the simplest thing in the world. It involves flour and water and salt. But yet it is also the most complicated thing in the world because it involves when you add the ingredients, in what order, what the humidity’s like, what, you know, I mean all the elements of the world actually come into it.

GOLDEN: It’s a pure chemistry experiment.

KAUFMAN: That’s right.


GOLDEN: You know, it really is. You have to feed it regularly, that’s the one thing.

CAVANAUGH: Your starter.

GOLDEN: Your starter.

CAVANAUGH: Which is, once again.

GOLDEN: Which is yeast and flour and water and probably some salt to begin with. And it’ll form a sponge. It should bubble. It should be – it should look alive.



CAVANAUGH: Charles brought in some starter…


CAVANAUGH: …and it looks alive. Yeah, I’m afraid of it.


KAUFMAN: Now it’s beginning to move toward you so…

GOLDEN: It’s fascinating to work with these things and it should have a good yeasty smell to it, a sour yeasty smell to it.

KAUFMAN: I mean, that is the thing about it, is that bread is alive, and each day it’s a different story.

PEREZ: Umm-hmm.

KAUFMAN: And not until it goes into the oven – I mean, it’s alive until it goes into the oven.

CAVANAUGH: Now, your famous Point Loma sourdough is basically because of the starter that you have that you’ve allowed the Point Loma air at, right? Is that right?

PEREZ: Correct.

CAVANAUGH: Tell us about that.

PEREZ: Well, basically, you know, they say you are what you eat, and that’s the same thing for yeast. Yeast is different in San Francisco than in France than in San Diego, and you can transplant a sourdough from one place to another but then it becomes basically, you know, yeast live and die. They reproduce and then they die. And so you get new yeast and the new yeast are born in that area, so that’s kind of the philosophy we took when we started the bakery is that we’re in Point Loma and we actually brought our starter over from Minneapolis, which is where I learned to bake. I didn’t have that painful year in France that Charles had. I chose Minneapolis instead. But anyway, but you bring it to Point Loma and then it becomes part of, you know, breathes the air off Point Loma. It has the, you know, it’s influenced by the atmosphere of Point Loma, and it becomes a Point Loma culture. And so with our sourdough, we chose to make it more of an American version of a sourdough as opposed to a French version of a sourdough and make it very tart. And initially we said, well, we’ll call it a San Francisco sourdough, but it’s not. It’s a Point Loma sourdough made with Point Loma culture.

CAVANAUGH: Because it’s here.

PEREZ: Because it’s here.

CAVANAUGH: Caron, what is special flour? What kind of special flour do people need to buy in order to really start and make a good starter?

GOLDEN: Well I think it depends on what you’re doing, you know. There are going to be different starters for different kinds of breads. Look at what Charles and Catherine both brought in. You’ve got very – a huge range of breads here. I’m using – I just recently got the starter from King Arthur Flour, which I highly recommend. It’s a good sourdough starter. It comes in a tiny little cup and then you add the ingredients to make the sponge and you store it. And mine will be a Tierrasanta sourdough bread.


GOLDEN: And I’m using the King Arthur unbleached bread flour – unbleached flour. And there are bread flours. There are – all of these things have to do with proteins and gluten, which is, you know, what Catherine had mentioned before. So if you’re going to be using a cookbook in – you know, to make your breads, they’re going to recommend certain kinds of flours and for very certain kinds of breads and you need to pay attention to that because, you know, you could have big failures. This is chemistry and so you can’t just, you know, sort of be freewheeling with this, especially if you’re just starting out doing it.


GOLDEN: You need to follow the directions and that includes what kind of flours to use.

CAVANAUGH: And the King Arthur, you can get that just about anywhere?

GOLDEN: King Arthur, you can get anywhere. I see it now at Albertson’s. I used to be able to get it at Trader Joe’s but now they’re selling their own brands. You can also order it online. And there are other flours, too, and there are other books that will recommend specific flours based on, you know, their experiences.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727, and let’s hear from Mike in Point Loma. Good morning, Mike, and welcome to These Days.

MIKE (Caller, Point Loma): Well, thank you very much for taking my call. And hi, Catherine, this is Mike. I just wanted to add that in addition to their great bread and food at Con Pane they add a lot to the fabric of the community. The fact is I think my daughter was Catherine’s first employee and her work helped her go through fashion design school in New York. And my son, Lee, learned how to make cinnamon rolls down there. He’s a physicist. So I think in addition to hiring all the local Point Loma debutantes, she’s done a really great job of bringing back the fabric of the Rosedale community on Rosecrans.

CAVANAUGH: Well, that’s fabulous. Thank you for calling in, Mike. And you’ve got a fan, Catherine.

PEREZ: Thanks, Mike, and I promise I did not pay him to call in and say that.

CAVANAUGH: I’m wondering, what are some of the most popular breads at your bakery, Charles?

KAUFMAN: Well, I think, you know, the basic day-in, day-out breads are the French white and the sourdough as well. One of the things I’m actually fairly proud of is 15 years ago when we began here, no one knew what levain or what a levain was and now I think that’s probably our third largest selling bread. It’s kind of a rustic sourdough wheat bread made with organic wheat. It tastes great. I mean, that’s really the key.

CAVANAUGH: The one thing…

KAUFMAN: We’ve got – we’ve got exotic flavors as well.

CAVANAUGH: One thing about Bread & Cie that you mentioned is that if people come in and they don’t know what to order, that the other people who are familiar customers might help them out, like it’s a place where people can also learn about bread.

KAUFMAN: I was not schooled. I used to make film so I absolutely was not schooled in how to franchise in the food biz and I think people will agree with me when you walk into our café in Hillcrest, it’s one of the most confusing places in the world. There are signs all over the place and there are bread flavors all over the place and there’s bread and pastries and sandwiches and soups and all kinds of things. But one of the things that makes me the most proud is people that have come in and they’re familiar with how it all works there and I see them talking with their friends and saying, okay, this is where you get the bread, this is where you get the soup, watch out for that guy, he’s pierced and what – you know, and it’s people that have taken an ownership. One of the smartest moves I think I made, well, I made a few smart moves and one of them was to locate in Hillcrest, which is a terrific community.

GOLDEN: And if you ask very nicely, you can get a bag of heels.

KAUFMAN: We can get a bag – yes, yes.

GOLDEN: My father loves this about the store.

KAUFMAN: Well, my grandma used to say that unless you’re – she really liked hard crust breads and her philosophy was unless your mouth bleeds after having a slice of bread, you really haven’t had a piece of bread, which also gives you a little insight in what my youth was like, too.

CAVANAUGH: It certainly does.

KAUFMAN: We won’t get into that.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Sara is calling from Poway. Good morning, Sara, and welcome to These Days.

SARA (Caller, Poway): Hi. I was wondering if at either of your stores if you use GMO products? Or organic and…

CAVANAUGH: What? We’re unfamiliar with that acronym. What are you talking about, Sara?

SARA: Genetically modified organisms, so it would be like for instance something from Monsanto like flour or wheat that is patented by a certain company and it kind of creates this whole system where independent farmers cannot really own their own feed because they get instructed by the patented farm and then they become owned, again, by these big companies and it’s like this huge controversy, and I was wondering how you guys are involved in that web.

KAUFMAN: I – I have an answer for that.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Sara. Sure.

KAUFMAN: No. I think Catherine – No. I think everything – We don’t put preservatives, we don’t – the flour that we get comes directly from the mills and…

PEREZ: And it’s all unbleached and unbromated…

KAUFMAN: …and it’s unbleached and it’s…

PEREZ: …and there’s no chemical additives to age or to whiten it.

KAUFMAN: And it’s not genetically altered. Some of my staff is but not the flour.

CAVANAUGH: I want to talk with you, Catherine. I think we heard from Charles a little bit about how he got into this. But I’m interested, did you say you started baking bread in Milwaukee?

PEREZ: No, actually I learned how to bake bread in Minneapolis.

CAVANAUGH: Minneapolis.

PEREZ: Yeah, there’s an organization called the Bread Bakers Guild of America, and seeing the need for training that was lacking at the culinary schools, they established a baking program in Minneapolis at the Dunwoody Institute called – now I’ve forgotten the name of it.

CAVANAUGH: Well, we’ll find out. But they established this school.

PEREZ: Anyway, they did, and it was run by probably the best baker in the country, Didier Rosada…


PEREZ: …and he is a coach of the – he’s always the coach of the American Bread Baking team that goes to the Coupe du Monde and he ran the program and so I learned under his guise. I got as close as I could to France. And – But actually I started off in finance and then kind of switched gears, decided to start the bakery and went to training in Minneapolis.

CAVANAUGH: We were all joking just a moment or so ago about the fact that – I mean, I grew up on Wonder Bread. You know, it was very extravagant, exotic for us to have Italian bread with the spaghetti and meatballs, and I was wondering, this is such – these artisan bread – this explosion of artisan bread in America has been so recent and I wonder if I could – why you think that’s happening, if I can just go around the table and start with Charles.

KAUFMAN: Well, I – I mean, for us, when we arrived in San Diego, there really had not been – We were kind of the first folks to make this hard crust European style bread. And I think Catherine will agree, it’s not like wine or cigars where you have to go to school to learn to enjoy it, how it tastes. I mean, basically what I did when we began is I sent folks out with a basket of samples and put them on buses and had them walk on the street and just said taste this. And there’s something – I think bread is one of the basic things from our past and I think it’s in our genes and all you have to do is get a piece of decent bread in someone’s mouth and they know the difference between that mooshy, spongy bread that we had as kids.


KAUFMAN: So I think it – I think that – it wasn’t a hard sell for us. We had a huge place when we began. I mean, we’ve got a 3000 square foot place and we bake right there as well, and people would walk in—they hadn’t seen it before—and they said what’re you going to do with 3000 – so you’re going to bake bread?

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm. Umm-hmm.

KAUFMAN: You’re not going to have like an ice skating rink here and other stuff?


KAUFMAN: But now it kind of makes sense and it’s happened fast. It’s happened fast. I mean, because Catherine also…

CAVANAUGH: Would you agree that this has like sort of taken off?

PEREZ: It really has. I think it’s kind of mirrored the culinary scene here in San Diego. You know, years ago it was just an army town and, you know, you could get a burrito and you could get a hamburger and that was about it. And we’ve seen the emergence of some great restaurants here in San Diego and, certainly, you know, as Charles mentioned, when he first arrived, nobody knew what artisan bread was. And, you know, luckily, when I came on the scene, he had done all my marketing for me and so people already knew what a French levain was and I – you know, so I had a little bit less of that education to do. But it’s interesting, when I was doing my research, I went and I stayed with a friend of mine who lived just outside of San Francisco and I explained to her what I was doing and said, you know, I’m going to check out these different bakeries and I’ll bring back samples and she says, you know, we don’t really eat bread. And she had her requisite half loaf of Wonder Bread tucked away on a shelf. And the first day I came home and I had bread, these wonderful breads from different bakeries in Berkeley and Napa and, you know, the kids came around and we all sampled it and they loved it. So the next day I go out again and I go to different bakeries and I come back and they see my car pull up and they’re playing basketball and they run in from the basketball court to see what I’ve brought. And she says, no, I kid you not, we do not eat bread. I don’t know what’s come over them. And it’s just the difference between artisan bread and Wonder Bread. It’s such a fantastic thing that, you know, it doesn’t need a whole lot of marketing. You just taste it and there you go.


CAVANAUGH: And, Caron, I was just going to say, do you think American tastes have changed then?

GOLDEN: I think they’re going back to the way it was, you know, maybe generations ago. I think for those of us who come from immigrant families, they brought those traditions with them from Europe.

PEREZ: Umm-hmm.

GOLDEN: We’re also traveling more, and so for people to go to France and experience those wonderful breads, they want to eat that when they get home. Same with Italy, same with – And, you know, we’re talking mostly French tradition breads here. If you go to Balboa International Market, you can get fabulous homemade or, you know, baked on the premises Middle Eastern flatbreads, for instance. And if you go to the Spanish panaderias, Mexican panaderias, you’re going to find really delicious Hispanic breads that are part of those traditions. I think there’s just a greater awareness of more multi-cultural traditions that include the breads. We’ve been eating the foods, now eating the breads to go with it. And you have to remember that a lot of these restaurants that we’re enjoying now are buying breads from Catherine and from Charles and they’re – you’ll find the breads on the menus at the restaurants. So it’s all, you know, you know, hat and glove, you know, or, you know…

CAVANAUGH: Hand in glove.

GOLDEN: …hand in glove, thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Indeed. Let’s take a – let’s try to squeeze in one call before we go to the break. And Allison is calling from Oceanside. Good morning, Allison. Welcome to These Days.

ALLISON (Caller, Oceanside): Thank you for having me. I’ll try and make this really quick. I was actually quite the baker until I was diagnosed with celiac disease and I’m having to relearn it all. But I was wondering if you guys had ever experimented with a gluten free sourdough?

CAVANAUGH: Anybody gluten free?

KAUFMAN: That’s not – that’s a whole other skill. It’s a whole other talent. I think Catherine and I know how to deal with bread that rises and with gluten and actually I can very well sympathize with this young lady because as a child I was a celiac child, although I have – you can tell I have – I’ve progressed past – I’ve – I’m cured.

CAVANAUGH: Right. Yes. When…

KAUFMAN: Actually, that may be why I’m a bit obsessed with bread as well because I was deprived of it as a kid.

CAVANAUGH: That’s interesting.

KAUFMAN: It’s a tough – it’s a tough thing not – to have to do without.

CAVANAUGH: Do we know of any place that might offer a good selection of sourdough or other breads gluten free?

GOLDEN: You can pick up – you know, we had this conversation on a show before with the gluten free, and really good gluten free breads are very difficult to find. You can find breads made out of rice flour at Henry’s and Trader Joe’s. You might want to do a search online. There’s a woman –, I think is, you know, one source for getting information about gluten free breads but to be honest, in San Diego, I don’t think that there’s anybody who’s baking it to specification.

PEREZ: You know, I’m thinking, I just remember I may have seen that Julian Bakery in Birdrock has – is putting out a couple of gluten free breads.


PEREZ: I’m – Because I have a good friend of mine, my college roommate, as a matter of fact, here at San Diego State, is celiac and I remember e-mailing something to her about that.

CAVANAUGH: We do have to take a short break. When we return, we’ll continue our talk about bread and the wonderful artisan breads that we now have in San Diego. And we’ll be taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. And we are talking bread, the great breads that are being made and eaten in San Diego. I’d like to reintroduce my guests. Caron Golden is food columnist for Karen Perez (sic) is owner of Con Pane Rustic Breads & Café in Pt. Loma. And Charles Kaufman is owner of Bread & Cie Café in Hillcrest. And I want to let everyone know that a caller just gave us a recommendation about that gluten question. They said there’s a gluten not included bakery in Escondido. The website is, so that’s a recommendation from a caller. Before I go to some more callers, because there is so many people who want to join our conversation, I want to give both Catherine and Charles an opportunity because, as I say, I’m surrounded by bread, I’m just surrounded by this wonderful bread, to tell us a little bit of what – about what you’ve brought in. So let me start with you, Catherine. What is this array that you have in this beautiful basket?

PEREZ: Well, let’s see, we have our pane cioccolata, which is chocolate bread…


PEREZ: …that we make on the weekends and it’s made from a chocolate bread base and then has imported Belgium milk chocolate chunks inside.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, indeed, it does.

PEREZ: We have – and we have a hazelnut and raisin bread. It’s made with jumbo Flame raisins and toasted hazelnuts. It’s a great breakfast bread. We have our Point Loma sourdough. We have our rosemary and olive oil bread which is by far our number one choice for sandwiches at the bakery. And then we have our garlic tomato and cream cheese focaccia and focaccia being an Italian flatbread that’s a little bit thicker crust than a pizza and generally has more of a vegetable cheese toppings as opposed to…


PEREZ: …say, meat toppings.

CAVANAUGH: Talk about a meal in itself.

PEREZ: It is, can be.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah. Yeah.

PEREZ: We sell a lot of those for lunch as well.

CAVANAUGH: And, Charles, you’ve brought in so much, I don’t know where you can even start. But maybe if you want to pick out some of the highlights here.

KAUFMAN: Sure. Well, let me just give one other thing that I think is important for people to know about what we do that’s a little different, is that we bake our bread each and every day of the year, which is why I look the way I do. I’m totally exhausted. But the – And we bake at the café itself. We do – also, we do soup from scratch, we do pastries, a whole line of pastries, and pies. Specifically, we’re doing a whole line of pies for Thanksgiving. We’re doing breads that are specific for Thanksgiving as well, which is a cranberry-pumpkin-walnut bread. You have in your hands…


KAUFMAN: …this is a new, a very thin baguette called a fisel, which means string in French.

CAVANAUGH: And it is very, very thin.

KAUFMAN: And we have…

CAVANAUGH: Looks like a pointer.

KAUFMAN: Yep, for those folks who like crusts.


KAUFMAN: And everything we sell in terms of breads at the café are baked there each and every morning so you can come by and watch it. We have levain, we have – we do a lemon poesse bread, which is a bread that I dreamt of one night, and it’s made with local lemons and…


KAUFMAN: …it’s kind of an interesting – it sells very well because it’s light and goes with fish and kind of the foods that we eat out here. And we also do a line of what’s called viennoiserie, which is a layered kind of croissant dough and it’s all made by hand. And if you have an extra hour, I can continue about the rest of the breads…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah. No, no, no, it all looks delicious and it’s all gotten us crazy, so let’s move on. Let’s move on and take some phone calls. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Nick is calling from White Fish, Montana.


CAVANAUGH: And, Nick, why are you calling from White Fish, Montana?

GOLDEN: Montana, wow.

NICK (Caller, White Fish, Montana): Because I defected. I was born and raised in San Diego and I defected about two years ago because they were charging $500,000 for an apartment called a condo.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh, yeah.

NICK: And I miss two things. I miss rolled tacos and I miss bread from Bread & Cie and Con Pane.




PEREZ: Thank you.

NICK: …if you want, you should open up a location in White Fish, Montana and I will run it for you. I am so serious.

CAVANAUGH: I’m sure that you can find their contact numbers and, Nick, thank you so much for calling in. Let’s go to Gloria in North County. Good morning, Gloria, and welcome to These Days.

GLORIA (Caller, North County): Good morning, Maureen. Thanks for taking my call.

CAVANAUGH: You’re welcome.

GLORIA: I have tried making breads, artisan breads, every which way you can think of, I have every book out. And I came across this article finally. Before this article, it was hit and miss. But there was an article in the New York Times called “The Minimalist” by Mark Bittman, from November 2006, and he had – he passed along a method of making great breads, artisan breads, that is practically foolproof.


GOLDEN: It’s in a casserole, let me guess.

GLORIA: You do it in a casserole.


GLORIA: Or a cloche, it’s called. And you just – there’s no kneading involved. It has to sit for 18 hours. And then you just dump this dough in the preheated – I use a cast iron pot because the other kind would just get destroyed in the hot oven, and it comes out absolutely perfect every time, a really crispy crust, evenly colored, with a big slit that appears all on its own on the top. And it’s just a no-brainer. I can’t believe it.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that, Gloria. And you’ve been shaking your head yes.

GOLDEN: Yeah. This – A couple years ago, yeah, the Bittman piece came out in the New York Times and other organizations have written about it, America’s – oh…

PEREZ: Is this Chip from Chimbley, his no-knead bread…


PEREZ: …formula? All right.

GOLDEN: Yeah. And so basically you get, I said a casserole, but, you know, you’re talking about – it’s a cloche concept. But you’re using, you know, a big cast iron pot with a cover on it that can go into the oven at high heat. And the idea is, you know, you blend all the ingredients for the bread, and it basically is going to function the way you would let a starter just, you know, rise and rise and rise and proof. And cover it up, put it in the oven, and I’ve been very curious about it and for some reason I haven’t gotten around to making it. But I remember that made a big impression on me when it came out.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Nina is calling from Linda Vista. Good morning, Nina. Welcome to These Days.

NINA (Caller, Linda Vista): Good morning. I was calling about proofing. I’ve had that problem, too, just proofing bread. I just know how to put it in a pan and put it in a warm place, cover it up and wait a couple of hours for it to rise. Is there a better way to do that?

CAVANAUGH: Now explain to us again maybe, Charles, what is proofing?

KAUFMAN: Basically that’s the time it takes for the bread to rise so when you mix it and you knead it, it generally is flat and then it needs time for the yeast, whether it’s commercial or natural yeast to affect the dough and have the bread rise to its shape.

CAVANAUGH: Anyone – Can anyone give Nina some tips on proofing?

PEREZ: Well, one of the – the best way to check if your dough is ready is to just press it. If it bounces back real quick, then it needs a little bit more time. If it kind of – the indentation that you’ve pressed in stays, then it’s ready to go.


KAUFMAN: And it’s tough because you don’t want to get it when it’s absolutely at its largest shape.

PEREZ: Correct.

KAUFMAN: You want, as Catherine said, you want it to hit the oven stone and have it jump, which means it kind of – then it expands to its full shape.

CAVANAUGH: Ohh, that’s interesting.

PEREZ: A oven kick, they call it.

CAVANAUGH: Oven kick.

PEREZ: Oven kick.

CAVANAUGH: I’ve never had oven kick.

GOLDEN: But the challenge with it is it’s going to be different if you’re baking in the summer versus in the winter, if you’ve got the heat on or if it’s – the kitchen is chilly. You know, there – it’s all environmental, and so she’s got to find maybe a nice place where it’s not drafty and maybe depends on what she’s covering her dough with, too. I mean, some people recommend using plastic wrap and if you let it be too tight then no air is going to get in and that might affect it. If you’re covering it with a towel that’s a little more porous – I mean, there’s so many different things that can happen in that process.

KAUFMAN: The first year, we went through a cycle. We checked all – we had a period where our bread would not rise. It just would rise to a certain point and we went through all of the – it’s basically detective work, Bread CSI. And it turned out the problem was that the flour had been milled too soon. We were getting flour that was milled right then, within a day or two. So that could also be it. It’s so hard to tell without – it’s certainly hard on the radio but even harder when you’re there.


GOLDEN: Yeah, she may just need to switch flours.

CAVANAUGH: As you say, it’s all chemistry.


CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Sonia is calling from San Diego. Good morning, Sonia, and welcome to These Days.

SONIA (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. Thank you for taking my call.


SONIA: I would like to know – I really love the multigrain breads and lately the only thing I can find is Oroweat and I would love – My mother used to make homemade bread. They’re – my parents are English so I grew up with brown bread and rye bread and all that good stuff and never knew what Wonder Bread was.

CAVANAUGH: Well, good for you. Although I loved my Wonder Bread.

SONIA: I found it stuck to the roof of my mouth.

CAVANAUGH: So your question, Sonia, is how to do it with whole grains? Is that correct?

SONIA: Yes, is there – Would that fall under artisan bread if I was using – to get a multigrain flour or is it used – a regular white flour and then add the multigrains?

CAVANAUGH: Okay, let’s find out. Anyone have a suggestion?

PEREZ: Well, I think that’s the beauty of bread and artisan bread, in particular, is, you know, you can add anything you want to the bread. You can certainly do a whole wheat flour as part of the formula. We were discussing earlier the difference between, you know, people looking for 100% whole wheat flour and what’s typically used in a commercial bread bakery is a little bit less. We – I think the maximum we have is one that’s 45% whole wheat flour. If you put too much whole wheat flour in it, it’s going to be dense like clay and it’s just not going to rise. You can certainly add grains to it, you know, anything from sesame seed to cracked wheat to rye grains. You do want to make sure that you soak them before you put them into the dough and if you use a hot-water soak you want to make sure that it cools, otherwise it’s going to make your bread rise too quickly. And, yeah, you can – any grain you want.

GOLDEN: And you need to add vital wheat gluten to compensate for the lack of gluten, I’m assuming.

PEREZ: Well, no, not if you’re only going with a 45%...


PEREZ: …whole wheat flour. That’s – If they’re trying to go higher than that then you’d, yeah, you’d have to add the gluten.

CAVANAUGH: You know, I don’t want to end our conversation and we are getting very close to the end, Caron, without talking a little bit about what do you – you get one of these wonderful breads from Bread & Cie or Con Pane and you bring it home. What’s the best way to actually show off a really great bread? What do you serve with it?

GOLDEN: Well, it depends on the bread, obviously.


GOLDEN: I can’t think of anything better than a really great, you know, butter although, to be honest, if, you know, you’ve got great bread, you should just slice it and eat it and enjoy it, you know, in its natural state. But, you know, depending on the breads here, a good sourdough bread and I, you know, adore a good sourdough bread, to me, that’s dunking bread. That’s, you know, make great soups and use that as an accompaniment to a great soup. For some of the other, the like ciabatta, I love a roasted vegetable sandwich and Charles’ Bread & Cie makes a great roasted vegetable sandwich on the ciabattas. You know, we’re talking eggplant and red bell peppers and, you know, that kind of thing and a really good maybe pesto with it, too.

CAVANAUGH: And very, very quickly, both of you, do you give tours of your facilties? Charles?



CAVANAUGH: All right. That was quick. Thank you so much. You know, I want to thank everyone who called in. There were so many people who called whose calls we could not take. If you would like to, please do post your comments at I’d like to thank my guests, once again. Caron Golden, thank you so much.

GOLDEN: Oh, thanks for having me.

CAVANAUGH: Catherine Perez, owner of Con Pane Rustic Breads & Café, thanks for bringing in so much wonderful smelling food.

PEREZ: You’re welcome, and thank you for having me.

CAVANAUGH: And Charles Kaufman, owner of Bread & Cie Café in Hillcrest, the same to you.

KAUFMAN: Thanks a lot.

CAVANAUGH: And thank you for listening. You have been listening to These Days on KPBS.