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This Bakery Wants to Make the Baguette French Again

Down with sourdough. 

 

Iliana Berkowitz isn’t a fan of the sourdough baguette. Put more bluntly, the founder of the San Mateo–based As Kneaded Bakery says, “I do not think it should be made or consumed.”

Here in the land of Tartine Bakery acolytes, those may as well be fighting words. But take a bite of any of Berkowitz’s variations on the baguette and you may well become a convert. Her sublime pain d’epi ($5), which I snagged at the Kensington Farmers’ Market, has the same stalk-of-wheat shape—and fun “tear-and-share” format—as other versions you’ll find around the Bay. But unlike the average sourdough slinger, Berkowitz bakes her pain d’epi until the crust is dark enough to provide an audible crunch. The bread’s flavor is hearty and robust, with a hint of caramelized sweetness. And, as Berkowitz points out, the crumb is light enough that you don’t have to chew for hours. More than anything, this is a loaf that tastes very, very French.

That’s not to say that Berkowitz is strictly a Francophile purist. When her first brick-and-mortar bakery shop opens in San Leandro in the fall, there will be plenty of (non-baguette) sourdough loaves on the shelves, as well as various bread-based “noshes,” such as bialys and babkas, that point to her Jewish heritage. But that pain d’epi? It’ll make you feel like you’re at a corner bakery in Paris. 650-503-9285

 

Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco 

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