Carolina Gold Rice sourdough at La Farm Bakery photo by alex boerner
I have just enough clear-eyed self-awareness to know that I would have become the crankiest of serial killers.
One summer when I was little, my mom decided to lose some weight. It worked; she went down six full dress sizes. But the diet that worked so well for my uber-disciplined mother would have been a no-fail recipe for disaster for me. She ruthlessly eliminated all white food.
Nope, nope, nope. Dairy would have been tough enough; no cheese and ice cream make me extremely grouchy. Excluding pasta, rice, and potatoes would have put even more potentially dangerous pressures upon me.
But no bread? Yeah, that's gonna end in a bloodbath with my neighbors and the folks I went to school with being interviewed by correspondents from Inside Edition.
Last fall I had my first bite of the bread that has become not only my favorite, but the yeasty benchmark against which all others will be judged.
It comes from the heart and mind of my favorite baker, chef Lionel Vatinet, owner of La Farm Bakery in Cary. Chef Lionel holds the title of Master Baker and the respect of people like Jacques Pepin.
In 1999, Vatinet opened La Farm with his sweet wife, Missy. They and their business have become institutions in the area, as well as boosters and supporters of Southern producers and farmers.
In 2016 Vatinet decided to make a bread that would pay homage to Southern food history. In the colonial era, getting one's hands on fancy hard flour (high-gluten flour) was about as easy as George Washington getting good phone reception at Valley Forge. So bakers made do, using cereals and grains that were available.
Anson Mills is a South Carolina producer and mill of rescued heirloom rice, corn, and wheat. Its founder, Glenn Roberts, began the business with a commitment to revive the ubiquitous starch in antebellum cuisine: Carolina Gold Rice.
The mad scientists at La Farm make a porridge from Carolina Gold and mix it into a sourdough bread dough. They then speckle the top with rice kernels.
The result is the best bread ever: Carolina Gold Rice sourdough. The inside is moist and tender and the outside is chewy, crusty, and crackles when you slice it. It's amazing on sandwiches and makes toast that excites the spirit. Now when was the last time you had exciting toast? Have you ever had exciting toast?
Unfortunately, this paragon of bread is seasonal. But they start making it in August and always have plenty on hand at the State Fair. So, do like me and stock up, freeze it, then ration it to keep getting your toast on till August rolls around again.
The creations of master baker Vatinet and La Farm are textbook examples of the technique and history of French baking. But it's filtered through the lens of Southern culture.
To that intoxicating hybrid, I say, merci y'all.