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Bread Winners

Chicago is in a golden age of bread making. Here is your ultimate guide to all its rising stars, including which upper-crust restaurants serve the best bread and how to make the perfect loaf at home.

 
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Photos: Colin Beckett; Illustrations: Zoë More O’Ferrall

Nine Loaves We Love

Gluten-free diets be damned: There’s never been a better time to tear into a freshly baked loaf. Need proof ? Look to the explosion of craft baking enterprises, from storefronts obsessed with meticulous sourcing to tasting menus with bread pairings for every course. These nine loaves are a great place to start.

1 Semolina Sesame

Your sandwich dreams of being swaddled in this. It’s sturdy and golden on the outside and straight-up squishy on the inside. $3.95. Medici on 57th, 1327 E. 57th St.

2 Olive

Yes, it sounds oddball, but this sourdough number with lemon zest, green olives, and oregano is pretty damn delizioso. $7. Little Goat Bakery, 820 W. Randolph St.

3 Salted Black Bread

With pops of salt and caraway, this take on pumpernickel practically begs to be paired with smoked salmon. $5. Baker & Nosh, 1303 W. Wilson Ave.

4 Breughel

The heavy loaf looks like fiber-filled health food, but its compellingly complex chew keeps things from getting too virtuous. $9.50. Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter, 100 E. Walton St.

5 Baguette

There are plenty of competitors in the baguette arena, but none strike the chewy-crisp balance like this beauty. $2.95. La Fournette, 1547 N. Wells St. and 2468 N. Clark St.

6 Turkey Red

It’s worth crossing city lines to get this nutty bread made with a heritage grain sourced from Wisconsin. $9. Hewn, 810 Dempster St., Evanston.

7 Ciabatta

This pale and pillowy little loaf packs a punch, thanks to a sprinkling of sea salt crystals. $4.95. La Farine Bakery, 2909 N. Milwaukee Ave.

8 Sourdough Boule

His long-fermented, perfectly executed boule helped put white-hot baker Greg Wade on the map. $6.25. Publican Quality Meats, 825 W. Fulton Market.

9 Yeasted Cornbread

A sweet, dense standard cornbread ballooned into something totally unique. $7. Floriole, 1220 W. Webster Ave.

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Eat Your Way Along West Devon Avenue

It’s the city’s best street for bread lovers: In a two-mile stroll, you can take a world tour of carbs.

Devon Avenue illustration

1. Taza Bakery

3100 W. Devon Ave., 773-942-7541
The pita-like triangles of samoon come with globetrotting bona fides: The bread originates from Iraq and is made here on equipment imported from Lebanon.

2. Tel-Aviv Kosher Bakery

2944 W. Devon Ave., 773-764-8877
Fans of eggy, squishy challah, this is your dream braid.

3. Argo Bakery

2812 W. Devon Ave., 773-764-6322
Steel yourself to look past the display case filled with meat pies at this Georgian shop and focus on the doughy, thick lavash.

4. Best Naan

6352 N. Oakley Ave., 224-489-7273
Don’t come in expecting a tandoor-puffed flatbread—this one-man operation instead turns out barbari, a long, thin, sesame-studded Persian loaf with a pizza-crust-like chew.

5. Sauce and Bread Kitchen

6338 N. Clark St., 773-942-6384
Farmers’ market fave Crumb Chicago calls this cute café—located a quick jaunt south on Clark Street—home year-round, which means you can get cherry-oat-pecan loaves even in inclement weather.

 

Flour Powerhouses

The top four restaurants for a great meal with even better bread

Parachute’s Bing Bread
Parachute’s Bing Bread Photo: Jeff Marini

1. Tru

676 N. St. Clair St.
Tru pulls off a feat with aplomb: an individualized carb pairing for each of the prix fixe dinner’s nine courses (for instance, a truffle croissant with salmon and lentils). $158

2. Parachute

3500 N. Elston Ave.
A side of bing bread (bearing flavors of a bacon-and-chive-loaded baked potato) manages to be both technically brilliant and delightfully lowbrow. $5 half order, $8 whole

3. Sixteen

Trump Tower, 401 N. Wabash Ave.
This prix fixe titan treats its bread service royally—presenting warm loaves with tufts of single-origin butters to slather on each slice. $190 for 10 courses

4. Bavette’s

218 W. Kinzie St.
Brendan Sodikoff’s spots shine for many reasons, including breadbasket mastery. The complimentary rustic, craggy sourdough is a sturdy foil to the steaks that follow.

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Bake It Yourself

Five tips for novice bread makers, courtesy of Bill Millholland, head baker at Baker & Nosh (1303 W. Wilson Ave.)

Bill Millholland illustration

Use fresh yeast instead of instant or active dry yeast; I find it yields a much more flavorful loaf.”

Be patient: Allow time for dough to double in volume— which could take one to three hours on the counter or a night in the refrigerator. This doubling is a good indication of ample fermentation, which yields strong flavor.”

Bake bread directly on a pizza stone or—cheaper yet—unglazed ceramic tiles from a hardware store. Stones are porous and absorb moisture, yielding a crisper crust.”

Seek out technique advice from YouTube video tutorials. I recommend anything by Ciril Hitz.”

Consider making a big batch of dough so you can enjoy a fresh loaf daily.”

 

Breads ’N’ Spreads

At her reboot of the Logan Square diner Johnny’s Grill (2545 N. Kedzie Blvd.), chef Sarah Jordan proves her love for toast by dedicating an entire section of the menu to heavily topped browned breads. Here are her three go-to combos when she’s hungry for an off-duty snack.

Brioche toppings

Brioche

Topped with Nutella, sliced bananas, hazelnuts, and salt
“You’ve gotta have a healthy ratio, like two parts Nutella to one part bread.”

 

Soda bread toppings

Soda bread

Topped with Kerrygold butter, smoked salmon,
and lemon juice

“Toast the bread lightly and use thinly sliced salmon.”

 

Wheat bread toppings

Wheat bread

Topped with avocado, cilantro, parsley, jalapeños,
and radishes

“You really need some texture in there—I love radishes or nuts for crunch.”
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It’s a Bread Subscription!

Getting five fresh loaves—including whole-wheat sourdough and rugbrød—a month means you’ll never have a toastless morning. $25 a month, pleasanthousebakery.com/bread

 

Anatomy of the Perfect Loaf

Cellar Door Provisions, 3025 W. Diversey Ave.

White all-purpose flour
White all-purpose flour
from Heartland Mill in Marienthal, Kansas

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Whole-weat flour
Whole-wheat flour
from Breslin Farms in Ottawa, Illinois

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Sea salt
Sea salt
from Jacobsen Salt Co., hand-harvested from Netarts Bay in Oregon

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Bread leaven
Bread leaven
fed exclusively with Breslin Farms flour for two years

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A loaf of bread

Chewy, complex deliciousness!

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