Using the bread from Loafer 'til there's none left over
By Jack and Dawn Norman
Fitzroy North is something of a foodie paradise. Some have even claimed that it is second only to San Sebastian in Spain for the range of delectable dining on offer. Over the next few issues, we hope to highlight some of the best of the F.N food scene. Not only will we share some old favourites, but hope to discover some new spots of foodie heaven right around our local corners.
We’ve decided to start off with the proverbial stuff of life – bread. We’re a bit embarrassed that it took a friend from Clifton Hill (that other side of our zip code) to tell us about Loafer Bread. Located at the beating heart of SoHo (the corner of Scotchmer Street and St. George’s Road), you can recognise Loafer most mornings by the line that stretches down the block.
During the wait, let your mouth water at the goodies on offer through the window: fruit danishes, savoury danishes, quiches, sandwiches. (If you want coffee, bring your own cup, or you will be out of luck.) But the reason we go to Loafer almost every week is the bread, even if a danish or two find their way into our tummy on the walk home.
“As the crumb receded into the beginnings of dryness, new opportunities arose.”
We’ve been regular consumers of the delicious ‘Overnight White’ for years – a glorious sourdough with a lightness and chewiness that kept us coming back for more. For too long, its glories made us blind to all other breads.
Then one day we decided to try the miche, a light rye that comes in a jolly, large round loaf. You can look forward to feeling wholesome and satisfied all at once, as you leave with it tucked into the pram or under your (already rather full) arm. The dark, deeply scored crust hides underneath it a surprising light, springy loaf with a wonderful crumb.
Perhaps it was novelty, or mere gluttony, that made our eyes - always bigger than our stomachs when we enter Loafer - light up and our ears turn when asked “half or whole?” ($7.30 for half, $15.50 for whole). “Whole” was our response, on a sunny Monday before a week of rain. That left us with a whole lotta bread to get through.
The miche treated the two and a half of us
gently at first – a generous slice or two elevated our soup
from light lunch to hearty feast, whilst another proved itself a delicious vehicle with which to finish off
our eggplant parm. Many pieces were lost to our marmalade; nothing was wasted.
Yet we still found ourselves with about a third of a loaf on Friday. This large wedge of miche, while maintaining much of its original excellence, was not quite the bread it had been on Monday. But as the crumb receded into the beginnings of dryness, new opportunities arose. The liquid that was lost could be replaced with something oily and delicious.
We took what remained of our loaf and – essentially following Serious Eats’ classic panzanella recipe – cut it into cubes, tossed them in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and baked it until lightly golden. Meanwhile we salted just over a kilo of roughly chopped fresh tomatoes in a colander over a large bowl for about half an hour.
We took the tomato liquid and whisked in a generous teaspoon of Dijon mustard, two small shallots, one clove of garlic that we had finely diced, a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a good grind of pepper, before slowly drizzling in just over 100 millilitres of olive oil.
We then added the bread and tomatoes to the bowl and tossed them in the dressing before letting it sit for around 20 minutes, adding as much basil as grows on one of those potted basil plants you can buy from a local supermarket (we venture into Northcote’s Terra Madre for ours). We tossed it all together one more time, tasted it for seasoning, and enjoyed it with a bowl of asparagus soup on one side and a glass of red on the other.
The result? A soft and crunchy, salty and slightly sweet collection of bright summer colours. The perfect salad, if we do say so ourselves. Even our (nearly) two-year-old was asking for more!
To many North Fitzrovians, the very thought of old Loafer bread is an oxymoron. Who can resist eating the whole loaf right away? But having now transformed a stale miche into panzanella, we’re counting it amongst our favourite Loafer creations.