Thursday, July 19, 2007

Black Bread

During my 3rd year of college and the summer afterwards, I was lucky enough to conduct my theatre and Russian studies at a somewhat-famous theatre school in Moscow, Russia.

My wonderfully crazy Polish roommate* and I lived with 30 Russian students in a tiny dorm right smack in the centre of Moscow. As with most cities, the centre was the ultimate in prime real estate- we were a 15-20 minute walk to school, which just happened to be the next street over from the Kremlin and Red Square.

The dorm was modest and cozy, and I made some of my closest friends there. We had small kitchens on each floor that got the job done, though the ovens were notoriously unreliable and cooking became an engaging, and often hilarious, group activity, since you were able to fit approximately one and a half, or two very slender, people in each kitchen at a time.

As ten-hour days of classes, held six days a week, often left us too tired to cook anything for breakfast, most of us ate черный хлеб, or black bread, with various toppings in the morning. Black bread is incredibly dark, of course, and the flavour is a hard-to-describe combination of malty sweetness** and rye tang. I think its closest relative must be European pumpernickel.

I have two favourite black bread toppings, the first being butter and Hero sweet orange marmalade, and the second being creamy Laughing Cow cheese wedges (the kind that come individually wrapped in very thin tinfoil) and a few slices of tomato.

Black bread is something that I've had a very hard time finding in the states. When I came back from Russia, I went a few years without tasting it at all. A few weeks ago, however, I found one familiar-looking loaf at my favourite grocery store, hidden amidst the baguettes, foccacias, challah, brioche and country breads. I couldn't believe it at first- would it taste the same as the bread I'd eaten Russia, or would it be just different enough to be frustratingly disappointing?

I took the plunge, apprehensive as I was, and I am thrilled to report that it's exactly the same as my beloved Russian bread. The good news is that L prefers other breads, so we can pick one up each week and I will have the entire loaf to myself! If you have a European bakery or international grocery store near you, keep an eye out for black bread. It makes fantastic toast and delicious sandwiches.

* The crazy roommate quickly became one of my dearest friends. She once came very close to marrying a charming Italian man who built her a bicycle out of an odd assortment of stolen bicycle parts. Romantically bohemian, non? In the interest of witness protection, I am not at liberty to say where he procured the bicycle parts.

** This sweetness is the result of our friend, the Maillard reaction


robert d said...

Your snaps are very sharp and colors are very vibrant. Would appreciate some info on your camera techniques?

Snapping out,


la petite gourmande said...

Thank you for the kind compliments!

I'm an amateur (to say the least), so I don't have any professional photography skills, but I have learned a few things that I can share.

I avoid flash as much as possible, which means I usually take pictures in the morning or late afternoon. My shots come out too vivid and washed if I take them around noon and/or with flash. I use the macro setting all the time. And I take lots (and lots, and lots) of shots before I end up with the one I like best.