This post is all about bread and the goodness it brings to one’s table. And what better way to bring this to life than by sharing with you my recent experience alongside Tom Gumpel, Head Baker of Panera Bread and former dean of the Culinary Institute of America.
To celebrate the recent opening of the new Panera Bread location in Downtown Toronto, a few fellow foodie journalists and I were invited to attend a bread baking event hosted by Tom Gumpel. One does not refuse such an invitation, one humbly accepts…as Mr. Gumpel is not only a genius when it comes to bread, but also has been named, in many occasions, one of the top bakers in North America.
Using some of Panera’s best recipes and menu items, our day started with an offering of decadent sandwiches, salads and of course, desserts.
Being a newbie to Panera’s menu offering, I was pleasantly surprised with its salad and sandwiches. The ingredients used go beyond just your regular Turkey Club. I decided on the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich, which is placed on a whole wheat slice of fresh bread with tomatoes, feta, hummus, peepers, cilantro and cucumbers. Quite the sandwich. With it I had the Fuji Apple Chicken salad which consisted of apple chips, apple balsamic vinegar, Gorgonzola, pecans, onions and tomatoes and, of course, slices of chicken.
The dessert offerings, though tasty looking, remained untouched as I noticed that there was going to a be a “sweeter” end to my meal shortly after. I mean, Tom was baking for us as we ate, and I needed to ensure I was going to have room for that!
Tom started off by telling us about his love for baking and in particular bread.
“Imagine the possibilities of what you can do with bread” says Tom. In this world of Atkins diets and healthy eating, bread has lost its way in a home’s counter. Tom explains to us not only what to look for in bread, how to tell if a baguette is fresh or not, but to think about how we can use bread in our daily lives, without spoiling one’s health. And as he puts it, “at the end of the day, its all about portion control”…well said Mr. Gumpel!
And so the baking begins. Asiago Strata, consisting of layers of Asiago Bread (Panera bread of course) in a savory custard, is what is being presented to us as we eat our lunch. Basically, your good old bread pudding with some added touches.
The making of the bread pudding is so simple and oh so yummy! Being always afraid of baking myself (hence the lack of dessert recipes on my blog), this recipe put me at ease with what I considered to be a rather complex task. A simple custard, some thin slices of the Asiago bread, Asiago cheese, and off you go. The result? Me staying behind at the event chatting with the Panera crew while indulging on seconds and thirds of this fantastic dish.
And if this was not enough, I went home with a goodie bag full with some of the most decadent, and freshly baked goods from Panera.
Thank you Panera and Tom for making this event a delight and delish part of my week. Your bread rocks!
Until next time Foodies!
The theme: Panera Bread Baking Event
The highlight: Head Baker Tom Gumpel
The goodies: Panera Menu items, Bread Pudding and Goodie Bag!