Fervere Bakery's pain de campagne
Last weekend, I had a number of errands to run and it occurred to me that I could plan a route that allowed a stop at Fervere Bakery and then go on to the River Market and (since it was close by) The Planter Seed and Spice Company. Think of it as a trifecta for a foodie.
Fervere is a not-so-old bakery in an old neighborhood to the south and west of downtown KC. They are known for turning out some of the best breads in the area and for a rather quirky business model. For pictures and a lengthier description of their products and process, I'll refer you to their website. There's also a short video on youtube that you can watch.
Having heard a lot about Fervere and their breads, I was eager to try some. I chose their pain de campagne, reasoning that I would be tasting the bread without any other influences (although I have to say that I sampled their orchard bread and it was wonderful!). It turned out to be a really good choice!
The loaf is round and miche-like in shape and size, like this:
I would guesstimate it to be about 4 inches high at the tallest point and 12-14 inches in diameter. As you can see, the crust colors range from golden browns to deeper, more caramelized russet tones. The bottom crust, where it was in contact with the oven sole, is darker still. The color and size of the slash indicates an early and large expansion after the dough was loaded in the oven. This is borne out by the texture of the crumb:
The cells are random in size and distribution. Although some of the alveoli are fairly large, this bread worked very well for sandwiches; protecting the diner from unexpected drips of condiments. The crust is fairly thin. By the time I got home from all of my running around that day, the crust had softened from crisp to chewy, due to being enclosed in a plastic bag. The crumb was very moist and cool; this is evidently a high-hydration dough. Oddly enough, although the crumb is relatively soft, it isn't mushy. Press gently on the loaf and it yields, then immediately rebounds. There's a firmness, a sturdiness, to this bread. And it has excellent keeping qualities, having lasted nearly a week at the present cool room temperatures with no appreciable staling. (My wife was out of town most of the week and, good as it was, a man can only eat so much bread by himself!)
Opening the bag and inhaling the aroma is almost intoxicating. Deep, toasty caramel, roasted malts, a suggestion of chocolate, a mild tanginess and other notes that I don't have the vocabulary for. These carry over into the flavor, which also boasts a forward wheatiness while the sourness virtually disappears. A bite with crust is entirely different from a bite without crust. If Wonder Bread is at one end of the chewiness spectrum and vollkornbrot is at the other, this lands just about squarely in the middle. Firm, yes, but it yields to moderate pressure. This is seriously good bread. If I weren't a home baker, this is the kind of bread that I would want to buy. Given the trek from my suburban location, I'm glad that I don't have to depend on Fervere for my daily bread but it is nice to know that it would be worth my time if I were in the vicinity. And I would recommend that you stop in if you find yourself in Kansas City someday.