Which Bread Should I Choose?
There are plenty of bread options in front of you in the bakery department. Whole creams, sliced loaves, long rods, panini rolls, brioche bread, how can you choose what? My recommendation is to reflect on the remaining ingredients of your sandwich about your bread and consider:
- Will the sandwich fillings hold up well on sliced bread (e.g., not overly wet), or do they need a more substantial base, like a baguette?
- Are we looking for the bread to contribute flavor to the sandwich — such as with an olive or rosemary bread — or should it play more of a neutral supporting role?
- Are there specific breads that match the cultural heritage of the sandwich, such as a telera roll for a Mexican torta or ciabatta for a sandwich with lots of Italian meats?
It’s not really “right” or “false”—it’s all about personal choice—but it’s helpful to know what you’re looking for your sandwich to “do.”
My Favorite Breads to Slice
for grilled cheese and other panini with minimal wet ingredients:
- Sourdough (my San Francisco Bay Area roots are showing)
- Brioche (yes, it’s soft, but I slice it thick and use very light pressure)
- Challah (sliced thick, just like with brioche)
My Favorite Rolls
for panini with wet ingredients:
- Baguette (I slice off the dome to create a flat grilling surface)
- Other Italian “panini rolls” (often softer ciabatta-style bread)
Denser is Better
In my recettes you will notice that I frequently call for a “sliced bread” from a thick bakery loaf. In general, the best way to grill panini is to dense. Dense bread, like the freeform loaves found in the bakery department, is better in shape than soft, pre-sliced sandwich bread between the two gourds of a panini press. I grilled two sandwiches with the same fillings but with different breads in the photo above. On a country levain, which I have sliced for about 1/2 inch thick, is the sandwich on the left. As you can see, most of the bread kept its thickness and was not soggy. To the right, on regular pre-sliced sandwich bread, is the same grilled sandwich. The soft, airy bread — normally very popular for cold sandwiches — flattened into almost a cracker. For softer breads simply is too large the weight of the panini pressing plates. The way to go is dense.
Saved By the Grill
The First Premium Control Kitchen Knife
Sometimes a bit more costly than everyday sandwich bread can be rustic craftsman loaves. If you would like to enjoy quality bread from the craft, but don’t pay craft prices, take the daytime basket in mind. Old bread is normally sold for a day at a discount and usually tastes as good as cooled once toasted.
Another great option is to keep parsnips, which tend to be cheaper, in hand in the fridge (I often see them at Trader Joe’s). When you’re ready to make panini, just bake the bread and — that is — you have a freshly cooked loaf (and your kitchen smells pretty terrific).
What Is Panini?
Paninis are the perfect hot lunch. These compact meals made from grilled bread have become a favorite of trendy establishments the world over. But are they technically sandwiches? This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart as sandwiches are my absolute favorite food.
Paninis are the perfect hot lunch. These compact meals made from grilled bread have become a favorite of trendy establishments the world over.
Paninis are indeed sandwiches. A sandwich is food placed on or between slices of bread. It draws its name from John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, who is credited as its inventor.
A panini is a sandwich made from bread that is not sliced bread and grilled on both sides, usually using some kind of press. This is why a grilled cheese sandwich is not a panini. A perfect panini is nice and crispy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside.
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