Some Chicago board participants recently had a lively discussion of local bread on our parallel listserv, lth. Why most of it took place there in semi-private is a mystery to me. Perhaps this post will help to bring the discussion out in the open.
One of the better bread bakeries in Chicago opened over a year ago in Hyde Park but, perhaps because of its South Side location, it hasnt gotten much attention. Medici Bakery is next door to the "new" location of Medici Restaurant on 57th.
Their brochure reads: "Our products are all natural and made without the use of preservatives or stabilizers. Many of our breads are naturally leavened with a sourdough starter. They are given a long cool fermentation in order to develop optimal flavor and texture. Our other breads contain small amounts of commercial yeast and are built in stages to create layers of flavor. Medici breads and pastries are hand shaped and baked fresh every day in our Italian-made deck oven."
Sounds good but how does the bread taste? Overall, very good indeed. About twenty varieties are made but not all are available every day.
The basic baguette is a good one with a rough crisp crust, chewy crumb, and excellent flavor with just a hint of sour. They also make a seeded version covered with lots of poppy, sesame, fennel, and salt. This is a good change of pace but I almost always prefer the simpler version.
Ciabatta is another excellent loaf with a slightly blistered crust and an appealing chewiness. I know I just said simpler is better but I might prefer the olive ciabatta, studded with several types of olive chunks and rosemary.
Another favorite is the braided challah, a very dense eggy dough with a shiny crust. The golden raisin version may be even better.
The rustic levain bread is an interesting version with quite a lot of rye flour as well as whole wheat. A great thick crust and chewy uneven crumb. One of their prettiest loves also.
Bagels are not their strong suit. Not a bad baked good but not quite a classic bagel.
Conchas are their version of the sweet Mexican roll. Not overly sweetened, its a nice morning bread.
There are plenty more to choose from. Heres the schedule.
Monday: country wheat, multigrain, onion rye, rye.
Tuesday: challah, whole wheat.
Wednesday: country wheat, multigrain, onion rye, rye.
Thursday: olive ciabatta, levain, whole wheat.
Friday: challah, country wheat, olive ciabatta, onion rye, rye.
Saturday: country herb fougasse, levain, whole wheat.
Sunday: walnut, whole wheat.
Every day: baguette, seeded baguette, ciabatta, cinnamon raisin pan, bun, semolina ring, semolina sesame torpedo, white pan, white baton.
If the talked-about bread tasting occurs it will be interesting to compare Medicis breads with those from the well-publicized bakeries like Red Hen and Fox & Obel.
Id consider it worth a trip to Hyde Park just for the bread but there are other attractions in the neighborhood. For example on the same block is 57th Street Books, one of the best remaining independent bookstores, with a pretty good cooking section. Buy a loaf, buy a book, support neighborhood businesses!
Below is a link to an article on Medici Bakery, as far as I can tell one of the few times it has been mentioned in print.
1327 E 57th St
Sun-Thu 7am-1130pm, Fri-Sat 7am-midnight
Bread is often available in the evening but sometimes runs out before closing