Oct 14, 2022 Food
When we set out to do this feature, the sheer scale of the idea was overwhelming. There is so much bread in Auckland. So, so much bread. There is bread at your local mom-and-pop bakery, the one with that huge cream doughnut you swear by; there is bread at the Baker’s Delight down the road, where the staff know you by name; there is bread at the supermarket across from your work, where you pick a sandwich up on your lunch break; there is bread in your freezer at home, pre-sliced and ready for the school run. I never crave bread so much as much depend on its existence — something’s wrong if it’s not available at all times. Nothing else can quite replace it. The world makes more sense with bread.
So how do we even begin to find The Best Bread in Auckland, when The Best Bread in Auckland is pretty much always the bread you’re eating right then and there? It is an existential question. Anything we say would be wrong, to someone, because we all eat bread differently.
So, to make things easier on ourselves, we decided to focus our efforts primarily on sourdough, that now-com- mon and beloved bougie loaf, in exactly the way you’d think a magazine like Metro would choose to.* Large, bumpy loaves, with split craters and spongy holes — the kind you can’t resist knocking with your knuckles and cradling like a baby. Much has been written about the appeal of these things, and I certainly like how aspirational they feel. A sourdough loaf, hand-shaped and in a white tote, is iconographic of a certain type of central-Auckland lifestyle. I always think, if you have one of these on your kitchen counter, you must be doing okay.
Sourdough has been broken up into several categories: white, wholemeal/wholewheat, and miscellaneous (with additions like fermented oat, kūmara, seeds). WE TASTED 62 DIFFERENT BREADS from over 14 different bakeries. I put this in capitals because I feel that the scale of the endeavour needs to be properly emphasised — our bodies did weird things afterwards. At 9pm on the first day of the tasting, my stomach started cramping, rebelling against all the gluten and fermentation. It was a punishment for my hubris.
But, it must be said, this was not a chore: we love bread and are very lucky to have the calibre of bread that we do in Auckland. To see us tasting the loaves would have been very funny, I think: the look of concentration on our faces as we squished jagged pieces between our grubby fingers, staring blankly into the void as tongue and taste buds tried to parse the varied subtleties of products that are, essentially, trying to deliver the same thing. At one point I sat there, in the dark of the office after the sun had already set, a sourdough crust crushed between my top and bottom teeth, and wondered what my life would be without bread. It probably would be really sad.
* Sourdough is not actually a style of bread, but a way of making it: leavened by a starter and long-fermented, giving you that tell-tale complexity. You can make most styles of bread as sourdough and it can come in any shape and form.
** Disclaimer: We acknowledge this is in no way covers the full scope of bakeries that sell bread in Auckland and that we might have missed your favourite. We’re sorry! Feel free to send in your disgruntled submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.