S.F. Rising: Pinkie's Rustic Levain

Categories: Bread
J. Kauffman
Not as rustic as its name suggests.
A weekly survey of bread in San Francisco ― the baked and the fried, the artisan and the novelty.

Rustic Levain
Source: Pinkie's Bakery, 1196 Folsom (at 8th St.), 400-5985.
Price: $4
Toast-appropriateness: 8/10

Cheryl Burr's primarily been a cake baker since the early part of this decade, but at the new location of Pinkie's Bakery, she sells a couple of breads, one a walnut bread and the other a rustic levain, which she also supplies in bulk to the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.

Evenly slashed, flour-dusted, and mottled with bubbles, the levain is hardly as rustic as the name suggests. Pinch into the bread in order to rip off a hunk ― this is no brioche, so it takes some handpower ― and it seems almost as if the bread has two crusts. The millimeter-thick, papery exterior flakes off in shards to reveal the true crust underneath with its sturdy crunch.

Pinkie's levain, which is nowhere near as sour as the breads from Tartine and Outerlands, turns out to be great for toasting. The crust crisps back up, sending out the slightest whiff of charred wheat, and the airy, springy crumb forms thousands of tiny cups to hold melted butter. It's the kind of toast you need to eat over a plate or napkin, lest you shower your table in crumbs and droplets of melted fat.

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