So, I have a penchant for hot house tomatoes. Those that know me know I’m always on the lookout for the perfect slice of bread to complement them. I hold the simple but delicious tomato sandwich in high regard and only the best bread will do. With that said, I’ve been literally looking for years for that exceptional slice of bread–and we have several darn good bread bakeries in or close to St. John’s (Georgetown, Manna, Coleman’s, Tilt House, Rocket). To tell you the truth, I’ve never been overly demanding, yet each time I find a certain loaf, a bell goes off in the back of my mind wondering it will be the one to meet my imaginings–that of a perfect-tasting tomato sandwich.
For me, a perfect tomato sandwich starts with the bread. It has to have a good weight, the right smell (not yeasty), cut easily and not leave crumbs as I swipe a dollop of butter across its surface. It needs to have a rustic, crusty crust and soft but substantial inners. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had good even great tomato sandwiches with bread bought locally, but I’ve never had an exquisite one until Torbakery.
Peter Hogan is the owner and baker of Torbakery and he hung up his shingle January 29th of last year in Torbay Newfoundland; its a beautiful community located just North of St. John’s. When I first heard of Torbakery, I didn’t immediately rush out and try their wares simply because I wondered if I would drive the 16km four or five times a month to get bread. It was a bit of a hike–especially in winter. However, I was hearing and reading such wonderful reviews (there was a lot of chatter among friends on Facebook), that I had to go. As you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised it only took me sixteen minutes on that late spring morning. I left early on a Saturday. The bakery opened at 7:30am and I was there by 8:30 and the place was rocking with customers. This is always a good sign. I was sincerely hoping the bread would be worth the trip. As I got out of my car, I looked out over Torbay Bight. The ocean was calm and very blue. What a sight! I immediately knew if Torbakery decided to do a breakfast or brunch outside during the summer, I’d be right there on a Sunday morning to enjoy the scenery.
The bakery itself was clean, bright and inviting. The heavenly smell of homemade bread hit me as soon as I entered; and, the glorious sensory borage drove me right back to childhood and my grandmother’s kitchen. I had a flash of my Nanny pulling five loves of bread from the oven. It was evocative and I swear to God, my eyes welled up. I knew—just knew—the bread was going to be worth whatever price the young man behind the counter was asking. It turned out to be the owner, Peter Hogan. I asked for sourdough and he said straight up he didn’t have any because his cultures turned out a bit hinky. I loved his honesty. He continued to ask me what it was about sourdough bread that I loved. I was taken aback—I had never engaged with a salesperson on this level before. I told him I loved the tanginess and with a good European loaf you get a billowy inside and a clean chewy crust. He seemed intrigued. He told me that he uses natural sourdough yeast that collects in the air; so all his breads have tanginess. I was glad to hear this and I was really pleased with the exchange of knowledge. I left the store with a loaf of Rustic Italian, which the owner recommended for sandwiches. The loaf cost $5.50 (comparable with other loaves of bread I’ve purchased from various bakeries around town).
The weight of the bread was perfect–it’s hard to explain. Too heavy a bread and you know it’s going to be yeasty. To light a bread and you know the fermentation wasn’t right. Perfectly weighted bread is light yet substantial in your hand. (Next time you buy non-commercial types of bread–experiment). Once home, I cut off two 1” slices and proceed to butter them (no mayonnaise or other embellishments–just butter, salt and pepper). There were no crumbs at all. Not a one! My butter slide across the bread with ease. I then proceeded to place four slices of hothouse tomatoes (seeds removed). As I pressed down on the bread, it sprang back nicely giving me a beautiful sandwich. The taste was what I expected, heavenly! It had just the right amount of tanginess and the bread itself was billowy but sturdy. The crust was just chewy enough and not too thick or thin. The sandwich was just right. I kinda felt like Goldie Locks!
I had finally found the perfect loaf for my hothouse tomatoes; and, it’s really exceptional that I found a loaf of bread that delivers exactly what it advertises. Torbakery delivers on their European namesake and it’s evident Peter Hogan studied and travelled in Europe. I later learned he’d studied in the German, Danish and Italian bread making traditions. Moreover, you just have to admire a person who begins work at three in the morning just to deliver a delicious, healthy product to the masses. There’re no preservatives to be found in Peter Hogan’s bread! He’s adamant about that! And, he offers a wide variety of breads including the very popular Molasses Raisin; Rustic Italian, Country, Rustic Porridge, Rye, French, and Whole Wheat. I love the spicy Salt and Pepper loaf! Hogan also offers sweet and savoury items such as focaccia, scones, brownies and lemon squares. There’s a lovely selection and if you haven’t taken the time to take a peek, I suggest you do!
Torbakery is located at 3 St. Nicolas Lane in Torbay. It’s just past Indian Meal Line up on the right. It’s a bright blue house—you can’t miss it. You can find Torbakery on Facebook. Here are few pictures but for a full product list and more pictures you can go their Facebook page.
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