Number 6: Josey Baker's Black Pepper-Parmesan Loaf

SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition

Josey Baker is an improbable success story, a guy — science educator by day, bartender by night — who happened upon a talent for baking bread one day when a friend gave him some sourdough starter. Baker started baking as a hobby, then started writing funny little blog posts about the baking hobby and selling loaves out of the Mission bar where he was working. The bread CSA he started up grew big enough for him to quit his day job, and his bread garnered so much love that his customers let him take a few months off to travel around Southeast Asia without killing the business.

As Baker prepares to open Mill, his new bakery on Divisadero, he's still baking out of Mission Pie a couple days a week and selling bread at Bi-Rite. Baker makes traditionally, naturally leavened breads, but he's been unafraid to experiment with flavors since the early CSA days, and one of the enduring successes of that period is his black pepper and Parmesan bread. 

Slice through the crust, your knife scattering shards everywhere, and you reveal a lattice of bubbles swirling through the crumb like a wave caught mid-crash. You can't necessarily see the chunks of Parmesan embedded in the bread, but you can smell and taste them — the cheese intensifies he subtle tang of sourdough and amps up the bread's umami. A faint smell of pepper turns into a prickling spice as you chew. It's a bread made for spreading fresh cheeses on, or drizzling olive oil on and toasting for bruschetta. It's bread worth waiting — a week, a few months — for.

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