If there is a spectrum for day-to-day bread, it might be something like this: On the far left, you have your mass marketed gas-station-vended white bread, absolutely devoid of flavor or texture, soft as Kleenex, and packed full of preservatives. On the far right, you have your crusty, hippie whole-grain loaves that are packed to the gills with health and nutrition to the point of being dense, overly flavored, and basically useless for sandwiches, French toast, and most other everyday applications.
Birchwood Cafe offers a lovely loaf that splits the difference and leaves you with bread that’s ideal for day-to-day use without lacking character or soul. Topped with sunflower, flax, and millet seeds (and made with salt, molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, rice bran oil, and barley, among other ingredients), Birdseed bread ($6) is the cafe’s answer to multi-grain breads. “We didn’t like the generic [term] ‘multi-grain,’” says Birchwood owner Tracy Singleton. “[Chef] Marshall [Paulsen] came up with the name — the ingredients are a mix of what you’d find in birdseed. It freezes great, and makes wonderful toast. It’s the same recipe we use for our birdseed burger buns and the same dough we make dinner rolls with at Thanksgiving that we sell at the cafe and at the Wedge Co-op.”
Despite its seedy name, this is a bread designed to please moderates in search of both substance and likability. Sure, the bread is flavorful and suffused with a malty, nutty richness. But its crumb is reasonably fine and delicate, its crust a textural player but not shoeleather tough, and the seeds that decorate the top and interior are neither overwhelmingly flavorful nor irritatingly crunchy. They’re incorporated smoothly into the bread as a whole, leaving a package that’s as full of versatility as it is of seeds.
(Birchwood Cafe, 3311 E 25th St, Minneapolis, 612.722.4474)
Learn more about this business on Heavy Table’s Atlas of Ethical Eating and Drinking.