Baking Root

We went out to eat Saturday night at Bloodroot, the famed feminist vegetarian restaurant in Bridgeport. Everything there is fresh and homey, as if you’ve been invited over to someone’s house so they can cook dinner for you. There’s even a bookshop in one corner of the place, so I could do exactly what else I do when invited to dinner at someone’s home: browse through all their bookcases.

I struck up a conversation with Bloodroot’s co-founder Selma Miriam, who sits behind an antique desk and takes the dinner orders. She recommended the bread, which she bakes herself. I said I bake all our family’s bread. She said she particularly recommended the sourdough potato rye. I said I have a spelt sourdough I developed several years ago. She said she’s used the same sourdough for over 30 years.

Miriam later stopped by our table to pass on some bread baking tips. I bought a copy of The Best of Bloodroot Volume Two, one of two thick cookbooks the place has published. Volume One is subtitled “Vegetarian Recipes.” Volume Two is “Vegan Recipes,” which at Bloodroot includes the breads. It’s not hard to make breads without butter, milk or eggs, but a lot of restaurants lean on those things to add flavor (and fat) or body, so it’s a bold choice to avoid them.

I tried baking the potato sourdough rye myself today. Technically it isn’t sourdough yet. The first time you do it, you need yeast to make it rise, but I’ve already saved back some of the dough to sour for future loaves, which I hope to make weekly like I do my spelt sourdough.

The dough is the very model of what cookbooks call “shaggy dough,” which you shellac with a cornstarch/water paste for a thick crust.

“Potato” really deserves its place in the bread’s name—fix of six mashed potatoes go in, not just potato water. Helps the rise, helps the softness, helps the taste. It’s definitely a powerful rye, but not overpowering. I’ve already had a slice of mine with cheese and another with cashew butter and marmalade

I’m quite pleased with the results, so much so that I took photos.

Blessings on Bloodroot.