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ENTERTAINING

Lone Star Loaf

A Home Baker-Turned-Entrepreneur Taps Her Texas Roots

February 18, 2001|AMELIA SALTSMAN | Amelia Saltsman last wrote for the magazine about date rolls

Recipe adapted from "No Need to Knead," by Suzanne Dunaway, Hyperion 1999

I was standing on the corner of Arizona and Ocean avenues at the Santa Monica farmers market, quietly congratulating myself for sticking to my new low-carb regimen, when Suzanne Dunaway, owner of Buona Forchetta Handmade Breads, walked up cradling a large bag in her arms. It didn't take a strong breeze to catch the tantalizing aroma of fresh bread.

"Try one of my new pecan-raisin rolls," she offered in her enthusiastic Texas way, pulling out a fragrant bun plump with nuts and fruit. When I demurred with some weak excuse about not eating bread, she shot me a knowing look. By the time the light had changed, I was munching her latest creation and asking how soon I'd find it in markets.

Suzanne Dunaway just doesn't take no for an answer. The can-do optimist's passion has taken her from a home-kitchen operation with bowl and spoon to a gleaming new stainless-clad bakery in Culver City that turns out 2,000 to 5,000 loaves of bread daily for local supermarkets such as Gelson's, Ralphs Fresh Fare and Whole Foods. An industrial-size KitchenAid now mixes the dough, yet the rest is still done by hand.

"There's been a tremendous amount of leaping off ledges in this endeavor," says Dunaway--a former dress designer, caterer and illustrator for Gourmet magazine. But daring and entrepreneurship are part of her personal recipe. So is the satisfaction of being an independent woman. "Once I got started, I just had to continue this thing that only I had done, all me, for myself." In the foyer of her bakery, she points out a framed illustration she did years ago for Gourmet of La Brea Bakery's Nancy Silverton. Homage? Or a reminder of the competition?

Dunaway's breads are simple, thin-crusted and chewy. She and her husband, Don, who chucked his career in television production to buy into the business, take inspiration from the humble wood-oven breads from the village of Genzano near Rome. In her book "No Need to Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes," Dunaway theorizes that a wet dough yields a moist crumb, but must be folded and poured gently to trap air. This, she believes, produces the best texture, while conveniently eliminating time-consuming kneading.

Her belief in her own better and easier method has her out to convert the world. A self-proclaimed autodidact who's "never taken lessons from anyone for anything except from my mama," Dunaway dreams of her own line of bottled sauces. Naturally she has "lots of original recipes I've never seen anywhere else; I've got my own way of making pesto." Her ultimate goal: to reproduce classic flaky-crusted Parisian baguettes. For now she's busy pushing delicious Texas pecan-raisin bread (loaves are available at markets and rolls by special order through the bakery).

Dunaway advertises her basic breads as having "No sugars, fats or dairy added." A fitness buff, she clearly believes in the high-carb, low fat, bread-is-the-staff-of-life school of weight management. And to look at her, you realize she may have a point.

Texas Pecan-Raisin Filoncino

Makes 3 loaves

2 cups lukewarm water

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

41/2 cups unbleached bread flour

2 teaspoons salt

11/2 cups toasted chopped pecans

11/2 cups raisins

Vegetable spray

1 tablespoon flour

Pour water into large bowl, sprinkle in yeast and sugar, and stir until dissolved. Stir in 21/4 cups flour, salt, nuts and raisins and stir with wooden spoon until smooth. Add remaining flour and mix just until flour is incorporated. Dough will be quite loose. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm place until doubled in volume, 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Spray a three-loaf baguette pan with vegetable spray. Pour dough into grooves of pan using spatula to cut off dough as it falls from bowl, forming 3 rounded cylinders that stand 1/2-inch above rim of pan. Sift 1 tablespoon of flour over tops of loaves. Place pan in oven and reduce temperature to 400 degrees. Bake 25-30 minutes until tops are browned and loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

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