artisan and the novelty.
Source: Fancy Wheat Field Bakery, 2668 San Bruno (at Bacon), 330-9982.
Taiwanese and Hong Kong-style breads have an uneasy fascination for the gluten geek: Their absolute softness is the antithesis of everything the artisanal bread movement has strived for. Even those of us who grimaced our way through the carb-free years still clench up at the prospect of eating white bread so soft, so yielding, that it must be picked up with dainty fingers and bitten into with tentative teeth. The breads also remind us how arduously we nagged our parents to buy Wonder Bread just once to make grilled Velveeta sandwiches. The ones our friends' parents made were so good: the way that airy crumb sucked up all the margarine, how the fat-saturated bread fried up into a crisp, golden square that denser homemade breads couldn't rival.
The Portola District's Fancy Wheat Field seems to have designs on the Taiwan-based Sheng Kee chain, which has a number of Bay Area branches. The bakery makes five or six dozen kinds of cake, bread, pastry, and bun in house, a surprising variety from such a tiny space. The cakes and tortes are as precise as they are colorful. The bakery's love for cellophane wrapping is profound. And the breads are as high, light, and improbable as Sheng Kee's.
Having learned my lesson about "pork sung bread" at Sheng Kee a few months ago, I skipped the pork streusel swirl and picked up a loaf of "custard toast." I expected a golden swirl of custard, but when I sliced into the loaf it turned out to be a uniformly airy, sweet sponge cake. Toasted up, the bread filled the kitchen with the smell of cooked egg yolks ― in fact, it was a little eggy for my tastes. Instead, I found myself eating chunks of the unbrowned bread, puzzling over its strange familiarity, until a third of the way through the loaf it hit me: This was a giant, unfilled Twinkie. This, you may not be surprised to hear, did not keep me from finishing it.