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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

S.F. Rising: Greenlee's Cinnamon Bread vs. Semifreddi's

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 at 1:51 PM

Semifreddi's cinnamon bread, $3.79 at Good Life in Bernal Heights. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Semifreddi's cinnamon bread, $3.79 at Good Life in Bernal Heights.

A weekly survey of bread in San Francisco ― the baked and the fried, the artisan and the novelty.

Packaged cinnamon bread isn't exactly the type of thing you'd expect to see in most natural-foods stores, but two brands seem to be on the shelves of every market SFoodie enters. Emeryville-based Semifreddi's distributes a whole line of savory and sweet breads to Bay Area markets, and its cinnamon bread often sits next to the sweet, glazed dessert breads made by 77-year-old Greenlee's Bakery, based in San Jose. SFoodie brought home a loaf of each to toast.

Greenlee's Best Cinnamon Bread, $6.49 in local Whole Foods stores. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Greenlee's Best Cinnamon Bread, $6.49 in local Whole Foods stores.

It's a bit jarring to open the plastic wrap on Greenlee's "Best Cinnamon Bread" and find a second, shrink-wrapped plastic casing. The presliced loaf is bumpy and sticky, covered in a white sugar glaze that pools in the valleys. All that protection can't keep the crumb from feeling stiff to the touch, and the loaf easily breaks along the veins of cinnamon sugar. Toasting makes a big difference, though, erasing much of that stale sensation and filling the kitchen with the smell of toasted cinnamon.

Semifreddi's loaf, twice as light and half as expensive, looks like the dough poofed out of the pan in big, irregular bubbles. And while the surface is shiny and cola-colored, the golden crumb inside is filled with swirly, bigger air bubbles. It's the kind of bread that deflates and deforms if you put it in the grocery bag wrong. It's also the kind of bread that turns brown quickly and sucks up the butter when you toast it. Less sweet and more delicate than Greenlee's Best Cinnamon Bread, the Semifreddi's cinnamon bread is the loaf I'd eat again.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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