Panzenella and Billy Bread – Richmond, Virginia

You know something must be be really good when you drive up to a tiny little building in the middle of an urban neighborhood in Richmond and there are two women standing next to their bikes taking whiffs of the air surrounding the building.

The smell of freshly baked bread filled the city block. Could it be that THE Billy Bread is baking in that little green building???

Home of the legendary Billy Bread

Executive Chef Walter Bundy, of Lemaire at The Jefferson Hotel, told me that Billy Bread was a must have while in Richmond, so we decided to stop by on our way out of town as we were heading to Pennsylvania to see what all the fuss was about!  If this chef says it’s good, then it must be good! :)

Unfortunately, we did not have time to meet with the master himself, Billy Fallen, the creator of Billy Bread.  We are not sure if he is the urban legend or if it’s his bread, but Billy Bread has been part of the Richmond food scene since 1999.   The bread has been baked in several locations in Richmond over the years, but we visited the South Allen Street location where he bakes the famous bread today.

You would almost miss it if you couldn't smell it baking!

This beautiful, hearty bread is a naturally leavened bread that is made with hand ground grains that include spelt, rye, hard red winter wheat and wheat flour.  The crust is crunchy and oh, so good when hot out of the oven!

All of this goodness goes into Billy Bread

Peter is measuring the flours to make the bread

Billy sold the business six years ago to an investor that had grand plans for the bread.  Those plans didn’t seem to work, so Billy had the opportunity to buy back his business.

Peter knows great food. He is related to the folks at Manakintowne!

Billy Bread can be found in the bread baskets of Lemaire and other restaurants in the city of Richmond.  He is also working on some larger distribution plans.  He makes just this one bread, except he will bake Foccacia, which is a special request of Chef Bundy.

They bake this Focaccia for Chef Bundy at Lemaire

The delightful hot loaf of Billy Bread that we enjoyed On the Road to Pennsylvania would have made a great Panzenella.  However, there were no leftovers and I wasn’t cooking on that trip!

If you find yourself in Richmond, be sure to track down a loaf or two of Billy Bread.  You will be glad you did. :)

A hot loaf of Billy Bread was breakfast on our way to Pennsylvania!

If you are lucky enough to snag a loaf of Billy Bread or other great Artisinal bread, Panzenella is the perfect salad to make with that bread, especially since tomatoes are at their best right now.

I did purchase an organic loaf of Paesano Hearth Bread to make my salad.  It was good, but not as tasty as Billy Bread.  However, it was a good substitute for this salad.  Panzenella is best when made with the summer’s ripest Heirloom tomatoes.  I chose some smaller Heirloom Red Zebras (because they looked the best)  and a local cucumber for my salad.  I would suggest that you use large Heirloom tomatoes that are juicy.  The Red Zebras were almost too small and meaty.  Be sure to use a fragrant and fruity olive oil.

The flavors of this salad are delightful together.  The bread is perfectly dressed and still a bit firm.  Be sure to add additional cucumber and basil to your personal taste.

This is the perfect summertime salad!

So simple and so good this time of year!

Enjoy!

Panzenella (Bread Salad)

Yield: Serves 4

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

The success of this recipe depends on ripe, in-season tomatoes and a fruity, high-quality olive oil.

Ingredients:

6 cups rustic Italian or French bread , cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (1/2 to 1 pound)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (Use a really nice fruity olive oil)
Kosher salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces (Use Heirloom, if possible)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced thin (Or more, to taste)
1 shallot, sliced thin
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (Or more, to taste)

Directions:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss bread pieces with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt; arrange bread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Toast bread pieces until just starting to turn light golden, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Gently toss tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Transfer to colander and set over bowl; set aside to drain for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Whisk remaining 6 tablespoons oil, vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper into reserved tomato juices. Add bread pieces, toss to coat, and let stand for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Add tomatoes, cucumber, shallot, and basil to bowl with bread pieces and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of Cooks Illustrated

16 Responses to “Panzenella and Billy Bread – Richmond, Virginia”

  1. 1

    Susan in the Boonies — July 20, 2011 @ 10:32 am

    I just made panzanella for dinner on Monday night. But I let my Tuscan bread go a little too stale, this time. But don’t you hate to see great bread go to waste? I tried warming it up in the oven after dampening the outside crust, and everything, but it was still a day or two too far gone. Too chewy.

    Panzanella is one of my favorite parts of summer: great bread, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil…mmmm.

    It’s good with kalamata olives and chopped red onion and I make the dressing from balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar with minced garlic thrown into the dressing, too.

    • Gwen replied: — July 20th, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

      Hi Susan,

      I have another recipe that I use, but I decided to try this one from Cooks Illustrated since they over think most recipes and therefore, they turn out to be pretty good. This is a basic recipe and they suggest several additions.

      The bread is perfect in this recipe. Sometimes it gets mushy (in other recipes) and doesn’t absorb the flavors that you want in this salad. I would have to say the bread is almost the focus in this salad. It is incredibly flavorful. That is why I would add more veggies and basil to balance it out.

      Gwen

  2. 2

    Susan in the Boonies — July 20, 2011 @ 10:37 am

    I’ll show this to Anne, and ask her if she’s tried Billy Bread!

    Did you see my review of CanCan Brasserie in Carytown, Richmond, on the Fun Girls? Let me find you a link.

    http://www.thefungirls4.com/http:/www.thefungirls4.com/shopping-in-carytown-and-a-review-of-can-can-brasserie-in-richmond-va/827/

    Anne did a review of The Glass House winery that she and I visited in the Charlottesville area. I sent her some new pictures this morning to add to it, but I don’t know if she’s had time to add them in yet or not. We’re giving Richmond a lot of good press, between us, aren’t we? :-D

  3. 3

    Nota Supermom — July 20, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

    How have I live here this long and never even heard of this. Must go! Thanks, Gigi.

    Susan, adding pictures now to Glass House post.

  4. 4

    redkathy — July 21, 2011 @ 11:54 pm

    Oh my gosh Gwen, my grandmother used to make that exact salad!! I haven’t had one in years. My mother also prepared them. She loved it when I brought fresh cheese and salami home from Philly. It was like a feast!

    Your photos are awesome. And that bread looks fantastic, so much so I can almost smell it from here.

    Have a great weekend :)

  5. 5

    Jamie — July 25, 2011 @ 11:53 am

    The bread is perfect but that focaccia is astounding! Fabulous! And I have never made panzanella! Really! I should – it is a great summer salad!

  6. 6

    alicelynne — August 11, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

    Where can I get Billy Bread??? I live in Va Beach!

    • Gwen replied: — August 11th, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

      Hi Alice,

      You will probably have to go to the Richmond area to find Billy Bread. It is baked and distributed from their small bakery in Richmond. They are located at 1 South Allen Street. I am not sure if the listed number works, but I do know that they are cranking out some awesome bread for local restaurants. :) My advice is to google them and see if you can call ahead to buy a few loaves when you are in the Richmond area! It will be worth the trip. Good luck!

      Gwen

  7. 7

    Les Turlington — January 20, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    I am a bread lover and this is some of the best I have had….My brother in law was going to ship me some billy bread ,,,but to send Fed Ex. to Wilmington ,NC was going to be $39.95 to ship…

  8. 8

    Monet — June 26, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

    You know this is a post that speaks to my heart! I love finding treasures like this. And wow! The building looks so amazing from the outside. Thanks for sharing this bakery with me. Made me smile this afternoon.

  9. 9

    alicelynne — September 3, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

    Where can we purchase Billy Bread in Richmond. Ukrops used to carry it, but I do not see it at Martins. Can we purchase it at the Allen St location?? Thanks so much! It really is the best!!

    • Gwen replied: — September 4th, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

      Hi Alice,

      I spoke with the infamous Billy today! You can purchase his bread at the Allen Street location Monday through Saturday between the hours of 9:00 am – 12:30 pm. If for some reason, they are not there, the next closest location is at Ellwood Thompson’s Organic Market, which is approximately one mile away from Allen Street.

      We think his bread is amazing too and I hope that helps!

      Gwen

  10. 10

    andy — September 26, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

    Just delivered a new large french deck oven to this location from Houston,Texas. Can assure that Billy Breads ar in position to grow further more and meet clients expectations with a great tasting bread. Wish them continue success…d:)

  11. 11

    Sue — November 2, 2012 @ 8:20 am

    I am in heaven! I went to Tom Leonards last night and bought a loaf of this bread. I am from New York/New Jersey and have missed the good bread. Billy’s bread is the OMG great!. That is all I had for dinner last night. Wine & bread. So happy. Can not wait to tell friends any family about this bread. Thank you Billy’s Bread!

  12. 12

    Michael — November 10, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

    We found Billy Bread at the Lakeside Farmers Market, today. We had never heard of it before. As artisanal bread aficianados, it looked too good to pass up. We brought it home and half the loaf disappeared immediately before I insisted we save the remainder for dinner. I mean no disrespect to Billy, but this is one of those “simple pleasures” which reminds one that life is good.

  13. 13

    Sammy — July 11, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    Billy Bread is available at the Norfolk 5 points Farm Market!

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