After graduating with an anthropology degree during a recession when jobs were scarce especially for liberal arts majors, Iliana Berkowitz was lucky enough to unearth her true passion in life — baking.
She took a job at a bakery, followed by a stint at a French bistro, all the while honing her bread and pastry skills.
In 2016, she started a bakery pop-up and bread club in the East Bay. Both did so well that in late-2018, she opened an actual brick-and-mortar, her As Kneaded Bakery in San Leandro.
It’s a solid loaf. It has a beguiling character owing to an unusual backbone of arborio rice. It has every quality you’ve dreamed about in the perfect bread. In short, it’s a keeper.
And I was smitten at the first chewy bite.
Naturally, the recipe comes from one of my favorite bread bakeries — Della Fattoria in Petaluma, where owner Kathleen Weber and her family turn out artisan loaves baked in a wood-fired oven on their ranch. They are breads full of flavor and integrity. Among the first restaurants they supplied was the French Laundry in Yountville, which tells you just how extraordinary the products are.
“Arborio Rice Bread” is from their new cookbook, “Della Fattoria Bread” (Artisan), complete with 63 recipes for everything from Della Fattoria’s signature Meyer Lemon-Rosemary Campagne Boule to Spicy Cheddar Crackers to Sticky Buns.
It appealed to me for its intriguing use of risotto-style rice and because it’s one of the more streamlined recipes in the book as it doesn’t require a starter.
Making bread always takes time and patience. It’s never a quick process. But this particular recipe doesn’t require much heavy-lifting. It also makes two loaves, so you’re amply rewarded after an afternoon of work.