This bread is very special, not only because it’s baked in an outdoor clay oven, but it’s made by your grandfather, or should I say “grandfathers”.

Last week, Rudy, Jim, Jerry and David tried their hands making artisan bread, under the watchful eye of instructor, Grandpa Mort Rabkin.

The results were amazing, beautifully mixed, kneaded, shaped and baked by these very talented grandfathers.

One of the first questions that was asked in the class was “What is artisan bread? “Good question”, was Mort’s eager reply. “Does anyone know what makes bread “artisan?”

The gramps thought and quickly came up with lots of replies, including the fact that each loaf is hand-crafted, not mass produced. Artisan breads are made with few and all-natural ingredients, no chemicals, and baked in “masonry” ovens.

The characteristic I love about hearth breads is that they are so beautiful, crusty and luscious looking, like the ones pictured below.

Step by step, the gramps weighed, measured, mixed and kneaded their dough until it had just the right feeling. It’s a bit of a trick to learn when the dough is smooth enough to rise, but after the first experience, it’ll only take a bit of practice to get it exactly right.

Using Mort’s handmade wooden peal, Jerry loaded the wood-burning oven with his final creation, his very own loaf of home-baked hearth bread.

Jim and David had just pulled these loaves out of the oven when I took the photos below. Gorgeous, wouldn’t you say?

Now that these gentlemen have learned to bake artisan breads, here’s an interesting way they can use it to dazzle their children and grandchildren.

Panzanella is a “show-stopper”, especially when made with grandpa’s old-fashioned rustic bread cubes. If there’s any bread left the day after baking, gather together the following ingredients and toss them together in a large salad bowl.

2 cups day-old artisan bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and lightly toasted in broiler
1 large tomato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium red onion, 1/4 inch slices separated into rings
1/2 cup green or black olives, pitted
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10-12 fresh basil leaves, torn

To make the dressing, whisk together the following 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle the dressing over the salad, toss and serve.
3 minced anchovies
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Artisan breads are available regularly at Boquete’s Tuesday Morning Market, held from 9am-12pm every Tuesday at the Event Center, just over the bridge from El Parque Central. If you’d like to taste some of these rustic breads, Mort brings a variety of his clay-oven breads on most Tuesday mornings.

Now, you can enjoy his fresh, one-of-a-kind breads and use any left overs, if you’re lucky enough to have any, to make a unique, old-world Panzanella salad, just like grandpas are making in Boquete.

Happy baking!