Jason Raducha and Claudio Urciuoli of Noble Bread: "These Loaves Reconnect Me"

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Lauren Saria
Claudio Urciuoli (left) and Jason Raducha of Noble Bread.
This is part two of our interview with Jason Raducha and Claudio Urciuoli of Noble Bread, the micro-bakery that's been producing Old World-style breads of top quality since last year. Today, we're back to talk about Urciuoli's family history and how it drew him to bread making. If you missed part one, in which the men talk about baking the hard way, you can read it here.

See also: Rise of the Grains Documentary Features Metro Phoenix Food Leaders

Part of what Raducha means when he says they're doing things the hard way is that Urciuoli kneads every loaf of bread by hand -- the Noble Bread baking process involves no machinery at all. From start to finish, baking takes a full three days. Unlike some other artisan bakers, they use an all-natural levain, a bread starter sometimes called "wild yeast."

Urciuoli says it's all about making "an honest piece of bread," and Noble Bread is about as honest as it gets since it uses only three ingredients: flour, salt, and water. And because Urciuoli is a fanatic about using the highest-quality ingredients, you can bet all three ingredients are the very best he can find.

Raducha and Urciuoli get their flour from a miller in northern California who uses a traditional hydroelectric-powered mill to make its flour to order. So if they get an idea for a new loaf of bread, he'll mill the flour for them (the process takes a several weeks, of course) and send it over. And it goes both ways, since the miller also will send his own experimental flours for Raducha and Urciuoli to play around with.

The salt they use comes from a guy who's mining it out of salt beds in Utah.

"When you have only three ingredients, you have to pick the very best," Urciuoli says.

For the Italian-born chef, this type of bread making is about more than just preserving tradtion. It's about carrying on a trade that's been a part of his family for generations. Urciuoli comes from a family of millers, and his father sold flour for 35 years. He can recall his father bringing home loaves of bread from bakers who lived in the Italian mountainside, each loaf with its own color, texture, and smell.

"It's always been something I was exposed to," Urciuoli says. "These loaves reconnect me."

In a perfect world, the duo agrees that they'd like to have a brick-and-mortar bakery someday to give them space to do more types of bread, pizza, and maybe a few sandwiches. For now, rumor has it (and Raducha confirms) that there may be some sort of partnership with Rancho Pinot chef Chrysa Robertson in the works -- though Raducha assure us it's too early to tell what that might be, if it ever does happen.

"The sky's the limit," Raducha says. "Have oven, will travel."

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