It’s always been about bread for Easy Tiger owner and baker David Norman. His preferred title at the Austin bakery and beer garden is, lovingly, “head dough-puncher.” So it makes perfect sense that his first-ever cookbook, Bread on the Table, which is out as of October 22 through Ten Speed Press, zeroes in on the carby food.
Why bread? “Because it’s a living thing,” Norman explained. “It’s different every day, and you have to respond to that. You have to listen to the bread when you’re making it.” It also doesn’t hurt that bread is his favorite food. The resulting book, which he wrote himself, is his “own personal journey in bread baking over the last 30 years.”
Bread on the Table is divided up into regional sections since “people eat differently,” especially when it comes to bread, as Norman explained. Italian and French breads were considered table staples, used for “mopping things up,” whereas in Germany and the Scandinavian region, breads were used often in open-face sandwiches with charcuterie and cheeses.
To highlight that approach, each regional section — French, Scandinavian, German, Italian, and Central Texas — features both bread instructions and suggestions and recipes for foods to accompany said breads. Yes, there are recipes for both the pretzels and beer cheese (the latter as a nod to Easy Tiger’s original parent company ELM, which it left in 2018).
The combination of French dark rye bread with raw oysters or plateau de fruits de mer with dark rye bread made sense to Norman, who highlighted that the “earthiness of rye is a contrast to the briny sea flavors.” Rye also happens to be his favorite bread.
Then there’s Tuscan bread, which is never made with salt for historic reasons (wars, taxes). Norman wondered why the bread was still made without salt today, though, and realized: “the cuisine is more robust in its flavor,” which essentially means it’s saltier anyway, so the saltless bread compliments items like prosciutto better.
The Central Texas section pays homage to the area’s Mexican, German, and barbecue influences with tortillas and white bread. There’s even an anecdote about how Norman tried to convince pitmaster Aaron Franklin to let him make his white bread to no avail.
Norman admitted that translating his beloved recipes into understandable guides to the layperson was difficult, because most of his baking is done intuitively. The book is geared towards home bakers, so he made sure to include instructions on how to mix and knead by hand and how to ferment easily, as well as easy equipment and ingredient recommendations.
In the book, Normal documents his bread journey, from his upbringing in Florida with Midwestern parents to his time in Copenhagen and Germany as an exchange student in high school and college respectively to his first bakery jobs to opening Easy Tiger in 2012.
The whole point of the book, as Norman hopes, is that it gives readers the opportunity to embark on a “variety of different bread experiences that they might not have themselves,” as well as the impetus to explore unfamiliar-to-them bread. It’s all achievable.
Norman, who currently oversees Easy Tiger’s bread production at East 6th, the Linc, Whole Foods, and its wholesale branch, teased a fourth location of the bakery somewhere in the city to be announced sometime soon.
Preview Bread on the Table with the following spreads below, from steps on how Norman approaches bread-making, the beginnings of his pain au levain recipe, Swedish-style sandwiches, to a migas recipe.
Reprinted with permission from Bread on the Table: Recipes for Making and Enjoying Europe’s Most Beloved Breads by David Norman, Copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography copyright: Johnny Autry © 2019