Which bread is best?

We can buy a lot of types of bread in Tbilisi. There are flaky, buttery croissants; long, crusty, traditional French baguettes, and traditional Georgian breads such as cheese bread and bean bread.

But on “our” street there is a very small bakery that makes tone bread, called tonis puri and also known as shotis puri. This bread is baked in a tone, which is a round, deep, in-the-ground, earthen kiln, which radiates intense heat. There are no racks inside; instead the baker slaps the dough onto the kiln’s inner walls. Since the dough hangs sideways on the oven wall as it bakes, one edge of the loaf is usually thicker than the other. The bread puffs, blisters, and browns for 6-8 minutes, depending on how close the baker places it to source of heat.

The dough is made of flour, yeast, water, and salt, but the salt is the key ingredient. Too much salt and the bread won’t taste good; too little and the dough slides down the sides of the tone and becomes “crippled bread.” The baker removes the flat bread with two long wooden sticks.  One stick has a metal hook at the end to poke through the hole in the center of the bread; the other has a metal scraper to pry it gently from the bricks. The baker then transports the bread on the end of the hook to slatted wooden shelves. For 80 tetri or 50 cents, we can eat a warm loaf, with its narrow ends and wide, soft center.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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