Going to Heaven in a Sandwich Basket

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Kanawha City Bridge, built 1915, demolished 1975

The archivist is in. Thank you WVSlim for a walk through sandwich history.

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From the Kitchen: From Ray’s Deli, an Almost Heaven Sandwich to Savor,  March 30, 2016
Judy Grigoraci
For the Gazette-Mail

Carol Crow, a column follower, had a mystery to solve. As she noted in a recent email, “I was wondering if any readers recall the ‘Almost Heaven’ sandwich that was served at Ray’s Deli in Kanawha City years ago and would remember the ingredients?”

The Almost Heaven Sandwich

As recounted by Gloria Max in 2007:

“Start with 2 large slices of Grecian bread; layer bottom piece with one slice of Swiss cheese, sweet yellow pepper slices, sliced turkey breast, salami, two slices of tomato, and fresh onion slices. Sprinkle with pepper and top it with the other slice of Grecian bread.

Brush the top of the bread with melted butter; put it on a hot grill butter side down; butter top bread; flip when bottom bread is browned and brown second side, turning once. When the bread is browned and cheese is melted, eat and enjoy.”

From the Charleston Daily Mail, August 8, 1975
On a good day Ray’s Deli turns out 250 to 300 sandwiches — a major portion of them whipped together with computer – like competence by Ray Max. a slender, curly haired man with an air of intense dedication. Read on here.

Next gumshoe quandary: What is Grecian bread?

Found in blogland:

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First, the memory: I grew up in Charleston, West Virginia, which, in the 1960’s, probably wasn’t the most cosmopolitan town. But my Mom was smart enough to know a great loaf of bread when she found one, and there used to be a nice restaurant  in town called The Sterling, that sold their delicious Grecian bread “to go”. Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 5.16.13 AMRead on and find recipe here, or find recipe below.

This bread looks look like very respectable sandwich bread.

Susan puts a cornstarch wash and sprinkling of sesame seeds on the loaf before baking, an idea that is new to me and clever. I hope to use that technique soon.

Susan Williams’ Grecian Bread

3 c. lukewarm water
1 1/2 T. granulated yeast
1 1/2 t. salt
2 c. durum whole wheat flour
4 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 T. sesame seeds

1 T. cornmeal

1/2 t. cornstarch


Mix the yeast and salt with the lukewarm water in a large (5qt) container.

Mix in the flours using a large spoon. (I use a large wooden spoon. By the end of adding all the flour, I wet my hands to mix in the last bits of the flour into the dough. The dough is a fairly wet, sticky dough. You can certainly use a mixer if you’d like to, but I don’t find that I need one.)

Cover (not airtight…this needs to off gas a bit). Allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top) approximately 2 hours.

The dough can be used at this point, or you can store it in your fridge for up to 14 days.

When You’re Ready to Bake:

Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off about half of it. (About 2 lbs.) Dust it with more flour and quickly shape it first into a ball, and then into an oval (ish) shape. Allow to rest for 40 minutes on a sheet of parchment paper that you have sprinkled with cornmeal. (If you HAVE a pizza peel, then use that to let it rest on, and to help you transfer it into the oven. I don’t have a pizza peel, so I use parchment paper as my sling for transferring the bread dough loaf to the oven onto my baking stone. It can stay on the parchment paper for the baking: no problem. No need to transfer it off directly onto the stone.)

Twenty Minutes Before Baking:

Preheat the oven to 450º, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack, and the bottom of a broiler pan on the shelf just below that.

Time to use that mysterious cornstarch that’s in the ingredient list.
You’re going to make a Cornstarch Wash to make the bread shiny, and help the sesame seeds to stick to the outside of the bread.
Cornstarch Wash:
Blend the 1/2 t. of cornstarch with a bit of water to form a paste. Add 1/2 c. of water, and whisk with a fork. Microwave for 60 seconds, till mixture appears glassy. You can store the unused portion in the fridge, covered with plastic, for the next loaf.

Just before baking, paint the surface of the loaf with the cornstarch wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and slash the surface of the bread (I usually make 3 diagonal slash marks) about 1/2″ deep, using a serrated knife.

Gently place the loaf and the parchment paper onto the hot baking stone, using the parchment paper as a sling to carry the loaf to the baking stone. Pour 1 c. of hot tap water onto the broiler tray below it, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for around 30 minutes, until deeply browned and firm. Adjust baking time to the size of your loaf, and your own oven’s performance.

Allow to cool before slicing and eating.

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The Sterling
Those were the days.


2 responses to “Going to Heaven in a Sandwich Basket

  1. Harold edwards

    Thanks for helping to preserve some of our history.
    Reader please visit our state and find our hidden treasures.
    Be sure to add your comments here.

  2. Harold, did your dad work on this bridge? What part did he play?

    Also, I understand that there was a guy who sported an ORANGE afro who worked at Ray’s Deli. That dude says he is a friend of yours. True or nah??

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