Parsnip Nutmeg Bread

Week Twenty-Four: Breads With Vegetables

parsnip-bread-2

Fair warning: if you don’t like parsnips, don’t make this bread.  Why on earth you would shun a parsnip, though, is beyond me.  I’ve most often compared them to “white carrots”, which is exactly what they taste like to me.  A little subtle, a little sweet, but definitely flavorful.

Parsnips seem also to have a slightly more spicy characteristic than carrots do; mostly, it reminds me of cinnamon.  This bread uses a heavy dose of nutmeg to play that side up a bit, while still keeping a decidedly savory quality.

You could just as easily throw some clove or cinnamon into this bread; but if you do, I suggest adding several tablespoons of honey.  Those spices would suggest a sweetness in this application, and you would miss any lack of actual sweet flavor.

This bread bakes into a close-crumbed, easily-sliced bread that I imagine would be just perfect for sandwiches.  It’s a little too, erm, je ne sais quois to serve in a basket with dinner.  Full-flavored?  Sweet?  Sandwich-y?  I’m not sure exactly why, but it just seems like a sandwich bread.  The crust is certainly not crisp, but it’s not marshmallow-soft either.  I think the parsnip flavor would go beautifully with any pork you like, from ham to prosciutto to bacon.  Now there’s an idea – I bet this bread would make one heck of a BLT!  Parsnip with nutmeg and smoky bacon, topped off with the crunch of lettuce and the glory of a fresh summer tomato?  Save me a seat!

 

Parsnip Nutmeg Bread
Makes 1 loaf

22 ounces (about 5 cups) unbleached bread flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast 
1/2 cup warm water (115º to 120º F)
1/2 cup warm milk (115º to 120º F)
10 ounces cooked, mashed parsnips (a scant 2 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons olive oil

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast and 12 ounces (about 2 2/3 cups) of the bread flour, reserving the remainder.  Combine the warm water and milk, and add to the dry ingredients in the mixer bowl.

2.  Using the dough hook, mix at low speed until the dough comes together and all the flour is moistened, scraping the bowl if necessary, about 1 to 2 minutes. Without removing the hook or the bowl from the mixer, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.

3.  After the rest period (or autolyse), add the remaining ingredients and half of the remaining flour.  Mix until well incorporated at low speed.   Continue kneading the dough at medium-low speed for 7 to 8 minutes, then add the remaining flour by spoonfuls as needed to achieve the proper consistency.  The dough should come together in a cohesive ball that should clear the sides of the bowl.

4.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead a few times, and form into a round ball with a skin stretched around the outside.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, seam side down.  Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

5.  Uncover the bowl, and using a nonstick spatula, fold the dough over itself in a tri-fold, as though you were folding a letter.  Re-cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for another 30 minutes.

6.  Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper, or lightly oil the pan.  Punch the dough down, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Form the dough into a round, with a skin stretching around the outside.  Place on the prepared baking sheet, dust liberally with flour, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rest until nearly doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400º F thirty minutes before baking.

7.  Using a sharp serrated knife, quickly slash the bread a few times with decisive cuts, being careful not to press and deflate it.  If the bread does deflate, cover again and let rise an additional 20 minutes.  Spray or sprinkle the loaf with water, and transfer to the oven.  Bake at 400° F for 10 minutes, opening the door to spray again with water every minute or two.  Continue baking for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and baked through, and an instant-read thermometer registers 200° F when inserted into the center.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

 

Notes:
1.  To cook parsnips, peel and chop into large dice.  You can either roast them, tossed with a little oil to prevent sticking, for about 15 to 20 minutes, or alternatively boil them for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Either way, cook them until they are very soft, and can be mashed easily.

2.  Please grate your own nutmeg.  Pre-ground nutmeg tastes of nothing.

Posted in Savory, Yeast Breads | Leave a comment

Spiced Sweet Potato Cornbread

Week Twenty-Four: Breads With Vegetables

sweet-potato-cornbread

Originally, I was going to make a pumpkin bread today.  But I didn’t for two reasons: 1) there remains a gentle controversy in my household as to whether or not a pumpkin is a vegetable or fruit (I argue that despite the presence of interior seeds, it is culinarily regarded as a vegetable, a term that actually has no specific botanical meaning; but there are those whose opinions differ), and 2) they don’t sell pumpkin, either fresh or canned (it’s just as good!) at my corner store.

Mostly, it was  reason number two.  But they do sell sweet potatoes at the corner store; and recalling that the best “pumpkin” pie I ever made used sweet potatoes instead, I figured I could just swap it out.  Then, thinking about sweet potatoes (which I dearly love), I remembered their great affinity for spices, and decided to take a different route than the yeast bread I had originally planned.

There are plenty of ways out there to make your cornbread more interesting, from adding jalapenos, to cheese, and everything in between; but I think my favorite addition is to throw in a mashed sweet potato.  The sweetness of the potato and the cornmeal are delightful complements, and the potato adds moisture and a pretty blush of color.  Also, both corn and sweet potato take very well to similar flavorings: butter, fresh herbs, sour cream, spice, etc.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been a fan of those sickly-sweet, marshmallow-topped, brown sugar and sweet potato confections that masquerade as a side dish at holiday dinners.  No, give me a plain baked sweet potato, with salt and a little butter, and I’m happy as a clam.  Sweet potatoes are sweet enough (hence the name) that to add any sugar is saccharine overkill, in my book.  I love to play up the more savory side of these vegetables, and my favorite way to do so is with Indian-inspired spice.

Yes, I’m still on that Indian cuisine kick.  No, I will not stop adding turmeric and Garam Masala to everything.  It’s delicious, and especially so with sweet potatoes.  It brings out the complex spice of the sweet potato, and really enhances its savory nature.  Here, it gives the standard mild flavor of cornbread an unusual twist.  I’ve also thrown in a bit of cayenne pepper here, for a little extra punch.

What you end up with is a yellow-orange, moist, and rather surprisingly subtly-flavored bread, one that adds a welcome variation to the standard cornbread.  The spice hits you as a finishing note, rather than ambushing your palate up front.  It builds, and warms you the more you eat it.  I think the combination of flavors is really fabulous; and even if you’re not such a fan of curry powder, I suggest you try it before you knock it.  The flavor is more about the sweet potato and corn, rather than the spice.  You could certainly make this bread as muffins; but I’m partial to cooking it all in one loaf, as I think it makes for a more tender end product.  But however you choose to make it, I bet you’ll be happy you did!

 

Spiced Sweet Potato Cornbread
Makes 1 round

1 medium sweet potato, cooked and peeled (about 7 ounces, see note 1 below)
3/4 cups buttermilk (approximately)
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons honey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1 cup (4.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground Garam Masala or curry powder (see note 2 below)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1.  Place a 9 to 10 inch cast iron skillet or metal cake pan (square or round) on an oven rack positioned in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the pan and oven to 425º F.

2.  In a 2-cup liquid measure, mash the sweet potato.  You should end up with about 3/4 cup.  Add enough buttermilk to measure 1 1/2 cups.  Add the milk and honey, and stir carefully to combine.  Add the eggs.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, Garam Masala or curry, and cayenne pepper.  Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix quickly with a spatula or wooden spoon until mostly combined, using as few strokes as possible.  Add the melted butter and stir until just incorporated.

4.  Carefully remove the heated pan from the oven, and pour the batter into it.  Bake at 425º F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and baked through.  If the bread starts to over-brown, tent loosely with aluminum foil and continue baking.

 

Notes:
1.  I prefer the flavor (and ease) of a baked sweet potato, but however you like to cook it is fine.  To bake, clean and poke several times with a fork or sharp knife to release steam.  Bake on a sheet pan at 400º F for 1 hour, or until a knife easily pierces the side.  Let cool, then slide the skin off, and mash.  You can alternatively peel and cut the sweet potato into chunks, and toss with oil before baking at 400º F, to shorten the cooking time to about 25 minutes.  The same peeled chunks can be boiled until soft, for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Or, for the least flavor, you can microwave the cleaned and fork-poked potato until soft (but I don’t recommend it).

2.  You can use any spice mixture you like, including but not limited to the ones stated (I particularly like those in this recipe).  If you don’t have either on hand, you can grind your own by using: 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 3 or 4 cardamom pods, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, and 3 or 4 cloves.  In a small pan over medium heat, toast the above ingredients for about 3 minutes, or until fragrant, shaking the pan often.  Do not let get over-brown.  Cool slightly, and grind with a coffee grinder, or in a mortar and pestle.  In the same pan over medium heat, toast 2 teaspoons ground turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon paprika for about 2 minutes or until a bit darker in color and very fragrant, shaking the pan often.  Combine with the other ground spices, and use as directed.  You can use all pre-ground spices, but the flavors are far better if you grind them yourself.

Posted in Quick Breads, Savory | 1 Comment

Spinach-Filled Basil Baguette

Week Twenty-Four: Breads With Vegetables

spinach-basil

When searching for a recipe that involved spinach in bread, I found recipes that fell squarely into two camps: one that involved marbling spinach into a plain (often purchased pre-made and frozen) dough, and another that ended up making a strange, green-tinted bread with spinach mixed into the dough.  Both camps used cheese to varying degrees, usually Parmesan.  There might be garlic, if the chef-author had gotten a wild hare.

Both of these ideas were about as exciting as spinach-artichoke dip: probably perfect for a hangover, but otherwise bland and ubiquitously boring.  I didn’t want either of those.  I wanted a bread that was beautiful to look at, had a relatively mild but slightly-flavored dough, was light and crusty like a proper artisanal loaf should be, and that would make your (sober) tastebuds stand up and salute.

I found my inspiration in Chef Bo Friberg’s utterly amazing tome, The Professional Pastry Chef.  Chef Friberg’s recipes have never let me down, from the finest pastries, to the heartiest breads; and his Basil Baguettes With Spinach Filling promised to be no exception: a spinach filling redolent with herbs and cheese (and not a mote of Parmesan in sight!), wrapped in a dough with a hint of basil and semolina flour.  But something was just not right for me; the filling seemed to be too heavy on cheese, and too light on spinach.  I didn’t want a calzone or stromboli, I wanted a Bread With Spinach.

Not to mention, this filling called for cream cheese originally, and I’m not really such a fan.  Cream cheese is one of the few foods I don’t have much call for in my kitchen (cheesecake aside); I can always find ways of substituting thick yogurt, ricotta, or any other more interestingly-flavored dairy products.  In this case, I substituted a bit of mascarpone, that delicate, buttery, soft cheese that I can always find a use for.  (Try it on lentils; when it’s not there, my tongue can taste The Absence as though it were actually a flavor.  It’s nothing short of addicting.)

To help play up the rich sweetness of the mascarpone, and to limit the stromboli-factor, I reduced the proportion of mozzarella in the filling, and increased the amount of spinach.  There is a considerable amount of fresh basil in the filling, but it scents the bread more than it flavors it, and mainly enhances the spinach flavor (somehow).  I didn’t include any garlic, not because I dislike it (I just love garlic), but because I didn’t want it to overpower any subtle flavors.  I didn’t miss it one bit in the finished bread, but feel free to include it if you like (see note 4 below).

One secret weapon here is the use of freshly ground nutmeg.  In any spinach dish, or cheese and onion combination, a pinch of nutmeg is that one little background note that will have people wondering why your food always tastes better than theirs.  I highly suggest grating your own nutmeg, as the flavor disappears extremely quickly.  Pre-ground nutmeg tastes flat and dusty to me, even when just purchased – who knows how long it’s been sitting on the shelf?  (Do yourself and your kitchen a favor, and splurge on that $15 Microplane.  You’ll use it far more often than you realize.)

In the end, you’ll wind up with one seriously good bread.  It’s just a little bit more work than the average bread, but it’s really nothing difficult, no more than you’d do for dinner (assuming you ever chop your own herbs and onions); but the reward is absolutely worth it.  The green freshness of spinach and basil sing, and just taste like late Spring, bright and herbaceous.  There is a bit of richness from the cheese, soaking into the dough a little; but it’s by no means greasy or over-saturated.  The crumb is soft and light, but the bread cuts easily into pretty spiralled slices.

You can eat this bread as-is, with no oil or butter needed for enhancement; but I love the idea of using this as the traditional top for French onion soup, even sans fromage, to show off the spiral pattern.  I can almost taste that rich, caramelized onion-y broth soaking into that basil-scented, spinach filled crouton.  I know it’s traditionally a cold-weather dish, but I might just crank up the air conditioner, wrap myself in blankets, and tuck in.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have already!

 

Spinach-Filled Basil Baguette
Adapted from Bo Friberg
Makes 1 large baguette

For starter:
1 1/2 ounces (about 1/4 cup) semolina flour
1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup warm water (105º to 115º F)
1/4 teaspoon honey

For filling:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 ounces (1/2 medium) yellow onion, chopped into a small dice
10 ounces (1 package) frozen chopped spinach (preferably thawed)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
6 tablespoons (loosely packed) fresh basil, chopped finely
3 ounces (about 1/3 cup) mascarpone
4 ounces grated mozzarella

For dough:
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
7 ounces (about 1 2/3 cups) unbleached bread flour
2 tablespoons (loosely packed) fresh basil, finely chopped

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flours, yeast, and thyme.  Stir the water and honey together until the honey dissolves.  Add to the flour mixture, and whisk until combined.  Cover and let rest in a warm place for at least 45 minutes, but no more than 2 hours, while you make the filling.

2.  To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent.  Do not brown.  Add the spinach.  If still frozen, cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook covered for 5 minutes, then stir and make sure spinach is thawed.  If not thawed at this point, cover again for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until thawed.  Uncover, and add the salt.  Increase heat to medium-high, and cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until all liquid has evaporated and the mixture looks dry.  Do not let the mixture brown.  When dry, transfer the mixture to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.  When cool, add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.  Set aside until ready to use.

3.  To make the final dough, add the salt to the starter in the mixer bowl.  Whisk together until the salt is dissolved.  Add all but a handful (about 1 ounce) of the bread flour, and mix with the dough hook at low speed until a rough dough forms.  The dough may look dry at first.  Scrape the bowl, then increase the speed to medium-low and knead for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and forms a cohesive ball.  If the dough does not clear the sides of the bowl, add the reserved flour by spoonfuls until the proper consistency is achieved.  The dough should not be stiff.

4.  Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, and flatten slightly.  Top with the chopped basil, fold the dough over to contain the basil, and knead until evenly incorporated, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Form the dough into a round ball with a skin stretching over the outside, and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, smooth side up.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

5.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Using a rolling pin to roll and using your hands to lift and stretch when necessary, shape the dough into a rectangle measuring 16 x 8 inches.  If the dough begins to resist, cover and let rest for 5 minutes before trying again.

6.  Spread the filling over the dough gently and evenly, using your fingers, and leaving about a 1/2 inch border on all sides.  Fold the dough edge on the short sides over the filling, stretching the dough and pressing down into the filling, so that the edge of the rectangle has an even thickness.  Starting with a long edge of the rectangle, roll the dough up jelly-roll-style, into a tight spiral, keeping the short edges lined up evenly.  When you get to the end, pinch the seam firmly to seal it well, to prevent the filling from leaking out during baking.

7.  Dust the work surface lightly with flour, and roll the baguette under your palms to make sure the thickness is even, and to elongate slightly.  Transfer the baguette to the prepared baking sheet, laying it diagonally if necessary.  Stretch the dough if needed to keep the length at least 16 to 18 inches long.  Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, or a damp towel, and let rise until 1 1/2 times bigger in volume.  Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375º F, and place another baking sheet or oven-safe pan in the bottom of the oven.  If you have a baking stone, heat it with the oven.  If not, your baking sheet is fine.

8.  Using a sharp serrated knife or clean razor blade, make three decisive slashes in the top of the loaf at a 45º angle, evenly spaced.  Transfer the bread to the oven (or baking stone, if using).  Immediately throw 4 or 5 ice cubes into the hot pan on the oven floor.  Bake for 15 minutes, adding additional ice cubes as they melt.

9.  After 15 minutes, remove the ice-cube-pan from the oven, and bake the baguette for an additional 15 to 25 minutes, or until deeply golden brown.  Be sure not to under-bake the bread, as the filling needs to be fully heated through.  Remove the bread to a wire rack to cool for a minimum of 1 hour before slicing, to allow the steam from the filling to dissipate.  If sliced too early, the filling will not have set, and the bread will end up gummy and the attractive spiral pattern ruined.

 

Notes:
1.  When making the filling, in step 2, be sure the mixture has cooled enough so that the cheese will not melt when added.  You can make this a day or two ahead, and keep chilled until ready to use.

2.  If you prefer, you can use another dairy product in place of the mascarpone: sour cream, yogurt (Greek style, or strained regular), cream cheese (at room temperature), or even crème fraîche.

3.  Do not try to mix the basil into the dough by using the mixer; it is too rough, and will turn the dough green and sticky.

4.  If you’d like to include a garlic flavor with the filling, you can either use 1 or 2 minced cloves, sautéed along with the onions in step 2; or you can add 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder with the cheese and other seasonings.

Posted in Savory, Yeast Breads | Leave a comment

Curried Cauliflower Flatbread

Week Twenty-Four: Breads With Vegetables

cauliflower

First, I would like to say that it is very important to use a nonstick pan for this recipe.  If you have a cast iron pan, now’s the time to use it.  If you don’t have a cast iron pan, use whatever oven-safe nonstick pan you have.  If you don’t have one of those, maybe you should wait to make this recipe.

There are some questions in this life we are destined to ponder forevermore, questions like, “Why are we here?”, and, “Is there a God?”.  Here are some more to add to that pile, after I made this recipe: Why didn’t I use my cast iron pan?  Why, in lieu of my cast iron pan, didn’t I use my nonstick pan?  Why did I senselessly use my notoriously-sticks-to-everything pan?  Some questions in life are unanswerable.  How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

But appearance notwithstanding, the end result was actually rather delicious.  Curry and cauliflower is one of my favorite food combinations, especially when the cauliflower is roasted.  It becomes nutty and caramelized, its mild flavor intensified and sweetened.  The boldness and sweetness of curry powder is an ideal foil, enhancing the cauliflower while not drowning it out.

Mix this duo into a whole-grain flatbread, and I’m in heaven.  It’s vegetable and bread, all in one!  All you need is a side salad, and you’ve got a perfectly light, late Spring dinner.  I served this bread cut into wedges, topped with a bit of plain yogurt, and garnished with a little chopped parsley and cilantro.  Mint would actually be my preferred garnish, but I didn’t have any on hand.  One does what one can.

Any fresh herb, though, adds a welcome brightness to this strongly-flavored flatbread.  If you’re feeling ambitious, make an ersatz tzatziki, by mixing some chopped or grated cucumber, some lemon zest, and a pinch of salt into the yogurt.  The creamy tartness of plain yogurt, contrasting with the warm crunch of the flatbread and the rich softness of the roasted cauliflower, was nothing short of wonderful.  Protein, starch, vegetable, and spice; you don’t need much more than that!

But again, unless you want to spend a half-hour scrubbing your pan afterwards, make sure to use a cast iron or nonstick pan.  That’s valuable “passing out on the couch” time; don’t waste it standing over the sink.  You probably can’t tell from the picture above, but the lower half of that bread just wasn’t there.  It clung to that pan like nobody’s business, to be later sworn at and scraped off at great cost of human life.  There were tears and blood shed in abundance.  Men may have died.

Seriously, use a nonstick pan.

 

Curried Cauliflower Flatbread
Adapted from Mark Bittman
Makes 1 round

1 medium cauliflower (1 1/2 pounds), cut into very small florets
4 tablespoons vegetable oil of any sort
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
4 1/2 ounces (about 1 cup) white whole wheat flour (see note 1 below)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon curry powder (see note 2 below)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (regular or light)

1.  Preheat oven to 400º F.  Prepare cauliflower and place in a baking pan or shallow roasting dish.    Toss with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the oil to coat, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss again, and roast for 15 to 25 minutes, or until soft and well-browned, stirring occasionally to cook all florets evenly.

2.  Meanwhile, whisk the flour, salt, and curry powder together.  Add the milk and coconut milk, and whisk until smooth.  The batter should resemble pancake batter.  Set aside.

3.  When the cauliflower is done, let cool for around 5 minutes.  While cauliflower cools, pour the remaining oil into a nonstick, ovenproof pan or skillet, and place in the oven to heat.  While the pan heats, stir the cauliflower into the batter until just incorporated.

4.  When the pan and oil are hot, but before the oil smokes, remove from the oven.  Carefully pour the batter into the hot pan and smooth the top into an even layer with a heatproof spatula.  Return the skillet to the oven.  Bake at 400º F for about 1 hour, or until well-browned and firm when pressed lightly in the center.  The bread should release easily when done.  Let the bread cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before removing.  Cut into wedges and serve warm.

 

Notes:
1.  If you don’t have white whole wheat flour, you can substitute a mixture of 3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) regular whole wheat flour with 1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) bread or all-purpose flour.

2.  Instead of a pre-mixed curry powder, you can use the following combination to grind your own: 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 3 or 4 cardamom pods, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds.  In a small pan over medium heat, toast the above ingredients for about 3 minutes, or until fragrant, shaking the pan often.  Do not let get over-brown.  Cool slightly, and grind with a mortar and pestle, or in a coffee grinder.  In the same pan over medium heat, toast 2 teaspoons ground turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon paprika for about 2 minutes or until a bit darker in color and very fragrant, shaking the pan often.  Combine with the other ground spices, and use as directed.

3.  Did I mention that it’s important to use a nonstick pan?  Use a nonstick pan.  Cast iron is best.

Posted in Savory, Unleavened Breads | 1 Comment

Potato Bread

Week Twenty-Four: Breads With Vegetables

potato-bread

Since last week was devoted to breads made with fruits, I thought it only appropriate to focus on vegetable breads as a follow up for this week.  One of the first ideas that came to mind was to make potato bread, as it’s a widespread type of bread, commonly made in many parts of the world, from Germany to Peru and nearly everywhere in between.

In fact, recent increases in the price of wheat have incited a renewed interest in potato bread in many places, but specifically Peru, according to the New York Times.  See, the potato itself originated in that region of the globe (Peru or Chile, depending on who you believe), and is a matter of national pride.  But more important to the discussion at hand, the cheaper potato provides more food per square foot of growing space than do many grains.  In times of recession, especially in poorer nations, this is obviously quite crucial.

But regardless of price per loaf, potato bread has endured through the years not because of its relative  economy, but because of the end result.  Adding some potato to wheat bread results in a moister slice, a greater complexity of flavor, and a fine texture much sought-after in white breads.  It’s also an excellent way to use up leftover cooked potatoes that might otherwise go unused, either by being too little to serve a group, or perhaps by being too gummy or unpalatable in other ways.

You can replace any amount of flour and/or water in a wheat bread with potato, understanding that potato has no gluten.  Therefore, the more potato you use, the denser and less airy the final loaf will end up.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; a common addition to the traditional full Scottish breakfast is an item called a potato scone (also known as a “tattie scone”), which is primarily a dough of mashed potato with butter and just enough flour to bind, rolled flat, and cooked on a griddle.  It’s certainly unlike what you normally think of as a “scone”, but it’s undeniably delicious.  (There is an Irish variant of this, called a “pratie oaten“, which replaces the flour with ground oats.)

One caveat in making potato bread is that you should be sure to use cooked potatoes.  This may seem obvious, especially as the potatoes in this recipe are mashed; but it seems like an easy shortcut to use raw, grated potatoes.  However, raw potatoes can harbor a naturally-occurring bacteria on the skin, known as “rope bacteria”.  These spores can certainly survive the baking process, and will break down the texture of your finished bread.  Ever seen a slice of bread that smells a bit off, and leaves little stringy strands when pulled apart?  That’s rope bacteria at work.  It doesn’t seem to cause any horrible diseases when ingested, but it will ruin your bread.  And if your baking equipment gets infested with the spores, it’s rather difficult to get rid of.  Luckily, boiling will kill it, which is why you should always use cooked fresh potatoes (dehydrated potato flakes are just fine).  I’m not trying to scare anyone here, I’m just giving you the facts.

But back to the bread: this recipe will produce a pretty, artisan-style bread with a moderately open crumb, and soft interior.  The crust is crisp, so don’t expect one of those pillowy, yellow-tinted loaves you find in the grocery store.  It is fine-textured enough to make sandwiches with (no gaping holes for things to fall out), but firm-crusted enough to make some great bruschetta.  The flavor is mild enough to blend well with any number of other foods, but is just outside of the ordinary wheat-bread flavor spectrum enough to be interesting.

If you like, you could certainly mix some cheese or herbs into the dough, if you want to play up the potato factor.  Chives or dill would be good matches, as would a slightly less expected addition of rosemary, thyme, or oregano.  Personally, though, I think this bread is good enough on its own – no need to spice things up.  Besides, this recipe makes enough that you’ll be able pair it with several different meals.  Keeping it plain expands its repertoire, and it’s good enough that you’ll want to serve it again and again!

 

Potato Bread
Adapted from Bo Friberg
Makes 2 loaves 

For sponge:
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
4 ounces unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115º F)
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

For dough:
5 ounces (about 1 cup) cooked mashed potato (see note 1 below)
4 ounces (about 1 scant cup) white whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting loaves
14 ounces (about 3 heaped cups) bread flour, divided
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 heaped teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup warm milk (105º to 115º F)
1/2 cup warm water used to cook potato (105º to 115º F; see note 2 below) 
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 ounce) honey

1.  To make the sponge, whisk the yeast and flour together in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the warm water and corn syrup, and whisk until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 1 to 2 hours, or until fully risen and beginning to fall.  You can refrigerate this overnight, then let come to room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.

2.  While the sponge rises, cook the potato (if you haven’t already; see note 1 below).  Mash, and let cool to room temperature.

3.  To make the dough, add the mashed potato to the sponge in the mixer bowl.  Whisk together the white whole wheat flour, 12 ounces (about 2 2/3 cups) bread flour, the yeast, and the salt; add to the mixer bowl.  Stir together the milk, potato water, and honey until the honey dissolves; add to the mixer bowl.

4.  Using the dough hook, mix at low speed until the dough comes together, scraping the bowl as needed.  The dough may look dry at this point.  Increase the speed to medium, and knead for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and cohesive.  The dough should look wetter at this point; reduce the speed to low, and adjust as needed with the reserved 2 ounces bread flour.  Add the flour a tablespoon at a time, until the dough begins to clear the sides of the mixer bowl, but is still slightly sticky.

5.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few times, forming a round with a skin stretched around the outside.  Transfer to a lightly-oiled bowl, smooth side up, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 30 minutes.

6.  Uncover the dough and, using a nonstick spatula, fold the dough over itself in a tri-fold, as though you were folding a letter.  Cover again, and let rise an additional 30 minutes.

7.  Grease a large baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough equally in half, and shape into long ovals with tapered ends.  Transfer the loaves to the prepared baking sheet.  Spray or sprinkle with water, and coat heavily with additional white whole wheat flour.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400º F.

8.  Using a sharp serrated knife or blade, quickly slash each loaf three times at a 45º angle, just deep enough to cut through the skin.  Bake the loaves at 400º F for 10 minutes, opening the door to quickly spray or spritz the inside of the oven and the bread with water every 2 minutes (see note 4 below).  Bake for an additional 20 minutes without steam, until the bread is golden brown and baked through.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.

 

Notes:
1.  For the mashed potato, I used about 2 or 3 medium-sized red new potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks, and boiled for 15 minutes.  It isn’t necessary to use salt in the water.  You should be able to get a similar amount from 1 large baking potato.  (Obviously, if you happen to have any leftover mashed potato, even with butter and milk in it, that would be perfect to use here; just adjust the salt level in the dough to accommodate any added salt in the potatoes.)  After cooking the potato, strain, and reserve the cooking water.  Use 1/2 cup of it in the dough, and use the rest as a starchy vegetable stock (cook lentils in it, make soup with it, use it to thicken stews, reduce it for sauce, etc.).

2.  If you accidentally discarded the potato cooking water, you can use plain water, or some vegetable or chicken stock for extra flavor.

3.  If you can’t find white whole wheat flour, you can substitute an equal amount of regular whole wheat flour.

4.  The purpose of spraying water onto the cooking bread is to keep the crust from hardening and setting before the interior of the bread has fully expanded and set.  This results in the fluffiest possible texture, and helps the crust turn out as crisp as possible.  If you prefer, you can place a pan in the oven to preheat as well, then simply throw ice cubes into the hot pan during the first 10 minutes of baking, adding extra ice as the cubes melt.  Either method will produce a similar result.

Posted in Savory, Yeast Breads | Leave a comment

Pear Ginger Bread

Week Twenty-Three: Breads With Fruit

pear-ginger

Quick, name a flavor that goes perfectly with a pear!  If you said “ginger”, you get a gold star.  Pear and ginger are best friends, you guys.  It’s true!  If you’ve never tried the combination before, I highly recommend you try it in this incarnation.  This bread is wonderfully soft, full of ginger and pear in subtle yet flavorful balance.  The crunch from toasted walnuts adds a welcome texture, and I challenge you to find a moister quick bread.

The ginger flavor gets an added boost from two directions: both ground and crystallized ginger is used here.  The ground ginger adds a more subtle spice to the bread itself, while the crystallized ginger takes a no-holds-barred approach, throwing sweet and spicy punches of flavor throughout each slice.

The pear flavor is more subtle; but as the major source of liquid in the batter, it is by no means relegated to the background.  Much like the eponymous banana of any given Banana Bread recipe, the pear here provides a structure more than a bold taste, a backbone for other flavors to build off of.  Build the ginger does, and how!

You could make this bread into muffins instead of one loaf, but sometimes muffins have a tendency to dry out the batter a bit.  I think this might be the case here, since there isn’t as much fat or extra liquid in this bread as you can find in many quick breads. This bread cut into slices so easily that I think it is perhaps best baked in one whole loaf; as many other extremely (or overly) moist breads will more often crumble than allow a perfect slice.  Breads like those make good muffins; breads like this pear ginger bread make excellent loaves.  I found slicing this loaf very easy, but the bread still remained quite moist and tender.  Make of that what you will.

(All right, I know I said I was going to try to make yeast breads this week.  But this one just caught my eye, and I couldn’t resist!  Besides, what’s a week of fruit-based breads without at least one tea bread, am I right?)

 

Pear Ginger Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 1 loaf

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (see note 1 below)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Bosc pears, cored, puréed in a blender or food processor to make 1 heaping cup (see note 2 below)
4 1/2 ounces (about 1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 ounces (1/4 cup) crystallized ginger, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 ounces (1 cup) walnuts, toasted and chopped coarsely

1.  Preheat oven to 350º F.  Lightly oil a 9 x 5 loaf pan.  In a large mixing bowl, with a spatula, stir the softened butter together with the sugar and maple syrup until combined.  Add the egg and vanilla, and stir until incorporated.  Add the pear purée, and mix until combined.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk together.  Add this dry mixture to the wet mixture in the large bowl.  Stir together until mostly combined, add the crystallized ginger and walnuts, and fold together until evenly incorporated.  Be careful not to overmix; some streaks of flour are okay.

3.  Transfer batter to the prepared loaf pan.  Bake at 350º F for 50 to 60 minutes, or until feeling firm when pressed lightly in the middle.  Cool the bread in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove from pan, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Notes:
1.  If you don’t have time to let your butter come to room temperature (i.e., let it sit out for about 1 hour), you can cut it into bits and microwave it at 1/3 power for about 30 seconds.  At that point, it should be soft enough to stir into submission.  If it is a little melty, that isn’t a problem.  You mainly want to avoid dissolving the sugar, so just make sure the butter doesn’t get hot.

2.  Two Bosc pears should provide more than enough purée.  If you don’t have enough, though, you can make up the difference with milk or water.  If you end up with too much, I highly recommend trying the remainder thusly: 1 tablespoon pear purée + 1 ounce gin + 1/2 ounce simple syrup + 3 ounces white wine + 2 drops bitters.  Place all in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, strain with a fine sieve into a wine glass, and enjoy.  It’s like a pear-flavored, non-sparkling French 75!  It’s lovely; take it from one who knows.

3.  Crystallized ginger, also called candied ginger, can be found in the bulk bins of many natural food stores (cough, cough, Whole Foods, cough).  Or, if you can’t be bothered to leave the house, you can make your own.  I chopped mine into 1/4 inch pieces, for a fairly even dispersal while retaining the occasional punch of flavor; but you can leave them bigger if you like, or make them smaller.  It’s up to you.

Posted in Quick Breads, Sweet | 1 Comment

Chocolate Apricot Yeast Bread

Week Twenty-Three: Breads With Fruit

chocolate-bread-1

The bread for today is an unusual chocolate bread.  Most chocolate breads that I’ve made get their flavor from either cocoa powder sifted into the flour, from bits of chocolate mixed into the dough, or both.   This bread, however, gets its deep color and flavor from melted chocolate mixed into the dough.  Call me a novice, but I’ve not seen that in a yeast bread before.

(The first thought that pops into my mind is, could you do a variation of this technique?  Could you manipulate the dough and addition of chocolate, and end up with stracciatella bread?  Interesting.)

Despite the decadence this technique suggests, this bread ends up less than rich.  There is no milk, butter, oil, or egg here; just a pure chocolate depth, enhanced with notes of honey and apricot.  Though there is a fair amount of brandy in the recipe, it serves mainly to enhance and plump the apricots, and is mixed with enough water that only the most lingering hint of its essence remains in the background, just enough to bring complexity rather than booziness.

This bread might taste dry to you; but I posit that it’s just a Pavlovian-style reaction to the ingredients.  The knowledge that there is chocolate in the bread might incline you to expect more moisture, a more dessert-like sweetness.  But this bread does what it says on the tin: it’s a standard yeast bread, simply flavored with chocolate and apricots.  In fact, I’d wager it would make this fabulous dessert (or brunch) Monte Cristo sandwich just a tiny bit better!

You can use this bread as the obvious base for French toast or bread pudding; but I think using it as a sandwich bread is far more intriguing.  Before you dismiss me completely, think of certain mole sauces.  Based on unsweet chocolate, these sauces can go with any meat from chicken, to pork, to beef.  Take the apricots dotting each slice of bread into account, and I can very easily see a pulled pork sandwich here, with some deeply caramelized onions.  Or why not just a grilled goat cheese sandwich?  The bread slices easily into clean slices, and the crust (though decidedly not soft) is not too hard to be eaten as such.

But you don’t even have to get elaborate with this bread; you can just dip a piece into a good quality olive oil for a special snack.  (Chocolate and olive oil are so good together!  You have to try it before you disagree with me.)  Need an unusual and soigné hors d’oeuvre, and quickly?  Toast little squares of this bread, brushed with olive oil or butter, and top with a quality ricotta or mascarpone, and sprinkle with mint or basil.  Instantly impressive!

Whatever you might do with this bread, you’re only limited by your imagination.  The attractive shape would make it a lovely centerpiece for a special brunch, but don’t be hindered by that suggestion.  Try it with something savory at dinner, try it a little sweeter for dessert.  Feel free to switch the apricots for another dried fruit, or use a lighter chocolate instead of the bittersweet called for.  Serve it with a cheese plate and fresh fruit.  Or, like me, you can simply enjoy a toasted slice with a strong cup of coffee.  Enjoy!

chocolate-bread-2

 

Chocolate Apricot Yeast Bread
Adapted from Bo Friberg
Makes 2 loaves

1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup brandy
4 ounces dried apricots (about 3/4 cup)
2 ounces (2 scant tablespoons) honey
1 tablespoon instant yeast
12 ounces (about 2 3/4 cups) unbleached bread flour, divided, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 ounces good quality dark (bittersweet) chocolate, chopped into pieces, and melted

1.  Pour the boiling water over the apricots in a heatsafe bowl.  Add the brandy, and let stand for 30 minutes to soften.

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the yeast into half of the flour.  Using a strainer set over the mixer bowl, strain the apricot soaking liquid into the flour.  Set the apricots aside.  Add the honey to flour mixture, and whisk together until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm spot until more than doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours.

3.  While the sponge rises, chop the apricots into small quarter-inch pieces.  Set aside.

4.  When the sponge is ready, add the salt, melted chocolate, and all but a handful of the bread flour to the mixture.  Mix using the dough hook at low speed until a rough dough forms.  Scraping the bowl as needed, knead for 8 to 10 minutes at medium-low speed, or until the dough is soft and cohesive.  Add the reserved bread flour as needed to achieve the proper consistency.  Add the apricots to the mixture, and knead only long enough to incorporate them.

5.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead a few times, or until the dough forms a ball with a skin stretched around the outside.  Transfer the dough to a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

6.  Line a large baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, or otherwise grease the pan.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, and shape into oblong loaves.  Carefully transfer the loaves to the prepared baking sheet, spray or brush with water, then dust fairly heavily with additional bread flour.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise until more than doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375º F.

7.  Using a sharp serrated knife, make 3 long, parallel slashes lengthwise down each loaf.  Transfer immediately to the oven, and bake at 375º F for 35 to 40 minutes, or until baked through.  An instant-read thermometer should register 180º to 200º F when done.)

 

Notes:
1.  For the apricot soaking liquid, if you prefer, you can exchange the brandy for additional water, or even for fruit juice.  On the other hand, you can exchange some water for more brandy, if you’re into that!  I like the ratio given above, as the apricots gain a little flavor from the brandy, without being boozy.

Posted in Sweet, Yeast Breads | Leave a comment

Apple Challah

Week Twenty-Three: Breads With Fruits

apple-challah

I know, this is not a braided bread.  Therefore, some might say it’s not “real” challah.  But in the parlance of our times, challah refers to any fairly standard egg-rich, sweet bread made with water only, so I say shaping is less important.  Yes, okay, they’re usually braided.  But this dough is so full of giant chunks of apple, it would be almost impossible to braid.  (Note I said “almost”; if there’s any eager and ambitious bakers out there who want to try, I say go for it.  I want pictures.)

Challah, if you’re unfamiliar, is similar to brioche or other rich European breads, but differs from them in that it’s made with no milk or butter, which would render it non-Kosher.  (Technically, the term for a food like this is “parve”.  Neat!)  It’s served at special occasions and holidays (unlike lechem, the daily bread), and it makes the best French toast you’ll ever have.  (Is French toast kosher?  I don’t even know.  Maybe only if you don’t eat meat with it?)

Interestingly, the word “challah” refers to a specific Jewish dietary custom.  In this case, a challah is a specifically-sized piece of solid dough from any baked item (cookies, breads, cake) that is removed and burnt or otherwise destroyed, as a sort of holy offering.  It dates back to the idea of the community offering sustenance to the high priests (kohanim), who were busy with their work at the Temple, and had no income of their own.  As non-kohen are not allowed to eat the challah, today the challah is burnt, as no one can truly verify the lineage of a kohanim without a doubt; and the “taking of challah” has become a symbolic gesture.  Interesting!

But 3000 years of tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax aside, this bread is really incredible!  I don’t think I’ve seen a bread disappear quite as quickly as this one did, after I set the basket out in the kitchen at work.  The crust, crispy and dark with the sugar crust, belies the ivory interior, punched through with gaping holes filled with stained-glass bits of tender apple.  And so soft inside, it was almost difficult to cut.  This bread forces you to cut thick slices; and I assure you, no one will mind.

The flavor is full of apple, but not overwhelmingly so.  The brown sugar complements and supports the apples wonderfully, but there is no cinnamon or any other spice to overwhelm.  You certainly could add some if you like, but it really doesn’t need it – and this from a confirmed cinnamon addict.  (Seriously, I eat about 1 million cinnamon every day in my yogurt.)  The bread ends up beautifully balanced: not too sweet, not undersweet, not too apple-y, not too rich.  Just amazingly soft, and amazingly good.

This recipe originally comes from Maggie Glezer’s fabulous book, A Blessing of Bread, and these loaves truly live up to that title.  You will be thanked for bringing these generous loaves anywhere, and the recipe definitely makes too much for you to keep all to yourself.  Make this bread, and you’re practically obligated to call friends, family, anyone, and share the work of your hands with those around you.  And if that isn’t a blessing, I don’t know what is.

 

Apple Challah
Adapted from Maggie Glezer
Makes two 9 x 5 loaves

2 tablespoons instant yeast
23 1/2 ounces (about 5 cups) unbleached bread flour
1 cup warm water
3 large eggs
3 ounces (1/3 cup) vegetable oil, plus extra for oiling the pan and for topping
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
3 large or 4 medium baking apples (about 2 1/2 pounds), such as Granny Smith or Braeburn (see note 1 below)
Lemon juice, to keep apples from browning

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast and 4 ounces (about 1 cup) of the flour.  Add the warm water and whisk until smooth.  Let the mixture stand uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes, or until it begins to bubble and foam up a bit.

2.  Whisk the eggs, oil, salt, and sugar into the yeast mixture until well incorporated and the salt and sugar have dissolved.  With a spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the remaining flour all at once.  When the mixture forms a shaggy dough, scrape it out onto a work surface and knead it until it is smooth and firm, no more than 10 minutes.  As you’re kneading, if the dough is too firm to knead easily, add a tablespoon or two of water to it; if it is too wet, add a light sprinkling of flour.  The dough should feel smooth, soft, and only slightly sticky.  Place the dough in a clean bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let ferment in a warm place for 1 hour, or until just slightly risen.

3.  While the dough is rising, peel, quarter, and core the apples. Cut each quarter lengthwise in half if using medium apples, or in thirds if using large apples.  Next, cut each slice crossways in half if using medium apples, or into three pieces if using large apples.  You should end up with large squarish chunks.  Measure out 4 1/2 heaping cups (about 23 ounces), toss with a few drops of lemon juice, and transfer them to a covered container.

4.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Cut the dough into two equal pieces, keeping one piece covered while you work on the other.  Roll out the dough into a 16 inch square about 1/8 inch thick.  If the dough resists, cover and let rest for 5 minutes before trying again.

5.  Scatter 1 heaping cup of the apples over the center third of the dough.

challah-2

Fold up the bottom third of the dough to cover them, and press the dough between the apples to try to seal it around them, and squeeze out any big air pockets.

challah-3

Scatter another heaping cup over the folded-over apple-filled portion of the dough.

challah-4

Fold the top of the dough over it to create a very stuffed letter fold.

challah-5

Press down on the dough to push out any air pockets and to seal it around the apples.

6.  Starting from one short side, roll up the dough into a chunky cylinder.

challah-6

Pinch the seam shut.

challah-7

Transfer the cylinder to a bowl, smooth side up, and cover with lightly-oiled plastic wrap.

7.  Repeat the filling and rolling process with the other piece of dough, and put it in a second covered bowl or other container.  Let the dough sit at room temperature for about another hour, or until slightly risen and very soft.  Or, you may refrigerate the bread at this point, for anywhere up to 24 hours.  This will give the bread a slower fermentation, resulting in better texture and a more intensified apple flavor.

8.  Oil two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.  Using as much dusting flour as you need, pat each cylinder of dough as best as you can into a rough log shape, trying to keep the dough’s smooth skin intact over the top.  The dough will not be able to deflate much at this point because of the large pieces of apple.  Transfer the dough into the pans, smooth side up, and cover with lightly-oiled plastic wrap.  Let the dough proof in a warm place until risen over the edges of the pans, about 30 minutes, or up to 1 1/2 hours if the loaves have been refrigerated.

9.  Thirty minutes before baking, arrange an oven rack in the lower third of the oven, remove any racks above it, and preheat the oven to 350° F.

10.  When the loaves have risen fully (the dough will remain indented when gently pressed on the side with a fingertip), brush each one with a generous tablespoon of oil, taking care not to deflate the dough.  Sprinkle each with a very generous dusting of sugar to form a sugary-oily crust.

11.  Bake at 350° F for 45 to 55 minutes, until very well browned.  After the first 35 to 40 minutes of baking, turn the pans around and switch their positions so that the breads brown evenly.  When the loaves are done, remove them from the oven, unmold them, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool thoroughly before slicing.

 

Notes:
1.  You can use whatever kind of baking apple you like, but I suggest Granny Smith or Braeburn, as they won’t brown very readily, and will stay relatively whole while baking.  Other good breeds include Cortland, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, or Pink Lady.  You should avoid using Red Delicious, Fuji, McIntosh, or Gala, as they will just turn to mush in the bread.

Posted in Sweet, Yeast Breads | Leave a comment

Blueberry Oatmeal Bread

Week Twenty-Three: Breads With Fruits

blueberry-bread-2

Blueberries are one of my all-time favorite foods.  I love the little snap as you bite through the skin, I love their jammy, almost-tart sweetness, I love the way they stain your fingers and lips.  I love that I can eat a bucket of them, and still have room for dinner.  They’re one of those foods that can do anything, from livening up your yogurt at breakfast, to nestling into salad greens at lunch, to cooking down into a thick sauce for roast pork at dinner, to studding a fruit tart for dessert.  And there’s simply no beating a blueberry smoothie, am I right?

Obviously, we’re all quite familiar with blueberry muffins.  (Maybe not these, exactly, which were quite good, but still.)  But why don’t we ever see blueberries mixed into a yeast bread?  Is it really that far of a stretch to imagine a crisp-crusted loaf, dotted and stained with purple in every slice?  I had a hunch that it would work pretty well.

And I was right.  It worked so well, in fact, I may have a new favorite brunch item.  This bread turned out to be a handsome spiral of a centerpiece, wine-colored juices cheerfully running down the sides where the blueberries popped out, making the loaf look positively Dionysian.  The crust, a rich golden brown, was just hard enough to give the soft interior a little structure, but was not shatteringly crisp, an entirely appropriate state.

The inside was filled with purple caves here and there, steamed into existence by a blueberry that had lived and lost, and remained a concentrated heap of its former self at the bottom of each one.  The crumb was open and airy (even more so than the picture intimates), with a subtle texture and nuttiness from the wheat flour and ground oatmeal in the dough.  A background of spice warmed and rounded the overall flavor.

For me, it’s the best of two worlds: a rustic, artisinal bread, combined with those most beloved blueberries.  True, this bread would turn into one heck of a bread pudding, or an excellent french toast; but I imagine it’ll be hard to have leftovers of this sitting about (despite the hugeness of the loaf).  I can’t really picture a better way to spend any given Sunday morning, than to curl up with a book or movie, a couple of thick, toasted slices of this bread, some butter, and a warm cup of tea or coffee.  Actually, that sounds pretty good for a Wednesday night, too!

blueberry-bread

 

Blueberry Oatmeal Bread
Adapted from Bread by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter
Makes 1 large round

12 ounces (3 scant cups) unbleached bread flour
4 ounces (about 1 cup) white whole wheat flour, divided
1/2 cup regular or steel-cut oatmeal, blended to coarse meal in a food processor
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110º to 115º F)
1/2 cup warm milk  (110º to 115º F)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg
6 ounces fresh blueberries, washed and dried

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the bread flour, 2 ounces of the white whole wheat flour, the ground oatmeal, spices, and salt.  Add the yeast, and whisk to combine.  Combine the warm water, milk, honey, butter, and egg, mixing with a fork until combined.  Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients in the mixer bowl.

2.  Using the dough hook, mix at low speed until the dough comes together and all the flour is moistened, scraping the bowl if necessary, about 1 to 2 minutes. Without removing the hook or the bowl from the mixer, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.

3.  After the rest period (or autolyse), continue kneading the dough at medium-low speed for 7 to 8 minutes, adding the remaining white whole wheat flour by tablespoons as needed to achieve the proper consistency.  The dough will look sticky at first, but will come together in a cohesive ball that should clear the sides of the bowl.

4.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead a few times, and form into a round ball with a skin stretched around the outside.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, seam side down.  Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

5.  Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper, or lightly oil the pan.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Dust the top lightly with flour, and roll out with a rolling pin into a 10 by 14 inch oval or rectangle, lifting and stretching the dough to ensure it isn’t sticking.  If the dough resists, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 5 minutes before rolling again.

6.  Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the surface of the dough.  Starting with 1 long end, roll the dough up jelly-roll style, being careful not to crush the blueberries.  Pinch the seam shut gently, then pinch the ends to seal.

7.  Carefully lift the roll, letting it stretch out in your hands a little.  Coil the dough decoratively onto the prepared baking sheet, tucking the ends under.  Cover loosely with lightly-oiled plastic wrap, and let rest until nearly doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400º F.

8.  Using a sharp serrated knife, quickly slash the bread 5 or 6 times with decisive cuts, being careful not to deflate it.  Spray or sprinkle the loaf with water, and transfer to the oven.  Bake at 400° F for 5 minutes, opening the door to spray again with water every minute or two.  Continue baking for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and baked through, and an instant-read thermometer registers 200° F when inserted into the center.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into.

 

Notes:
1.  If you can’t find white whole wheat flour, feel free to substitute an equal mixture of regular whole wheat flour and bread flour instead.

2.  Many recipes call for tossing blueberries in flour before adding them to breads, in order to keep them evenly suspended in the batter or dough, and not sinking to the bottom.  I did not find this necessary in this case, since they are rolled up into the dough, which held them firmly in place.  But if you prefer to add a little flour, it certainly won’t hurt.

3.  It’s important to let this bread cool down thoroughly before slicing into, letting the steam given off by the blueberries dissipate into the bread.  Cut into it too soon, and the bread will end up gummy, and dry out far more easily.

4.  If you like, you can brush the bread with a little butter or oil upon removing from the oven, to give the crust a pretty sheen, and to soften it a little.

Posted in Savory, Yeast Breads | Leave a comment

Mango Honey Bread

Week Twenty-Three: Breads With Fruit

mango-bread

I wasn’t kidding yesterday, when I mentioned making a sourdough bread with mangoes.  I recently stumbled across this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website, and I just had to try it.  The original didn’t call for any sourdough starter (or honey, for that matter), but the idea of a tangy sourdough with the sticky sweetness of mango sounded so delicious, I couldn’t resist throwing some starter in.  (Plus, I’ve actually kept this starter alive since March!, so of course I need to use it here and there.)

This bread is unusual in that the bulk of the liquid is solely from puréed fruit.  This wouldn’t be strange for a quick bread, but for yeast bread, the liquid is normally from water, or maybe some milk.  There’s no water added here, just a lot of mango.  And if you’ve ever had a mango, you know that its a very fibrous, pulpy fruit.  All that pulp gets in the way of the gluten formation, so there’s a little help in the form of vital wheat gluten added in.

Vital wheat gluten is actually just regular wheat flour, with most of the carbohydrates washed out, leaving mainly the proteins that form gluten.  Adding it in helps the bread better trap the gases given off by the yeast, gives a stronger structure, and creates a better texture when the loaf is fully baked.  You can bake this bread without it, but it’s good in this case to have that extra helping hand.

And man, does it work!  I was a little worried, what with all that pulp to disrupt the gluten, but I shouldn’t have been.  The texture of this bread is wonderfully fluffy, like a proper sandwich bread.  The crust turned out a bit hard at first, but softened upon standing, and browned deeply because of the sugar from the mango and honey.  The crumb was nice and even, and cut beautifully into pretty mustard-yellow slices.  The beachy flavor of mango was set off with a slight bit of cinnamon in the dough, and was made lily-gildingly good with the honey.  Strangely, though I could taste all those flavors, the combination reminded me of nothing so much as a brioche.

I decided to bake this bread in a loaf pan not just because the dough is a little slack, but because I could imagine so many interesting sandwiches using it!  Maybe that sounds strange to you, but one of my favorite sandwich loaves is loaded with Sriracha, that über-hot sauce of Southeast Asia.  An unusual bread just makes the whole sandwich that much more interesting. 

So what could you serve on this bread?  A simple turkey or ham and cheese would be good; but if you’re adventurous, try ham with orange marmalade and sliced red onion.  Or what about grilled pineapple slices with mounds of prosciutto?  If you need an hors d’oeuvre, try giving a nod to the recent French obsession with mangoes, and top mango bread canapés with some quality store-bought pâté; or even simply top with guacamole (avocadoes and mangoes are quite good friends!).  And some people do enjoy the taste of mangoes with chocolate (to each his own), so a toasted slice with Nutella might not be out of the question, either!

 

Mango Honey Bread
Adapted From King Arthur Flour
Makes 1 loaf

4 1/2 ounces (about 1 cup) white whole wheat flour
6 ounces (about 2 1/2) cups unbleached bread flour, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons regular instant yeast
1 1/4 cups puréed mango (see note 1 below)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup sourdough starter (optional, see note 2 below)

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the all-purpose flour, 5 ounces of the bread flour, the vital wheat gluten, salt, and cinnamon.  Add the yeast, and whisk to combine.  Add the puréed mango, the butter, honey, and starter.

2.  Using the dough hook, mix at low speed until the dough comes together, scraping the bowl if necessary, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough forms a cohesive ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 7 to 8 minutes.  Add the reserved bread flour by tablespoons if needed to achieve the proper consistency.  This may seem too fast or rough, but it’s needed to develop the gluten.  The dough should be a little slack and sticky, but not too wet, and will not be perfectly smooth.

3.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead a few times, and form into a round ball with a skin stretched around the outside.  Transfer round, smooth side up, to a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover loosely with lightly-oiled plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Or, preferably, refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

4.  If refrigerated, let dough come to room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes before proceeding.  Lightly oil a 9 x 5 loaf pan.  Punch the dough down, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Shape into an oblong loaf, and place in the prepared pan.  Cover again with plastic wrap, and let rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375° F.

5.  Using a sharp serrated knife, make one quick slash down the length of the bread.  Bake the bread at 375° F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and baked through, and an instant-read thermometer registers 200° F when inserted into the center.  Remove from pan, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Notes:
1.  One large mango, peeled and puréed in a food processor or blender, will produce about the right amount of purée.  If yours produces less, you can top off the amount with some applesauce or a smashed, ripe banana.

2.  If you don’t have a sourdough starter going, you can mix together 1/4 cup each of bread flour and water, with a pinch of yeast.  Let it stand, covered, at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.  After that time, the starter can be refrigerated for up to a week.  If you don’t have time for any of that, though, you can simply omit the starter.

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