BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Not-So-Southern Biscuits

Biscuits remain something of an edible enigma to me, defying definition; as elusive as the fleeting aroma released from the oven as they spring forth, from raw dough to fluffy golden cakes. Growing up far from the southern border, I can’t claim any “authenticity” in my own attempts at biscuit fabrication, but there’s no way I’d let a lack of experience stop me from treading forth into such savory waters. I may not know exactly when to serve them, what to top them with, or how to pair them with your average meal, but if I have to build my entire menu around this simple side dish, so be it. Through trial and a whole lot of error, I’ve found my perfectly nontraditional biscuit formula that’s worth all the fuss.

Crisp, with a crackling amber-brown crust on the outside, but tender and soft on the inside, these coarse little breads bear far more flavor than your average wheat flour rolls. A harmonious marriage of cornbread and scone, these particular quick breads burst with the summery essence of corn, all bundled into a tidy handheld package. Enriched with the exotic taste of coconut milk, there’s a certain depth and buttery flavor to the crumb that no stick of congealed dairy products could ever hope to impart. They may have been inspired by the typical cream biscuit construction, hailing from the northernmost reaches of the country in Maine, but the end results transcend all boundaries. Something about the bright corn flavor makes me think of summer and backyard cookouts, although they would make just as fetching accompaniments to a cozy winter stew.

There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy these unconventional biscuits- The only key is that you enjoy them as soon as you can. Hot out of the oven, still steaming when you split them in half, and with a modest pat of buttery spread melting into every nook and cranny, the experience is of pure, freshly baked bliss.

Cornbread Coconut Biscuits

1 1/3 Cups All Purpose Flour
2/3 Cup Medium-Grind Yellow Cornmeal
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Coarsely Ground Black Pepper
6 Tablespoons Vegan Margarine, Chilled
1 Cup Full-Fat Coconut Milk, Plus More to Finish

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with either a piece of parchment paper or a silpat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper until thoroughly blended. Cut the cold margarine into 1/2-inch pieces before tossing them in as well, mixing to coat with the dry goods. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the margarine in, stirring and mashing so that you achieve a coarse, crumbly consistency. You don’t want the margarine to become completely incorporated, but there should be no pieces remaining that are any larger than petite peas.

Shake the coconut milk well before opening to ensure that it’s properly mixed. Pour it into the bowl and stir with a wide spatula, just until the mixture comes together. Never mind an errant lump or two; they’ll bake out just fine!

Once you have a slightly shaggy, sticky dough, transfer it to a well-floured surface and pat it into a rough rectangle about 1-inch thick. Take a very sharp knife and cut it in half lengthwise, and then into either thirds or fourths crosswise, depending on how large you want your biscuits. This will result in 6 or 8 neat little squares. Gently transfer the cut biscuits to your prepared sheet pan, reshaping slightly if necessary, and brush the tops lightly with additional coconut milk to promote browning.

Bake for 18 – 22 minutes until golden brown all over. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before digging in. To save the biscuits for later, let cool completely and store in an air-tight container at room temperature. The finished biscuits will keep for up to 4 days.

Makes 6 – 8 Biscuits

Printable Recipe


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Baker in the Rye

Few foods can link cultures and cuisines across the globe quite like the humble loaf of bread. A simple concept at heart, made of little more than yeast, flour, and water, the process of transforming dough into a fluffy, leavened loaf is a remarkable feat of science and art, all kneaded into one. This uniting factor has never been more true, nor more visible, than every 16th of October, when eaters everywhere celebrate World Bread Day. Now in its eighth year running, I’m proud to say that I will have proofed and baked with the best of them for the past seven; a pretty impressive record for someone who periodically neglects their blog for unspeakable stretches of time.

With a hard and fast deadline, the time to act was now, no room for dawdling despite a crazy work schedule. I can’t explain why this date holds quite such importance to me, but participating in the festivities became my top priority. Shaking the light dusting of flour out of my loaf pans and warming up the ice-cold oven, ambition surging through my weary heart after a full day’s work, it was nonetheless the perfect opportunity to tackle something new: Rye bread.

Sure, it’s not the most lovely or universally loved loaf, but rye has a dark, seductive charm all its own. Dense, hearty, and complex, it’s no anonymous sandwich bread, that’s for sure. Flecked with aromatic caraway seeds, the flavoring takes a sharp departure from tradition from there. Root beer, my favorite childhood beverage, adds sweet, woodsy nuances, perfectly paired with the unique character of rye. It won’t beat you over the head with root beer essence- This isn’t isn’t a soda cake, after all- but it’s definitely present in every savory bite.

Rather than merely munch on my new creation, lightly toasted and slathered with buttery spread, I thought it more fitting to dress the thin slices up for the occasion. Decked out for a party of any sort, my rye forms the foundation of bite-sized canapes, topped with a smear of tart, unsweetened Greek-style almond yogurt and a simple pimento olive tapenade. The salty, sour accompaniments compliment the inherent sweetness of the soda beautifully, without obscuring the flavor of this bold bread.

Happy World Bread Day! Be it a sweet or savory event, here’s hoping it’s nothing but delicious.

Root Beer Rye Bread

1 1/3 Cups Regular Root Beer Soda (Not Diet,) at Room Temperature
1 Teaspoon Root Beer Extract
1 1/4-Ounce Packet Active Dry Yeast
1 1/2 Cups Rye Flour
2 Cups Bread Flour
2 Tablespoons Flaxseeds, Ground
1 1/2 Teaspoons Caraway Seeds
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Olive Oil

To begin the dough, measure out the root beer and sprinkle the yeast over the liquid, and let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes, until bubbly and active.

Meanwhile, stir together rye and bread flour, ground flaxseeds, caraway seeds, and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeasted soda and olive oil, and slowly begin to incorporate the liquids into the dry goods. Use the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer to make light work of the job, or be prepared to get your hands in there and get dirty. The resulting dough is very dense, so resist the urge to add more water. Continue to knead the dough for about 10 – 15 minutes until smooth and slightly elastic.

Lightly grease a second bowl, drop the dough in, and cover with plastic wrap. Stash it in the fridge and allow it to sit overnight. It may not rise at all in that time, so don’t stress over the volume at that point.

If the kitchen is fairly warm, let it sit out until it reaches room temperature. Otherwise, use the “proof” setting on your oven to warm it back up.

Lightly grease an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan; set aside.

On a clean, very lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and use your knuckles to gently press it down down into a fairly even rectangle, being careful to keep the width no longer than the length of your loaf pan. Roll up the rectangle as tightly as you can manage. Pinch the seam closed and place the bundle with the seam side down in your prepared loaf pan.

Let the bread rise proof for 2 – 4 hours. That may seem like a lot, but it really does take its sweet time to rise. It won’t balloon up in a big way, but it should reach the top of the loaf pan. At that point, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until deeply browned all over. Let cool completely before slicing thinly.

Makes One Loaf

Printable Recipe


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The Lost Recipes

Ironic, isn’t it, that falling behind on my homework may allow me to finally catch up on my blog backlog? It sounds like nonsense, but let me explain: Every blogger’s recipe archive is their fail safe, plan B in case of emergencies, lack of time, or failure of inspiration. The content may not be the most compelling, which is why it was withheld in the first place, but there are always some gems buried in the back of this Pandora’s box. The danger of forgetting those treasures is very real, however, as time moves on and exciting new recipes are thrust into the spotlight, ahead of all other prepared posts.

My own archive is a pretty sorry sight. Laughably bad photos from my point-and-shoot days mingle freely with those that are print-ready. Half-written recipes are the norm, rather than the exception, and are still head and shoulders better than the files filled only with rough measurements and little useful instruction. It takes some digging, but there are still a good number of salvageable creations that should never have gotten lost in the shuffle to begin with. Focusing more on the school work that continues to pile up leaves me with no spare time to create fresh content. In this case, it may just be a blessing in disguise, should it finally allow lost but not forgotten recipes see the light of day.

Take this sandwich bread, for example. A soft, subtly sweet golden crumb thanks to the addition of mashed sweet potato, I would gladly eat such a creation right this minute. The photo may not win any beauty contests, but I couldn’t recreate it for a new shoot, because this recipe was born of my experiments with sourdough, many moons ago. Fun while it lasted, that was a venture abandoned after many sourdough casualties.

It seems a shame that anyone with more sourdough skills should be deprived of this delicious recipe because of my forgetfulness, though. The bread itself may be long gone, but thank goodness recipes never go stale.

Sweet Potato Sourdough Bread

1/2 Cup Active, Unfed Sourdough Starter
1/2 Cup Warm Water
3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Instant Dry Yeast
1 Cup Plain Mashed Sweet Potatoes (Peeled, Boiled, Mashed Smooth; Nothing Added)
1/4 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
3 – 4 Cups White Whole Wheat flour

Combine the first four ingredients in a large, non-metallic bowl and blend well. Cover and let rise until light and bubbly; overnight in a cool kitchen or 4 – 6 hours in a warm kitchen.

Stir down this sponge and add mashed sweet potatoes, non-dairy milk, salt, ginger, oil, sugar and half of the white whole wheat flour; mix well. Once fully incorporated, gradually stir in enough remaining flour to you create a soft, pliable, dough. Continue kneading for about 15 minutes, only adding more flour as needed to prevent stickiness. Dough should be soft and smooth yet pliable and still slightly tacky. Place dough in an oiled bowl, roll it about to coat, cover and let rise double in a warm place. Allow about 2 hours for it to double in volume.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan.

Punch down dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Let rest 10 minutes on the counter before flattening it out . Shape into loaf and place into your prepared loaf pan with the seam side down. Cover and let rise to top of bread pan.

Right before popping the loaf in the oven, use a very sharp knife or blade to slash the dough lengthwise, straight down the center. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until golden brown all over. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before moving the loaf to a cooling rack until it comes to room temperature. Let cool completely before slicing.

Makes 1 Loaf

Printable Recipe


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Build a Better Bread

Passover week, of all times, is probably not the best time to share a few thoughts about bread, and yet I can’t stop my mind from drifting back to a few noteworthy loaves. Amid a sea of matzo, it makes perfect sense to find myself craving that yeast-risen crumb with a vengeance. Should anyone else find themselves struggling with similarly tempting thoughts, forgive me, for I am about to make that urge much harder to resist.

One Degree Organics talks a big game about sustainability, transparency, and of course, producing real food with real benefits. Unlike so many other companies where the words amount to merely talk, these principles are clearly visible in every step of the process. Their commitment to making a positive impact is admirable, but the most important contribution they make is one of good taste.

Offering a total of four varieties of bread, they each have incredible character completely unique to the unconventional grains and legumes employed. Legumes? Why yes, the Lentil Grain loaf is a prime example of just that, seamlessly blending red lentils into the soft yet sturdy slices. The resulting nutritional boost makes it incredibly satisfying, keeping me full much longer than the average bread. Better yet, the flavor is deep, complex, evocative of toasted wheat even when eaten cold. Delicious in its own right, it would be an easy way to slip lentils into the diet of a fussy eater; I would have never known if not for the label.

Utterly delicious!, the very first of my tasting notes so helpfully reads. Needless to say, the Sesame Sunflower bread made a positive impression immediately upon the initial bite. Toothsome, sprinkled with impeccably fresh sunflower seeds, nutty sesame flavor sings harmony all throughout the even crumb. A stronger yeast flavor compliments the more assertive additions. Every bite is just a little bit different, adding excitement to what might be otherwise unremarkable meals.

For those craving a more traditional wheat profile, the Ancient Whole Wheat loaf is the way to go. Bearing a subtle sweetness thanks to the invisible addition of raisins, it’s a remarkably well-balanced bread, wholesome and hearty but still soft, undeniably easy to eat. An excellent all-purpose loaf, it seems to play nicely with just about everything. The mellow wheat flavor pairs beautifully with all manner of sandwich fillings or toppings both sweet and savory.

As if it could really get any better, I saved my favorite for last. By my estimation, the Flax & Spelt would be the lovechild of hearty whole wheat and and wild seeded loaves, sharing only the best characteristics of each. A close cousin to the wheat we know today, spelt bears the same familiar flavor, but this particular yeasted permutation is dotted liberally with an abundance of flax seeds. Small but mighty, these square slices are denser than the rest, yielding a sturdy chew and springy texture all at once.

No matter which slice from One Degree Organics you choose, the only way you could go wrong is to serve it up during Passover. I know I’m counting the days, if not the hours, until the toaster can roar back to life…


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One Lump or Two?

Standard holidays may routinely sneak up on me, suddenly appearing on the calendar only days prior to any celebration, but October 16th is a different story. Uncharacteristically prepared for this particular date, nothing would stop me from participating in the 7th edition of World Bread Day. Unofficially the best day for bread, bloggers and bakers across the globe are called upon to share their latest yeasted exploits, producing loaves, rolls, pastries, flat breads- You name it, you’ll find it in the blogosphere today. Since joining in on the fun way back in 2007, not a single Bread Day has passed me by, and that’s not about to change for as far as I can foresee.

World Bread Day 2012 - 7th edition! Bake loaf of bread on October 16 and blog about it!

This year, inspiration came straight from my archives. Filled with forgotten recipe fragments and bare-bones ideas, this loaf was surprisingly well fleshed out already, simply waiting for the chance to be baked. A gently spiced, swirled loaf inspired by the traditional Dutch Fryske Sûkerbôle, the concept had haunted me for years. Finally, I had my star ingredient to make it all happen: Large crystals of amber brown rock sugar, glittering like gemstones, straight from Germany.

Literally translated as “sugar loaf,” somehow it stuck out in my mind as being called a “sugar lump bread,” which may be an oddball, awkwardly wordy title, but more accurate in the case of my rendition. Besides, aren’t you more curious about a bread made with whole lumps of sugar, rather than one that sounds merely sweet? Rolled up tightly like a giant cinnamon bun, almost all of the sweetness is confined to periodic pockets of lightly molasses-flavored cubes. Gooey and melted around the edges from the oven’s warm kiss, larger pieces remain crunchy in the center, creating an irresistible textural combination, made all the more enticing by the surrounding soft, buttery crumb.

It may not look like anything special from the outside, or even from the look of the recipe, but this is one loaf you’ll have to make – and taste – to believe.

Almost meltingly tender, the loaf borders on the richness associated with brioche or challah, but without any of the heaviness. Though the original plan was to turn a few thick slices into french toast, I never made it that far. Even untoasted, untopped, and completely unadorned, it was one of my favorite breads in recent memory. Seemingly overnight, the entire loaf disappeared- And I only got two slices myself! Let that be a warning to any bakers who dare try this addictive bread… Hide your sugar-flecked treasure well, or be prepared to start whipping up a second batch right away!

Sugar Lump Bread (Fryske Sûkerbôle)

3/4 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk, Warmed
1 1/4-Ounce Package Active Dry Yeast
4 1/2 – 5 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 6-Ounce Container Vanilla Soy or Coconut Yogurt
6 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted
3 Tablespoons Amber Agave Nectar

1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Amber Rock Sugar, or Brown Sugar Cubes

1 – 3 Tablespoons Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1 Tablespoon Turbinado Sugar

To begin the dough, warm the non-dairy milk to just about body temperature, or around 100 degrees. Approximately 1 minute in the microwave should probably do the trick; there’s no need to break out the thermometer here. Sprinkle the yeast over the liquid, and let it sit for 5 minutes, until bubbly and active.

Meanwhile, stir together 4 1/2 cups of the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeasted “milk,” yogurt, melted margarine, and agave, and slowly being to incorporate the liquids into the dry goods. Be prepared to get your hands in there and get dirty, as it should take a good bit of handling to bring the dough together. You want it to be stretchy and tacky, but not sticky, so add in up to 1/2 cup of flour if necessary. Continue to knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Lightly grease a large bowl, drop the dough in, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

On a clean, floured surface, turn out the risen down and use your knuckles to gently punch it down, redistributing the bubbles evenly. Sprinkle a little bit of extra flour over the top, and use a rolling pin to smooth it out, being careful to keep the width no longer than your loaf pan. Roll it out as long as possible, so that the whole rectangle is about 1/4 inch in width. The flatter you can roll the dough, the more of a swirl you will achieve.

Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon over the entire surface of dough, except for 1 inch at the edge, in order to seal the loaf later on. Follow that with the sugar lumps or cubes, distributing them randomly but as evenly as possible. Starting at the short end that is fully covered in cinnamon, begin to roll up the rectangle as tightly as you can manage, until you reach the bare inch of dough. Brush a dab of water on the edge, and pinch it to the rest of the loaf to close the roll. Place the loaf with the seam side down in the prepared loaf pan.

Let the bread rise at room temperature for 45 minutes – 1 hour, until the top of the loaf is peaking above the rim of the pan. Gently brush entire exposed areas with non-dairy milk, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Move the bread into the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until amber brown. Let cool completely before slicing and savoring.

Makes One Loaf

Printable Recipe


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Edible Sunshine

For once, spring has sprung up a bit early, and the long, sunny days are simply glorious. Mid-60′s, clear skies, little humidity; If only the weather could stay this perfect all year round! The bright sunshine illuminates all corners of the house, lifts the darkest of moods, and is so pervasive, it’s even made its way into my baking. Though the loaf stops short of being cooked via solar power, it tastes for all the world like a little bit of sunshine baked right into the bread.

A soft, golden yellow crumb clings to scores of crunchy sunflower seeds, periodically interrupted by the savory taste of sun-dried tomatoes. It would be hard to not feel just a little bit happier after toasting a slice for breakfast, or sandwiching two pieces with cucumbers and vegan cream cheese, or perhaps your favorite “BLT” fixings.

Sunshine Bread

3 – 4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/4-Ounce Package Active Dry Yeast
1 Teaspoon Turmeric
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
3 Tablespoons Light Agave Nectar
1 Cup Carrot Juice
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine or Coconut Oil, Melted
1 Cup Roasted and Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped Sun-dried Tomatoes (Dry; Not Packed in Oil)

This dough is meant to sit and rise overnight (at least 8 hours) so that it can be baked in the morning. Plan your timing accordingly.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl) whisk together 3 cups of the flour, yeast, turmeric, and salt. Since the dough will sit for so long, there’s no need to proof it and jump-start the rising process. Just be sure that your yeast is very fresh, and indeed still active.

Separately, combine the agave, carrot juice, and melted margarine or coconut oil, and slowly pour the liquid mixture into the bowl of dry goods while stirring. Add in the sunflower seeds and chopped dried tomatoes, and mix to incorporate. Add more flour 1/4 cup at a time if needed, until the dough is cohesive and no longer sticky but still tacky. If using a stand mixer, switch over to the dough hook attachment, and let it kneed on low speed for 5 – 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. This can also be done by hand on a lightly floured surface, but it will probably take closer to 10 – 12 minutes.

Lightly grease a large bowl, and plop your dough in, swirling it around gently to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and stash it in your fridge for at least 8 hours- Overnight is best.

In the morning, lightly grease an 8 x 4 loaf pan. Set aside.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for about 5 minutes to smooth it out and redistribute the bubbles created by the yeast. Flatten it out into a rectangle no longer than the loaf pan, and roll it up like you would one giant cinnamon roll. Place it into the pan with the seam side down, and with a very sharp knife, make a slash down center in a straight line. Let rise until just about doubled in volume; about 1 hour.

As the loaf nears the proper size, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. When ready, bake for for 45 – 50 minutes, until amber brown all over. If you’re unsure that it’s fully baked through, let it cool, and then tap the bottom of the loaf. It should sound hollow if properly done.

Let cool completely before slicing and savoring.

Makes 1 Loaf

Printable Recipe


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Peanut Butter Jelly Time

ISO 100, f/7.1 @ 1/8 second

Canon Digital Rebel XTi
Canon EF50mm f/1.2L USM

Shot with only window light on a very sunny day; no mirrors, no nothing.

Created as a homework assignment to replicate an image of your choice as closely as possible. The creator of that image asked to remain unnamed and have the link to the original removed.


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A Sour Note

It’s true what they say; All you need is loaf.

Wait, that’s not how the song goes? What a shame, because on yet another glorious World Bread Day, it seemed like the ideal anthem for us flour-encrusted and loaf pan-wielding bakers across the globe. Celebrating all things doughy and yeasted, it’s an event that I wouldn’t miss for anything, if only to take advantage of the excuse to bake another lofty loaf.

Bake Bread for World Bread Day 2011

Let it be known that I am a terrible sourdough keeper. “But it’s so easy!” they cry, “I’ve had my sourdough starter for 50 years!” they insist. Well, that’s well and good if you can manage such a feat, but I have now effortlessly killed off two previously hearty mothers in short order, and am not exactly eager to give it another go. Nope, it’s all faux sourdough for me from here on in.

Utilizing “yogurt” or “sour cream” and citric acid, to impart a pleasingly tangy flavor, but relying on commercial packaged yeast for a fool-proof lift, it strikes me as the best sort of compromise. Rather than developing a hard, crackled crust and tough inner structure, this imposter sourdough has a much softer, more tender crumb. Not quite fluffy but definitely chewy, it makes for a delightfully toothsome base for sandwiches or simply toast.

Faux Sourdough
Inspired by King Arthur Flour

1 1/2 Cups Warm Potato Water*
1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
1 1/4-Ounce Package Active Dry Yeast
1 6-Ounce Container Plain Greek-Style Coconut Yogurt or 3/4 Cup Vegan “Sour Cream”
4 1/2 – 5 Cups Bread Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Citric Acid
1/16 Teaspoon (Pinch) Ground Ginger

*By “potato water,” I mean the water that was used to boil potatoes, which is full of tenderizing starches and excellent for bread making. Pasta water can also work, or in a pinch, 1 teaspoon potato starch whisked into the water.

To begin, dissolve the sugar into the water and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow it to proof for about 5 minutes, until active and frothy. Mix in the “sour cream” or “yogurt,” and begin to work in the flour, 1 cup at a time. Add in the salt, ginger, and citric acid along with the first measure of flour. Use the dough hook on your stand mixer if you have one, and allow it to knead slowly and create a sticky but workable dough. Err on the side of using less flour for now; You can always work more into it later.

Let the machine continue to knead the dough for about 10 minutes on low speed. Cover the bowl, stash it in the fridge, and allow it to sit for 12 – 24 hours. Yes, that long! Your patience will be rewarded.

Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, and set aside. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and have more flour ready if needed. Knead the dough by hand, adding more flour if too sticky, for about 10 minutes. Let it rest for another 10 so that the gluten can relax a bit before shaping. Flatten the dough into a rectangle slightly shorter than 9 inches, and then roll it up tightly. Place the roll seam-side down in your prepared loaf pan.

Allow the loaf to sit for 60 – 90 minutes, until just barely peeking out above the rim of the pan. Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.

Makes 1 Large Loaf

Printable Recipe


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Winners of Books and Breads

Selected by the wise and all-knowing random number generator, today’s pick for who will receive a copy of the Green Market Baking Book is…

The comment belonging to the 11th poster, who happens to be…

VeggieGirl! This gal has definitely got luck on her side, because if I’m not mistaken, this is actually the second giveaway she’s won from this little blog. Stick around as long as she has though, and you’d have a pretty good chance of hitting the jackpot, too. That first win came around 3 or 4 years ago, so she’s certainly been in it for the long haul. Congrats on win #2!

There are no losers here though, because I have a fantastic treat to share with everyone else. Even if you aren’t getting the full cookbook today, you’ll be able to bake your very own tomato bread!

Since it generated the greatest interest, I thought that everyone should have this recipe to share. It really is a winner, and with my small modifications, one that will visit my kitchen many times more.

Tomato Bread
Adapted from Green Market Baking Book © 2011 by Laura C. Martin, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Recipe by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan
[My alterations in italics]

1/2 Cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Chopped
1 15-Ounce Can (1 3/4 Cups) Tomato Sauce
4 Cups Bread Flour, Plus additional as needed
2 Tablespoons Active Dry Yeast
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Plus Additional for Bowl


To make the dough

First, soak the sun-dried tomato pieces in just enough hot water to cover, for about 15 minutes, until softened.

1. Mix the yeast with the tomato sauce and let the mixture stand about 5 minutes, or until it starts to bubble.
2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine half the bread flour with the tomato mixture and salt, and mix to form a smooth batter. Blend in the olive oil.
3. Change the mixer attachment to the dough hook. With the hook in motion, add the soaked sun-dried tomatoes along with the remaining bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough forms into a rough mass that easily pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

To make a loaf

1. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Place the covered bowl in a warm, draft-free spot and let it rise about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
2. Butter a 9 × 5-inch loaf pan.
3. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a log that fits the pan. Place the dough into the pan and cover it with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let it rise until the dough reaches a half inch over the top of the pan (about 1 hour).
4. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
5. Bake for 35 minutes. If it appears to be browning too quickly after 20 minutes, place a foil tent over the top to prevent it from burning. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 1 Loaf

Printable Recipe


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Pretty Please, with Potatoes on Top?

Long gone are the days of carb-fearing, Atkins-style grain avoidance, but deep within the American psyche, some subconscious resistance still seems to remain. Just mention a meal combining two starches and even the most well-grounded eaters lose their composure, if only for a moment. Rice and corn? Iffy, but passable. Bread and potatoes? Not unless you want the health food police to arrive on your doorstep, handcuffs ready to snap shut over the guilty cook. And yet, it’s perfectly fine for potatoes to be integrated into the bread, but should they separate, it’s a downright culinary crime. Enough of this nonsense, I say; Let loose, have your bread and potatoes together, and eat them, too!

Truly, it’s a damned shame that this traditional “wisdom” has kept the two apart for so long. Since Thanksgiving is essentially the biggest carbohydrate-bomb of a meal one will consume this year, it seemed the perfect opportunity to sneak this underdog dish in. Rather than serving two individual courses to satisfy the need for both tuber and grain, save yourself the trouble and time with a single side. Magical things happen when you top a chewy loaf of focaccia with thin slices of golden-fleshed potatoes and a handful of red onions. Crispy and golden brown around the edges but still tender on the inside, the sheath of potatoes creates a topper that sets an otherwise simple flat bread apart from the rest.

There is a secret ingredient, however, kneaded deep within the strands of gluten. Sauerkraut brightens up the flavors of the wheat with a much-needed hit of acid, those tangy notes perfectly in tune with the heartier starches. You might even be able to get away with saying that a slice packs in a serving of vegetables in, too!

Sauerkraut and Potato Focaccia

Starter:

1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Barley Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Dry Active Yeast
1/2 Cup Water

Dough:

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Rye Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Teaspoon Table Salt
1 3/4 Teaspoons Dry Active Yeast
2 Cups Sauerkraut, Drained
3/4 Cups Water
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Topping:

1 Pound Red-Skinned Potatoes
1/2 Medium Red Onion, Thinly Sliced
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Kosher Salt or Coarse Sea Salt

The day or night before hand, mix together all of the ingredients for the starter in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave out in a warm place at least overnight, or for 8 – 24 hours. The longer amount of time is better for developing flavor in the bread, but a minimum of 8 hours with certainly suffice.

Once the starter has sat for as much time as you’re willing to give it, start working on the main dough by combining the flours. Take your drained sauerkraut, squeeze out as much extra liquid as possible, and toss it in the flour to coat. Add this mixture, along with the remaining dough ingredients into the bowl of starter. Mix thoroughly, and install the bread hook attachment in your stand mixer once the dough has come together. Allow the machine to knead on a slow speed for about 10 minutes. This makes for a fairly loose, sticky dough, so don’t panic if it seems fairly wet.

Transfer the dough into a lightly-grease, clean bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and lightly grease a 10 x 15-inch jellyroll pan.

Punch down the risen dough gently, and scrape it out onto your prepared pan. Use your finger tips to press it out evenly into the jellyroll shape, leaving nooks and crannies as you go. Set aside while you prepare the topping.

A mandoline will make the process go faster, but you can also use a very sharp knife (and a decent dose of patience). Slice the potatoes to approximately 2 mm in thickness, and then slice the onions just slightly thicker since they will cook faster. Toss both in the olive oil until thoroughly coated, and apply the topping in an even layer over the unbaked focaccia, trying not to overlap slices of potatoes. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Slide your loaf into the oven, and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until golden brown all over, the potatoes are fork-tender, and the onions are slightly crispy around the edges. Let cool before slicing.

Printable Recipe

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