BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


14 Comments

Bread Meets Spread

“Have you heard of HUMMUS?” you might ask of a caveman recently unearthed after a million-year marathon nap. Now as ubiquitous as ketchup or salsa, hummus has managed to surpass all cultural boundaries, weaving its way into the homes and hearts of food lovers worldwide. What might be a more relevant question in this day and age is “Have you heard of MASABACHA?” Hummus’s lesser-know cousin should rank just as highly on the snacking scale, and yet somehow lacks the same renown, barely registering as a blip on the radar. Depending on your circle of friends, it might also be referred to as msabbaha, musabbaha, or even mashausha. Consider it deconstructed hummus, replete with whole chickpeas and a tangy lemon tahini sauce to bind them all together. From that base, the sky’s the limit; fancier, more fun renditions include everything from pine nuts and paprika to a smattering of herbs and hard-boiled eggs. When you can choose your own adventure with such savory results, what’s not to love about this chunky chickpea dip?

Although I would never be so bold as to say that there’s room to improve on the classic, I would venture to suggest that there’s always room to innovate. Instead of serving up the tried and true masabacha with bread and the standard accoutrements, let’s skip the middleman and combine the whole array of irresistible flavors. Bean-based bread is nothing new, but this particular yeast-risen loaf is a veritable ode to the humble legume, employing both chickpea flour and whole, seasoned and roasted garbanzo beans. Richly spiced with cumin, coriander, and my current favorite, smoked paprika, the aroma that engulfs the kitchen as it bakes is positively maddening. Just try not to tear into the hot, freshly baked loaf right away- it genuinely does improve with just a bit of patience. The spices take their sweet (and savory) time to mingle and for them to reach their collective peak of flavor, so it’s important to sit by and let it cool completely before diving in.

It is with great pleasure that I’m sharing this magnificent baked good in honor of the 9th Annual World Bread Day. I haven’t missed a single celebration since the birth of BitterSweet, and I don’t intend to sit out for one yet! Although I hate picking favorites amongst recipes, this entry definitely ranks highly on my list of most crave-worthy submissions thus far. Be sure to check out the roundup coming in the next few days for more yeasted inspiration.

World Bread Day 2014 (submit your loaf on October 16, 2014)

Masabacha Bread

3 Cups White Whole Wheat or All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Chickpea Flour
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/4 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1 Tablespoon Light Agave Nectar
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
1 Packet Dry Active Yeast
1 1/4 Cups Warm Water
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Tahini
1 Cup Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas, Store-Bought or Homemade
1/4 Cup Toasted Pine Nuts

Mix together both flours with all of the herbs and spices in a large bowl. Separately, whisk together the agave, salt, yeast, warm water, oil, and tahini. Once fully blended, let the mixture stand briefly until the yeast reawakens, becoming active and frothy. pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl of dry, and mix well. Now would be a great time to pull out the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer if you have one, but no matter your equipment, stir thoroughly to bring the dough together with no remaining dry patches. The resulting dough should be fairly soft, but continue to knead it until smooth, elastic, and somewhat tacky; about 15 – 20 minutes by hand or 10 – 15 minutes by hook, with the mixer on the lowest setting.

Lightly grease a large, clean bowl. Shape your kneaded dough into a smooth ball before dropping it in, rolling it around lightly to coat it with the oil. Cover loosely and and let it rest in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume. This could take anywhere from 45 minutes – 1 1/2 hours, depending on your climate.

Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan and set aside. Once properly puffy, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and use your knuckles to gently work through the air bubbles. Add in the chickpeas and pine nuts, kneading the whole loaf until the goodies are completely worked in and well-distributed. Work the dough into a rough rectangle no wider than the length of your pan, and roll the dough up into a neat cylinder. Place the dough log into the pan, seam side down, and let rest for another 30 – 60 minutes, until approximately doubled in size, or until it’s peeking about 1/4-inch over the rim of the pan. While you’re waiting, begin preheating your oven to 400 degrees.

When the loaf is fully risen and the oven has reached the proper temperature, slide the pan into the oven. Immediately drop the heat down to 375 degrees and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until deeply golden brown all over. Let cool in the pan for about 10 – 15 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. No matter the temptation, all it to come all the way down to room temperature before slicing and enjoying.

Makes 1 Loaf

Printable Recipe


12 Comments

By Bread (and Chocolate) Alone

As far as dietary sacrifices go, I can imagine far worse conditions than living by bread alone. Anyone who says otherwise must not know of the wonders of flour, water, and yeast, and the incredible range of flavors such a humble combination can produce. Of course, a smidgen of chocolate would turn the whole affair into a genuine treat rather than a trial, but the same could probably be said for any sort of cocoa-infused pairing.

Let’s keep this one short and to the point: If you like bread and/or chocolate, together or separately, this is a recipe you should take for a spin. Crunchy croutons take the place of bland wafer cookies in this classic no-bake bar cookie. Accented with chocolate and hazelnuts, the whole mixture is bound with a dark, toasty caramel. Finally, a touch of salt and pepper sets this unique treat apart.

Bread and Chocolate Slice

8 Ounces Fresh Baguette, Diced into Very Small Cubes (1/4 – 1/2 inch)
3 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Cup Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
1 Tablespoon Flaxseeds, Finely Ground
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 Cup Toasted Hazelnuts
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
1/2 Cup Coconut Oil, Melted
1 Cup Turbinado Sugar

5 Ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate, Melted
1/2 Teaspoon Coconut Oil
Flaky Sea Salt, Optional

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and have a baking sheet at the ready.

Slice the baguette into very small cubes, between 1/4 – 1/2 inch, as long as they’re equally to ensure that they’ll bake evenly. Toss the pieces with the olive oil, salt, and pepper until full coated, and then spread the bread out in one even layer on your waiting baking sheet. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through, until golden brown all over. Let cool completely.

While the oven is still hot, place the hazelnuts in a small baking dish and slide them into the oven for 5 – 10, until lightly toasted and aromatic. Let them cool for about 5 minutes before rubbing them in a kitchen towel to remove the papery skins.

Measure out 3 cups of croutons and set them aside. Place the rest of them in your food processor along with the cocoa powder, ground flaxseeds, and cornstarch, and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl along with the reserved whole croutons, skinned hazelnuts, and shredded coconut, stirring lightly to combine. Set aside.

Line an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with foil and lightly grease.

Combine the melted coconut oil and sugar in a medium saucepan over moderate heat on the stove. Resist the urge to stir again once the sugar has dissolved, swirling the pan gently instead to mix the contents. Bring to a boil and let cook until the sugar caramelizes and turns a deep amber color. Quickly pour the hot caramel into the bowl of dry ingredients, stir thoroughly to incorporate, and transfer the whole thing into your prepared pan, spreading it out into as flat a layer as possible.

Finally, mix together the chocolate and 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil in a small pitcher, and pour it all over the top of the bars while they’re still warm. Use a spatula to smooth it over and distribute it evenly across the whole pan. Sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt if desired.

Let cool until the chocolate has set. Slice into bars and store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Makes 12 – 16 Bars

Printable Recipe


29 Comments

Summer’s Sweet Bounty

Much has been said of California cuisine, and as it remains a nebulous and often contentious concept at best, I won’t even begin to add my two cents to that short-changed conversation. Rather, I can’t help but marvel at the availability and variety of raw ingredients that make it all happen. It’s easy to see how a chef could be inspired to try anything once, maybe twice, when the basic components are all so accessible, to say nothing of their inherent flavor or beauty. Each trip to one of the many farmers markets is guaranteed to yield a cornucopia of edible inspiration. Where else can you find locally grown pistachios, two or three dozen distinctive varieties of peaches, and rainier cherries for an unbelievable price of $2 per pound, all in one place? San Francisco has developed a reputation as being a farm-to-table foodie’s paradise, and it sure is working hard to keep that title.

Of course, I took this opportunity to positively gorge myself on ripe seasonal fruits. The siren song of those soft, explosively juicy nectarines was impossible to resist, no matter how messy they were to eat. Apricots came home with me in aromatic, golden heaps, piled so high on the kitchen counter that it seemed impossible to eat them without aid. Somehow, I always managed.

That’s to say nothing of the berries. Despite missing out on the prime berry bounty, it was still a real treat to enjoy locally grown options, and at such bargain basement prices. As a little ode to my Californian summer, it was only fitting to gather up a small sampling of what I had on hand, along with the famed sourdough that beckons irresistibly in every reputable bakery’s store front. Fresh mint plucked straight from the tiny windowsill garden completed this little love note to my temporary, adoptive home state.

Light, fresh, fast, it’s the kind of recipe that depends entirely on the quality of your ingredients. Consider it as a serving suggestion; more of an idea than a specific schematic, to be tailored to whatever fruits are fresh and in season in your neck of the woods.

California Dreamin’ Panzanella

5 Cups Cubed Sourdough Bread
2 Cups Pitted and Halved Cherries
2 Cups Seedless Grapes
1 Cup Blackberries
1/4 Cup Zulka Sugar or Light Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped Walnuts
Fresh Mint Leaves, Thinly Sliced

To Serve:

Coconut Whipped Cream (Optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread your cubes of sourdough bread out on a baking sheet in one even layer and bake them for about 15 minutes, until golden and lightly toasted all over. Let cool completely before proceeding.

In a large bowl, toss together all of the fruits and remaining ingredients. Toss in the toasted bread, right before serving, last to ensure that it stays crisp. Mix thoroughly so that everything is well distributed and entirely coated with the sugar mixture. Enjoy immediately with a dollop of whipped coconut cream, if desired.

Makes 6 – 8 Servings

Printable Recipe


19 Comments

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


24 Comments

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


22 Comments

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


8 Comments

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…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,104 other followers