It’s one of those days. The sky is still dark when you finally wrestle off the heavy covers and swing your feet out of bed, never seeming to lighten a single shade all day. Rain falls intermittently, just enough to mock any attempt made to leave the house while remaining dry. Strangers hustle by with umbrellas carelessly outstretched, acting more as blunt weapons than shelters from the elements. How many times can you get whacked in the face during a brief 10-minute walk? Oh, let’s keep a tally and find out; it’s easy to lose count while tabulating the results in your head.
You know the script and play your part, muddling through as best you can, but wait- Who’s writing this story anyway? Why should you stick to your lines when a much more satisfying ending could be crafted with a bit of improvisation?
Here’s the plot twist you’ve been craving. Get home, throw off your muddy boots, cozy into a soft sweater, and break out the flour and yeast. There’s no antidote to those days, but there is a salve, and it comes in the form of baking bread. Something about the kneading of dough is indescribably cathartic, while the warmth of the oven can melt the iciest of hearts. Merely the smell of fresh dough transforming into golden brown loaves has a wholly restorative quality, even before taking a single bite.
Savory herbs mingle with roasted garlic in a rich, aromatic filling woven through every layer of soft, tender dough. You might think that they’re fussy, or too fancy to serve as an everyday loaf, but it takes no more work than the average bread. Treat yourself to something a bit more special than the standard; take back control and write your own story.
These two loaves are my ninth annual contribution to World Bread Day, and second submission to the baking contest mixed up by Simply Organic and Go Dairy Free. Should you find yourself in a baking rut and need new material to revise your personal script, just hit these links for ample inspiration, both sweet and savory.
Twisted Garlic and Herb Bread
1 Package (2 1/4 Teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
1 Tablespoon Light Agave Nectar
1 3/4 Cups Warm Water
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
3 – 3 1/2 Cups Bread Flour
Garlic and Herb Schmear:
2 Heads Garlic, Roasted
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
2 Tablespoons Simply Organic Dried Parsley
2 Teaspoons Simply Organic Dried Rosemary
2 Teaspoons Simply Organic Dried Thyme
1 Teaspoon Simply Organic Dried Oregano
1 Teaspoon Simply Organic Ground Black Pepper
In a large bowl, combine the yeast, agave, and warm water. Let stand until the yeast reactivates and surface of the liquid becomes bubbly; about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil, salt whole wheat flour, and 2 cups of the bread flour, mixing with a sturdy wooden spoon or the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer.
Once the initial addition of dry goods has been completely incorporated, add the remaining cup of bread flour. Slowly knead by hand or machine for 10 – 15 minutes until the dough is smooth, supple, and elastic. If it still seems very wet, add up to 1/2 cup additional bread flour.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel.
Let rest at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size; about 1 – 1 1/2 hours, depending on your local climate.
Meanwhile, prepare the garlic and herb schmear by first squeezing the cloves of roasted garlic out of their skins. Place them in a small bowl and roughly mash with the salt. Let the mixture remain somewhat chunky, but smooth enough to spread without too much difficulty. Add in all of the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine. Set aside.
After the dough has properly risen, punch it down and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Take one at a time and on a lightly floured surface, press it into a rough rectangular shape. Use a rolling pin to further smooth it out, until it measure approximately 15 – 16 inches long (the exact width isn’t critical.) Cover the surface evenly with 1/4 of the garlic and herb schmear, and roll the dough up in a tight cylinder exactly the same way you would for cinnamon buns. Repeat this process with the remaining dough and schmear.
Now that you have your 4 filled rolls of dough, focus your attention at two at a time, to form each loaf. With the seam-sides down, use a very sharp knife to slice right down the center of each roll, but NOT all the way through. You want to reveal the layers within, but not cut the dough entirely in half. Press the tops of the two split rolls together to adhere, and very gently twist the pieces together, keeping the cut sides facing up. When you reach the end, press the bottoms together to seal, and curl both ends under to keep the pieces from separating in the baking process. Very carefully move the twisted loaf over to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and allow the loaves to rise once more, until not quite doubled in size. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until golden brown and utterly aromatic. The tempting smells will make it very difficult to wait, but allow the bread to cool completely before slicing and serving.
Makes 2 Loaves
Scrolling across the top of the screen like a slowly spreading poison, the headline “Severe Frost Warning” stops me in my tracks. Every gardener tempts fate near the end of a prolific growing season, pushing the elements to squeeze out the very last drops of warmth and sunshine. Sure, we’re firmly enmeshed in November now, but temperatures rebound and swing wildly for weeks to come. There could still be more produce to reap yet. I’m no gambler though, so the imminent threat of dewy ice crystals sinking their teeth into fragile leaves set off alarm bells. Save the tomato babies! Don’t let the poor things freeze to death!
Hastily plucking all the immature green orbs and thus severing them from their nurturing vines does present a new, obvious problem. Unripe tomatoes can be coaxed to soften and blush to a redder hue with a bit more time on the counter, but with my luck, the stubborn things will refuse to cooperate as nature intended. Half will likely remain just as hard and inhospitable as the day they were picked, while the other half will simply give up the fight early and rot.
Well, not this year. This time, embraced for the astringent, punchy fruits that they are, every last one will be eaten and devoured. Pickled and preserved, this year’s premature harvest will be cherished as if the timing was intentional.
Sticking largely to traditional additions, the goal was to infuse my green cherry tomatoes with a fresh, brightly flavored brine while still yielding a comfortingly familiar sour snack. My dad grew up enjoying larger pickled green tomatoes served on the relish tray all through childhood, either sliced or quartered, but always present no matter the season. His approval will be the ultimate test, so whether or not they pass muster is yet to be seen. Truthfully, I can’t speak to the end results yet, as fresh tomatoes will still need at least a week to attain pickled perfection, but this is a recipe that can’t wait to be shared. Quickly, before the first frost, gather up your own green tomatoes and let them shine with what they already have to offer. With a tiny bit of prep and planning, you’ll have delightful little salty, sour additions to cocktails (best Bloody Mary ever, anyone?), salads, appetizers, and everything in between.