Tag Archives: Bread

Kneading Each Other

It’s the little things. Small gestures given freely. Each evening my wife Val makes sure that my coffee is programed for the next morning (she drinks tea). She understands the daily ritual that our coffee hour is our bonding time. She understands how much cream I like in that coffee, and that I only drink two cups. I know how she likes her Manhattan’s, how much vermouth to rye whiskey, with two drops of bitters.

These small things nurture our marriage. I bring this attentiveness into the world when I leave the farm. If farming is the what, then the farmers market is the why. Our relationships there add to the richness in our life. The Covid pandemic has completely changed our experience at the market. Val’s compromised immune system requires that she self isolate on the farm during this pandemic, to stay as safe as possible. When I go to the market on Wednesday’s I am in my own section on a slower day. Customers are not allowed to touch the produce or soap products that we sell. Everyone is required to wear masks. There is hand-sanitizer in multiple locations at our stall. You learn to read the eyes above the masks for clues about each other. Are those eyes playful, warm or anxious? There is an overall feeling of being AWOL from the usual fullness of our exchange. We give virtual “hugs”, which only underscores their absence; somehow elbow bumping just doesn’t do it.

Then Shalini appears at our stall. She comes bearing gifts of garam marsala, black salt, amchoor powder (dry mango) and Tamarind-Date Chutney. She gives me tips about how to make Indian greens and Channa (chickpea salad). She also brings the warmth of her smile. I consider Shalini my spiritual mentor of sorts. She loves Jesus, I’m not religious, yet her sense of humanity, compassion and grace comes through in our conversations. She leads by example. She shares that there are times in order to find common ground with others, she must keep her heart open and simply speak human to human. “We are all human after all. We are all suffering in our own ways. I’ve made a personal decision that if someone needs a hug, they will receive one from me. regardless of the situation we find ourselves in.”

I immediately stop what I am doing and walk purposefully around the stalls to where she is standing. We embrace, and I am awash in the sweet necessity of human contact. Something intangible is exchanged; the unseen, enters and we are nourished. We simply need each other as human beings. On the other side of this pandemic, I’m looking forward to breaking bread together once again.

I first made this bread recipe over 30 years ago. It floated up in my consciousness after Val and I had harvested and dried dill seed from the farm. It is a no-knead bread with terrific flavor. I used our own dehydrated onions as well, but the real treat is when you toast it. The scent of dill and onions will fill your home. Don’t spare the butter!

NO-KNEAD DILL ONION BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup cottage cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon dill seed
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 farm fresh egg
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of Maldon or other flake salt
Mixed dill/onion dough, ready for the oven
Dill/Onion Bread straight from the oven, coated with butter and salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Soften yeast in warm water; let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix cottage cheese, sugar, butter, salt and baking soda together in a large mixing bowl. I use my Kitchen-Aid mixer with paddle attachment. You can mix this at this stage with a wooden spoon or whisk. Add dill seed, dried onion, eggs and yeast mixture. Mix well.
  3. Gradually add flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, on medium speed. If you are doing this manually, you can also mix this with your hands. The dough will be sticky. It dough seems too sticky, add another tablespoon or two of flour.
  4. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 2 quart round baking dish. Gently spoon dough into prepared dish. Bake in center rack in preheated oven until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven; brush with butter and sprinkle with flake salt. Let bread cool 5 minutes before transferring from the baking dish to a cooling rack.

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” –Leo Tolstoy

Grandma Knew Best

Entering week five of sheltering in place, during the novel corona-virus pandemic; and  I’m discovering skills I didn’t know I had.  I’ve never been much of a baker.  Not because I don’t like wonderful baked goods, but because I have an aversion to measuring.  Writing cookbooks was challenging when trying to deliver a consistent product.  I basically wing it, taste, adjust, taste again as I go along.  Being at home consistently for this length of time has taught me several things.  One, why should I be talking myself out of something, when I really should be talking myself into something new?  I’ve always played with food, why not play with baking?  So I’ve been starting with savory quick breads and muffins with great results.  If there’s a down side to this exploration, it’s that  I’m now slightly obsessed, and one thing is leading to another.

This week it’s soda bread.  My wife Val inherited a 100 year old cast iron skillet from her Grandmother years ago (along with a classic potato masher), so I wanted to try out a soda bread using a skillet, rather than a free-form shape.  I’m coming around to the beauty of these old skillets for many uses, and I enjoy the historical continuity of using something that was handed down from a previous generation.  I mixed the bread in my Grandmother’s pottery mixing bowl, so I was channeling traditions from both families.  It felt wholesome somehow, and a basic quick bread like this could have been made by either of our Grandmother’s.  Val makes a delicious golden raisin and candied ginger scone that I love, and this reminded me of that texture with a savory profile.

I’m afraid that I will run out of flour, before I run out of ideas; but the experimentation was certainly worth it.  Next challenge, homemade pasta.

SKILLET SODA BREAD WITH ROASTED RED PEPPERS & FETA

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 whole roasted red pepper, (I used jarred), drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, oregano, black pepper and cubed butter, using a pastry cutter or fork to incorporate the butter.  The mixture should resemble course crumbs.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk and add it to the flour mixture.  Combine the dough using a large wooden spoon or spatula until it’s almost incorporated.
  3. Add the roasted peppers and feta and finish mixing.  Kneed the dough with your hands for a few minutes until comes together and transfer it to a greased cast iron pan (I use ghee).  Using a serrated knife, score the bread into four sections to help prevent it from bubbling up in the center.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Serve warm with butter.

Serves: 8

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“People who give you their food, give your their heart.”  –Cesar Chavez

 

Made To Order

Well, we’ve been self-sheltering for a month now and we are entering that phase of searching through the freezer, pantry and reduced items in the refrigerator.  As vegetable farmers we are fortunate that we do a lot of canning and freezing during the optimal summer months; and for that we are grateful.  With a little thought and creativity, it’s amazing just what you can come up with that is not only inventive, but delicious!

We don’t eat many sweet things in our household.  We lean more to the savory spectrum.  I can enjoy a quick bread like zucchini or pumpkin as well as the next person; but this….this savory quick bread has multiple options galore.  Remember that piece of ham you froze during the holiday’s?  Perfect.  That hunk on cheese in your refrigerator?  Yes!  Don’t like Gruyere ?  Ok…use cheddar.  Those herbs in your crisper that need to be used or composted soon? Yup.  Vegetarian?  Leave out the ham and toss in some olives, or sun-dried tomatoes.  You can make two loaves and freeze one.  I love it toasted the next day with butter and a fresh slice of tomato and sprouts.  You are only limited by your imagination.  Enjoy.

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SAVORY QUICK BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons), melted and cooled
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup ham, chopped in small cubes
  • 1/4 cup scallions, using both green and white parts, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or dill, chives or tarragon)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) Gruyere, Swiss or cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk *

Note:  If you find yourself without buttermilk on hand, use 1 cup whole milk and add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar.

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a metal 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and set it aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking power, salt and baking soda.  Stir in chopped ham (or olives and sun-dried tomatoes), scallions, herb of choice, and all but 1/4 cup of your selected cheese (you will use the rest for topping).
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs and buttermilk.  Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine.  The batter will be thick.
  4. Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan.  Spread batter out evenly with a spatula.  Top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.  Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed, about 45-55 minutes.
  5. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from loaf pan and let completely cool on wire rack.

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Yield: 1 loaf

“Give us this day our daily bread.”