A sweet bread with my coffee–that’s what I needed. I found one in Beard on Bread made with sour cream and milk and butter and eggs, all baked up in a bundt pan. It had raisins and chopped nuts, cinnamon and a vanilla glaze. It came out delicious. Finally a good one. And on this Wednesday of the tenth week of the semester, that’s all I have time to say about it. Here are some pictures. Hasta la vista.
More than three decades ago, I started making homemade bread. Before breadmakers and cell phones, I learned the feel of the dough that marked the end of the kneading process. I fell in love with the smell of bread baking and the taste of the first steamy slice slathered in butter. All of this followed months of failed attempts where I made bricks, and I even sliced and tasted them. The best lessons are learned by failing. I repeatedly killed the yeast with too-hot water to produce those bricks. I recall making half a dozen bricks, at least, before accepting that I needed help.
At the local park I met a mom of two little blond boys. My red-haired daughter caught the eye of the red-haired mom and helped me make one of my first adult friends. The other mom and I got to know each other and one day at the apartment complex pool I told her the funny story of my bread bricks. She didn’t laugh like everyone else. She invited me over the next day to teach me to make bread.
She taught me to proof the yeast with some sugar in a small bowl with the perfect temperature of water. She actually taught me the feel of the water by showing me what was too hot and too cold and just right under the tap.
She taught me to knead, from the raggedy mess of the starting mixture to the smooth and elastic ready-to-rise dough.
She taught me to form loaves and how long to bake them, and to melt butter on the baked crust by rubbing it with a partly peeled stick of cold butter to make the crust delectable.
She saved me from my path to one hundred bricks.
For Christmas this year, my daughter (who has given up on gifting me novels anymore because she said my writing hobby has ruined me as a reader) gave me a bread cookbook call BEARD ON BREAD, first published on Mole Day in 1973. Unlike my pie habit from last year with glorious heaps of meringue and brightly colored fruits, my bread blog entries might be bland and pale and tan, but I’m willing to give it a try.
Last weekend I made the first recipe in the book, called “Basic White Bread” on page 22. Unlike my memorized recipe, this loaf called for no butter or milk, and a flipped ratio of sugar to salt. I followed along like a neophyte.
I proofed the yeast.
I mixed and kneaded the dough.
I let the first rise occur in a buttered and covered bowl until doubled in bulk.
I formed a loaf and let it rise again.
I baked for twice as long as I’ve ever baked a loaf, and even preheated the oven for half an hour and left my pizza stone in there. I tapped the loaf to hear its hollowness and set it on the oven rack sans pan for a few extra minutes to finish the bottom crust.
Then I served it with pasta. It smelled right and looked beautiful and tasted so bland and basic. It made me miss my memorized recipe.
Next time I’ll try a sour dough recipe since I have never had success in that arena and I must learn some new tricks in 2019.
I just devoured a veggie and cheese Panini in about eight bites. I tried to slow down. I tried to savor it. I even tried to pause and take a picture of it. But it was too delicious for any of that nonsense.
As I sit and sigh in bliss, I’m thinking of the things I’ve learned to cook in my life. This veggie and cheese sandwich is my own invention–though it was modeled after a sandwich I had in a Nashville restaurant ten years ago. For many of the things I like to cook (and eat!), I remember the day and the responsible chef.
Kerry taught me how to make bread in ~1986.
Sue taught me how to hard boil an egg in ~1996.
Aunt Til taught me how to make genets and cannoli in ~2000.
Mom taught me how to make pie crust, and meatballs, and hot-air popcorn, and how to cut pizza with scissors in ~1975.
Gram taught me how NOT to make mashed potatoes in ~1970.
Cheryl and Wayne taught me how to make Low Country Boil in ~2010.
Paula Deen taught me how to make Buffalo Shrimp in ~2013.
John told me how to make easy bread in ~2013.
Amy Adams taught me how to grill mushrooms in butter in ~2009. (You too? Remember the movie?)
Veggie and Cheese Panini
2 slices sourdough bread
1 tbsp. butter
2 mushrooms sliced up
3 artichoke hearts chopped up
1 tbsp. chopped green onion
1 tbsp. hummus–any flavor you like
3 small slices cheddar cheese
2 slices feta cheese (or some crumbles)
Grill the mushrooms in melted butter. Slather hummus onto one slice of bread. Move the mushrooms over and put the other slice of bread in the pan. Place the cheddar cheese and green onions on it. Add the feta cheese and artichokes. Pile on the mushrooms. Cover with the hummus-bread. Turn the heat way down. (Sometimes I turn the heat off while I BUILD the sandwich.) After the bottom bread cooks a little, flip the whole thing over. Turn off the heat. Put the Panini press on (or cover the pan) and let all the cheese melt for about 5 minutes. OMG.
I am asked for this recipe ten times a year. Here you go. Make it soon. It is delicious.
Shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder—as you like
(what else? Chopped up meatballs are good. Onions, mushrooms, artichokes, olives…anything you like. That’s why this is called Garbage Bread in New York. Put in whatever you have. But not sauce—it gets too wet. Save the sauce for dipping.)
2 pkg yeast
1 ½ c water
¼ c olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar
4 to 4 ½ c bread flour
Dissolve the yeast with brown sugar in a small bowl with ½ c almost-hot water.
Let it rise 5-10 minutes (or more) until bubbly.
Mix 2 c flour with salt in large bowl.
When the yeast is ready, pour it into the flour mix and add the other 1 c almost-hot water and olive oil.
Stir until smooth.
Then add 1 more cup of flour and mix, then the last cup of flour and mix.
Knead, adding more flour as needed, for about 10 minutes.
Dough should be smooth, elastic, and not sticky.
Add more flour and knead more until this is achieved.
Place ball of dough into clean large greased bowl and cover to let rise for 1-2 hours. (Less time is ok if you are in a hurry or really hungry. This dough has baked great for me even without any rising time except in the oven.)
Divide dough in half and roll each half flat into a rectangle ~10″x15″
Spread the fillings on in layers like a pizza all the way to the edges.
Spread the cheese on last.
Add seasoning as you like.
Roll up like a jelly roll (tight!) and seal the ends under as you roll.
Seal the long seam by pinching and patting until you are convinced it won’t blow open while baking.
Place seam-side-down on greased cookie sheet.
Cover with a towel and let rise about 20-30 minutes, or until your oven is hot (400 F).
Make 4 or 5 diagonal cuts in top to let out steam and then bake for 20 minutes until light brown.
Let cool about 10 minutes before slicing into thin pieces.