Friday, January 20, 2012

Thinking about Bread

When I started this blog back in October, one of my goals was to bake more bread. I'm now several months in and, looking back, I've done alright. I feel like with every new bread recipe, I get a better sense of the basics of breadmaking, and I've enjoyed seeking out new recipes to try. If Finn does indeed become a baker, maybe I can convince him to give me a few shifts in his bakery.

I think one of the greatest lessons I've learned is that baking a homemade loaf of bread does not have to be that difficult. It takes some time (though, in many instances, not as much as I would have guessed), but the hands-on is fairly minimal and the payoff extraordinary. The cost effectiveness is pretty remarkable, too, when I see what the grocery store bakery charges for a loaf of whole wheat artisanal bread. Admittedly, I have the privilege of being home with my boys this year so I can get a loaf of bread going in the morning while they are playing...but I think I could just as easily make a loaf in the evening in the hours between dinner and bedtime. Bread turns a simple dinner (soup, for example) into something kind of special; I think of it as an upgrade of sorts. It also makes your house smell really good.

Today is a great example of the use of bread to step up a meal. My friend dropped off a great big container of gumbo for our family to try for dinner. Since the effort required by me for this meal is exactly zero, I thought I'd make some bread to go with it. I found an interesting recipe in what I think is the very first cookbook I ever owned: Mollie Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (1995 edition). I remember getting my hands on this book when I was in college and realizing for the first time that cooking could be a joyous process as well as a means to an end. It's still one of my favorites. As an added bonus, it's got a great basic illustrated guide to making yeast breads that is super useful for getting started.

I was looking for something kind of dense and flavorful, and I came upon this recipe. Unlike most of the breads I've been baking lately, this is not a yeast bread. Rather, it's a savory batter bread. I honestly don't think I've ever made a savory batter bread before; batter breads in my world generally come with bananas or pumpkin in them. The wonderful advantage to a batter bread is that it takes minutes to throw together and is then ready to put in the oven; no rising, no punching, no kneading. I made the recipe exactly as written  and it turned out really well. I think I would cut back on the sugar next time, as it was a bit too sweet in combination with the herbs, but I will definitely be making this again. I would also consider trying different herb combinations, or maybe different savory ingredients like olives or sun dried tomatoes.  I didn't get any help from Finn on this one; in fact, I had it made and in the oven before he even realized I was making bread. Emmett was in the mei tai, so I guess I can give him a cooking credit here.

Yogurt and Herb Bread
adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest


15 minutes to prepare (seriously!)
40 to 45 minutes to bake
Yield: 1 medium sized loaf

a little butter or oil for the pan
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup plain yogurt
5 tbsp. melted butter
2 eggs
1/3 cup honey or sugar
2 tsp. dill
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. basil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a medium sized loaf pan.

2. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the dried herbs.

3. In a separate bowl, beat together the yogurt, butter, eggs, and honey/sugar.  Pour this mixture into a well in the dry ingredients.  Mix with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended (it will be stiff).

4. Spread into the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let it sit for about 5 minutes then rap the pan sharply to remove the bread.  Cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

No comments:

Post a Comment