Monday, August 31, 2009

Tarting Up Your Bread

My partner John likes heavily flavored breads. This runs rather contrary to my history. Anadama was as far from plain white bread as I got in my childhood or since I have been making my own bread. However, I was sitting here a few minutes ago with a big slice of bread that I made last night, toasted and slathered with butter. I realized how wonderful it was. There were no real recipes for bread that was heavily herbed like he wanted, so I had to improvise. Here is the one I made and a few suggestions.

To a white bread recipe, similar to the Focaccia found in a post here(doubled)add:

4 teaspoons of sage
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 tablespoon of freshly cracked black pepper.

Add along with the liquids like a tea. This is wonderful when sliced, toasted and buttered. It could be a meal (as all of these could) with a few cold cuts and cheese. I think this would be perfect as a sandwich with sliced roast chicken or turkey or roasted vegetables. I don't think that people normally think of pork as a sandwich ingredient, but imagine this bread too, with sliced roast pork, or hot with gravy poured over it. Who needs stuffing?!

Maryanne Esposito made a bread with a tea of Fennel seeds and cracked black pepper that I have always loved. John is not a lover of Liquorice flavors so I do not do it often.

Grind up rosemary leaves and garlic together for a bread that would be wonderful with lamb and pork.

Use your home-made pesto in your bread; and remember there are a number of pestos you could use. Several are posted here.

Make your bread with finely minced bacon or sausage. Use a bit of the fat as well, but omit the other oils or butter from the recipe and add it when the recipe calls for the fat. Bacon and onion is a British combo that is hard to beat.

Minced hot chilies and cheddar cheese is a great combo. Lay thin slices of the cheese over the top of the loaf about ten minutes before it comes out of the oven.
Dried chili powder, cumin and oregano would be good as well.

Don't forget cheese. Any of these combos would be good with a hard grating cheese. Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Asiago, Manchego are all good choices, but finely grated Cheddar or Swiss would be OK as well, especially if you are rolling a layer in jellyroll fashion. The bacon with onion would be great with a good cheddar.
The starch of the bread will deaden any wimpy additions of cheese(or herbs for that matter), so make sure that whatever you use is good strong aged cheese that will stand up to the deadening effects of the bread.
Anything served cold needs to be over seasoned or cheesed(if that is a word), but toasting will help to revive the flavor. A cup or more in a couple of loaves should be enough, but use more if the cheese is mild.

John gave me a large mortar and pestle for Christmas. We do not use a pepper grinder now. We simply crack or grind the pepper in the mortar and leave it in a shallow dish to use. Try to make only enough for that day or two at the outside. This is also a good way to make the spice powders from whole spices like cinnamon or cloves.
Grind the herbs you wish to use for the bread in the mortar and pestle or whiz it up with a food processor. The mortar is very satisfying though. The physical activity, the pounding and grinding makes you feel much calmer afterward.
Make your herbs into a paste with onion and garlic to add to the water of your recipe, or just use dried onion and garlic from the supermarket.
If you like, reserve a little of the herbs(not the garlic or onion) to roll your dough into before the last rising. You can brush the top of the loaves with egg white and sprinkle the herb powder on top.
Alternatively, roll your once risen dough into a large rectangle, drizzle the surface with oil(Olive of course)and sprinkle a layer of herbs etc. Then, roll it all up jellyroll style and place in your pan to rise before baking.
Whole Wheat and Anadama breads are a bit sweet; and may not be as good with many of these combinations.
Rye bread is great with onion and Orange peel grated into it. Try the citrus peel of your choice in other breads as well.

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