Thursday, August 30, 2007


Today marks the cutoff date for our Local Bread contest. Susan, Beth, and I would like to thank everyone who's participated in the random drawing and particularly in the story contest. We'll announce the two winners within the next. In the meantime, here are the last of the story entries.

First, Carla Shafer and Zorra both posted their stories on their blogs. Carla offers an amazing story of a four-year-old boy making cinnamon rolls from scratch with no help.

In the meantime, Zorra offers a bit of advice on baking bread along with her sourdough recipe.

Amanda was prompted to start baking bread by a loaf her mother made when she was a young girl. But it took her 16 years to get around to it:
I have a vague memory of my mother sending me to school for a pioneer day with a small round loaf of bread. Years later I came across a recipe for Country Loaf, a large round loaf of bread. It reminded me of how good that bread tasted 16 or so years before, so I set out, armed only with Betty Crocker’s instructions, to make homemade bread.

I grabbed my all-purpose flour and the little bag of yeast that had been languishing on my pantry shelf and mixed, kneaded, prodded, poked, waited, worried and baked the afternoon away. I honestly didn't expect it to work. Several hours later I pulled a golden brown loaf of bread from my oven, just in time for dinner. I had done it! I had made bread with my own hands. My husband walked in the door, sniffed, then said "I didn't know you knew how to make bread." I told him, "Neither did I."

Four years later, I'm still at it. I have an ever-expanding library of bread books and am saving to buy myself a KitchenAid mixer. For me, bread making has gone from a way to pass the time to something interesting to do to something I am passionate about, all because of a little loaf of bread made by my mother 16 years ago.

Libby Maxey tells of her adventures with sourdough, replete with explosions:
I come from the west coast, where sourdough bread is a given. When my grandma used to come over for our regular Sunday lunch, she would always bring a packaged sourdough round to go with the soup that she had made. Although my mom ground wheat to bake bread for us, my heart belonged to that pre-baked, heat-and-serve sourdough. When I moved to upstate New York, where sourdough bread was neither plentiful nor particularly sour, I decided to bake my own. I was engaged, waiting for my fiancé to return from abroad, living alone in our new apartment and trying to learn how to cook. I had baked bread before, but not memorably. Little did I know how memorable my sourdough saga would turn out to be.

First, there was the starter that dried up, then the starter that molded, and then the starter that just sat there and did nothing. I didn’t realize that the last would do nothing for the bread, so I tried to bake with it. (At least it wasn’t moldy.) After a day of long, messy and indefinite rises, 10 P.M. found me shoveling a rather shapeless mass of grainy dough onto a cookie sheet, and hustling it into a hot oven. I left the oven door open, and reached for my tea kettle to add the final artisanal touch: steam.

The recipe had directed me to place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack to pre-heat so that I could fill it with boiling water as the bread went in. I had chosen a blue glass lasagna pan; I poured quickly, eager to get the oven closed before the steam escaped. Suddenly, the pan exploded with a tremendous bang. Fragments tumbled into the bottom of the oven and out onto the kitchen floor. Nevertheless, I was bound and determined to bake that bread, even if I could barely get the oven door to grind closed with all the shards in the hinge. I’m sure I tried to enjoy some of the hard, unleavened lump that was the fruit of my labors, but I have no memory of tasting it. Undeterred by the failure of that adventure, I’m proud to say that I continued my quest to bake a true sourdough loaf, and eventually became enough of an expert to advise others — and to console them in their times of trial.

And finally, from Teri Nestel we have another "first time" story:
My first experience baking bread was completely unexpected and unwanted. I was newly married and foolishly asked my sister-in-law what I could bring to Thanksgiving. To my terror Lori said, "You can bring the bread."

Because my mother-in-law is a fabulous bread baker and I assumed my three sisters-in-law were too, I thought nothing less than homemade bread would do.

I got out my Betty Crocker cookbook and carefully read the pages of instructions and recipes. I shopped for ingredients, turned out two loaves of Honey-Whole Wheat Bread and carefully packaged them for the trip to Lori's home.

The food was delicious and my bread was not a disaster. It was a little flat and dense — not enough kneading, not enough rising? Geri — when she heard it was my first effort — said she was impressed. I will love her forever. For all its flaws in appearance, it tasted good! And I was hooked.

That was over ten years ago. I have come a long way from those early days when baking a tube of refrigerator sweet rolls was worth writing home for. My favorite recipes include a buttery roll made with cornmeal and milk, fluffy rolls covered with poppy seeds, a honey mustard loaf, a braided loaf flavored with cardamom and crusted with coarse sugar, and Naan, middle-eastern flatbread that the neighborhood kids ask to take home. I still make my original Honey-Whole Wheat bread and it is still pretty good!
Again, thanks to everyone who participated in our contest.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Breadtime Stories

I'm not the only one who has compared bread dough to a baby's bottom. Louise Lewis has drawn the same metaphor in this story :
If you have raised any children, or even babysat a lot, you probably understand my meaning in reference to bread baking!

My first real go at solo bread baking came in the first year I was raising my boys who were born 13 months apart.I had decided to stay at home for a few years with them, and while at home began trying all sorts of things that one can do when they have time on their hands. Yeah, right. But gardening and baking bread did become my pass times while the boys napped, and I fondly remember baking my first loaf of white bread, scalding the milk, and melting the shortening, using an old recipe I found in a cookbook. That hobby grew into a passion, and went further into a very unexpected career. One of my favorite references, while teaching others to bake bread was using the different degrees of a baby's bottom as an indicator of different types of bread and their readiness. "It should feel like a freshly powered babies butt while they are sleeping." "It should be smooth and elastic, like the skin on a babies bottom..." It really was amazing at times how easily beginners to the field understood and were able to use that reference to whip up a great loaf of bread. I think, bread baking just must bring out the "mom" in all of us!

Risa sent us a couple of stories, but we only have room here for one of them, a Thanksgiving Day tale:

A few years back, I was making Pumpkin Soft Yeast Rolls the day before Thanksgiving for Thanksgiving dinner. I put the dough ingredients into the bread machine and made sure it looked good before walking away. About 10 minutes later, I heard the machine making a real racket! When I went to check, the bread pan was shaking, the mixing blade was going crazy and then it stopped. Completely stopped. I tried to re-start it and it wouldn't. I had partially made dough. I put the dough in a bowl and used the electric hand mixer to finish the recipe.

My husband called me to see how things were going and I told him that the bread machine had died. It was a gift from my parents for my anniversary a couple of years earlier. It was one of those Dak Turbo IVs. The next morning I insisted on going to the mall, Sterns was having a sale on electric items. For $75 I found a Breadman TR444 and I was back in business.

Jay's daughter insists on "helping:"
My 3-year-old daughter likes to steal the raw bread dough. Just about every day she asks if she can help me "dump". She helps me put the bread dough together, dumping the ingredients one by one into the bowl, then says "Daddy, now you need to go like this", urging me to knead the dough. (I don't really trust the machine) Then she proceeds to steal dough by whatever means necessary. She tries anything that might work: telling me to look at something on the other side of the room, moving the stepstool to the other side (so I won't see) and downright shoving me out of the way. She usually settles for the bowl and paddle after a few purloined handfuls.

Michele was also moved to an act of poesy with this piece that she notes is suspiciously like "Twas The Night Before Christmas:"
Twas the week after our trip and all through our home
was the smell of bread baking, and it was almost done
I’d mixed it and kneaded and shaped it with care
In hopes that fresh Broetchen soon would be there

My husband was nestled, all snug in our bed
While visions of German breakfast danced in his head
And me in my apron, the cat on my lap
Had just settled down for a quick 5-minute nap

When from the stove there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter
It was just the oven buzzer, I turned it off in a flash
Went to the oven, and saw my hopes dashed

The light of the oven, its slight yellow glow
Showed the luster of egg wash on the objects below
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But some sad looking rolls, just as I feared

They looked just like the last batch, I pulled them right quick
I knew in a moment, they would be just like bricks
More rapid than eagles, myself I did blame
I fumed and I complained and I called myself names

I’m hopeless, a moron! I said to the cat
I’m just making rolls, what could be easier than that?
To the garbage these go, outside by the wall
Now throw away, throw away, throw away all.

They didn’t rise well, (at least the bottoms weren’t black)
This bread baking business, would I ever get the knack?
So off to the Internet to view sights that I knew
Surely someone could help me with my new pursuit?

And then in a twinkling, I found a great site
With pictures and recipes to help with my plight
A Year in Bread was the name of this tome
Eureka! I shouted, I’d at last found my home

It was wonderfully thorough on each shining page
With techniques and hints for each breadmaking stage
My hopes were restored, my mission was back
I’d make Broetchen yet, you could bet on that!

I’m proud to say I can now make great bread
Thanks to the folks on the site I no longer dread
Experimenting with dough, I’ve learned how to do it right
My Broetchen are now tasty, thanks so much and Goodnight!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Being the Heartland

One of the local Knoxville stations has a series named, "The Heartland." As might be expected the brief spots are deeply folksy, full of plaid shirts and chewing tobacco, and hosted by a charming fellow with an East Tennessee accent (making an ET accent charming is a skill) and what used to be boyish good looks but are now avuncular good looks.

And you know what? He really is a nice guy with an abiding interest in this area's history and culture. He is absolutely genuine. Just like you and me and the others participating in some way in this blog. So I have few more stories for you, sent in by our fellow bakers. You don’t get to vote on who wins the story contest (we're too lazy and it's too hot to think about how we might accomplish that) but add your observations, thoughts, and reactions in the comment section.

As a Southerner, I have a near-instinctual affection for grits. From Judy Shealy:
I'm a Girl Raised In The South, as in GRITS! That's rural deep south, as in way out in the country.

I'm the youngest of three, and was my Daddy's little angel. My mother worked outside of the home, and when my older siblings married, I was alone a lot. You need to know, I had an aunt, uncle, and cousins that lived on both sides of us within hollering distance, so you gotta know I would get off the school bus with them whenever I had the chance. My Aunt Hazel and Uncle Bonnie had seven kids, so there was always homemade bread there after school, and it was so good! Usually just out of the oven, with lots of butter and homemade jam to spread on it. Now this was not just any old homemade bread, no sirreee, it had grits in it. The left over grits from breakfast made this a moist and beautiful loaf of bread. I have never had any bread like this outside of Lexington County, South Carolina unless I made it.

It's still my family's favorite. My fond memories of fellowship with my cousins over a loaf of fresh baked bread is still alive, I can smell it baking as I write, and hear the laughter of my cousins as we gathered around the table to break bread together. This was the beginning of my love of baking bread.

I don’t know how old Jane is, but this story has clearly had all the rough spots worn off over the years, leaving a perfectly smooth and shining gem of memory.
I remember the first time I ever made bread. I was 10 years old, and my mother told me what to do. She sat at the kitchen table and didn't lift a finger, just let me do all of the mixing and kneading and rolling and rising and baking. She gave very good instructions, and I have never forgotten what a properly kneaded bread dough feels like. There's nothing like it, that glossy, rubbery texture.

That loaf was perfect, and tasted wonderful, especially since I knew what went into it. That started a tradition in my family. Every time there is a family gathering, it's well known that Jane brings the bread. I am now the (un)official breadmaker in the family.

I'm older now, and my hands and arms aren't as strong as they used to be, so I rely on my well-beloved KitchenAid mixer to do the hard work, but there is nothing like homemade bread to lift the spirits and make the soul soar.

And melt butter. Real butter, not that nasty margarine stuff.

Am I the only person who set out to bake bread without a mentor? I wonder. And Wonder what I missed by relying on books. This from Tammy Kimbler:
My great grandmother, Fannie Elizabeth Kimbler, was a biscuit maker. She taught three generations of us how to make them, including my mother and me. If she was in charge of a meal, there would be biscuits. Her regular breakfast consisted of one biscuit, one egg and one piece of bacon. She lived to be 97.

When she was young in the early 1900s, her husband worked as a ranch hand in Oklahoma. My grandmother was the cook. Pregnant, with a baby on her hip and more around her feet, she would roll out big batches of biscuits for most meals on the ranch. Her biscuits were made with flour, lard or bacon fat and farm fresh milk. After cutting the biscuits and placing them in the pan, she would brush the tops with bacon drippings. She baked them in a wood stove. Her modern biscuit recipe barely varied, except for the electric stove and the homogenized milk.

Last week my daughter turned 1 year old. Her favorite toys in the kitchen are my biscuit cutters, particularly the old fashioned ones with the green and red wooden handles. This weekend my mother comes into town to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. And this weekend, a new generation will taste my great grandmother’s biscuits for the first time. Thanks Grandma.
Bread really is a human tie. And I need a biscuit just now — and some real butter and blackberry or strawberry jam.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Beth: Quick Breads - Blueberry Muffins

My oven is on the blink. More precisely, it's on the not-blink. As in the electronics are dead, the lights don't blink and the oven doesn't heat. The poor thing died about ten days ago and I am still doing research on its replacement — leaving me ovenless. Not to mention in baking withdrawal. As some people might say, I am in my dark place.

Note to readers: if you have suggestions for a reasonable replacement, please comment. If you happen to work for a place that makes awesome stoves and would like me to test one and report, drop me a note.

As luck would have it, however, my oven blinked yesterday. Briefly. Just long enough for me to bake a batch of muffins for this article.

Click to enlarge

Not knowing how much of a window I had before the touchpad decided to be untouchable again, I decided to try several variations on my usual muffin recipe all at once. I knew going in that this might not be such a great idea — heck, I am a geek and know to my bones that you only change one variable at a time because otherwise you don't know which change created a particular effect. Sort of blows the point of experimenting.

With this firmly out of mind, I decided to try a new take on my trusty blueberry muffin recipe. I have long wanted a blueberry muffin that is somehow more enticing than what you usually encounter. My favorite description of my food is 'complex' and most blueberry muffins are anything but. The idea was to create a muffin that was a step towards cake, but just a single step, while adding some depth to the flavor. Here are the individual changes and my thoughts on each of them:
  • Beaten egg whites: Taking a suggestion from Bittman's How to Cook Everything, I hoped the additional loft of stiffly beaten egg whites would lighten the bread. Not so much. While the whites looked good going in to the batter, there was no discernable effect on the finished product. Conclusion — extra effort for no reason.

  • Resting the batter after portioning: This old trick, often found in cornbread recipes, gives the leavening time to form itty-bitty bubbles in the batter. When the muffins are put in the oven, these holes expand from the hot air and result in a higher crown. Sadly, this also gives the berries time to sink to the bottom of the muffin tins. Conclusion — save this for quick breads without such extra ingredients.

  • Silicone muffin pan: What a mess! Everything stuck to the bottom and they came apart in pieces when I tried to remove them after baking. Conclusion — What the heck was I thinking?

  • Lavender: Blueberries and lavender go together like bread and butter, maybe better. Conclusion — this is the only keeper from my experimentation.

The oven? It's back on the blink. But at least I have fresh blueberry muffins to console myself with.
kitchenMage's everMorphing blueberryMuffins
Makes one dozen normal muffins (or 6 huge ones)

sugar 1/2 cup | 120 ml | 3 1/2 ounces | 100 grams
lavender buds (fresh) 1 teaspoon | 5 ml |1/8 ounce | 5 grams
egg 1
butter melted and cooled 3 tablespoons | 1 1/2 ounces | 42 grams
low-fat sour cream 1 1/4 cups | 295 ml | 10 3/4 ounces | 300 grams
all-purpose flour 1 3/4 cups | 415 ml | 7 7/8 ounces | 220 grams
baking powder 2 teaspoons | 10 ml | 1/8 ounce | 7 grams
baking soda 1 teaspoon | 5 ml | 1/16 ounce | 5 grams
salt 1/8 teaspoon | ~1 ml
blueberries 1 1/4 cups | 295 ml | 5 5/8 ounces | 160 grams (if fresh simply wash; if frozen leave them in the freezer until you are ready to use them)
optional butter and cinnamon sugar for topping after baking

Preheat oven to 375°. Have all ingredients, except frozen blueberries, at room temperature. Prepare muffin pan with paper cup liners.

Berries for Muffins

When selecting blueberries for muffins, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Smaller berries are better. There is a relationship between the proximity of berries to each other and how muffins bake. Large berries sink to the bottom of the batter more quickly resulting in a layer of berries touching each other with not much batter in between and thus a much wetter muffin bottom than is desirable.

Less is more. It is tempting to put 'just another handful' of berries in your batter but resist. Too many berries will also leave you with wet muffins that bake unevenly.

Stay cool. If the berries are frozen, keep them that way until you put them in the batter. They are less likely to disintegrate and leave you with blue muffins.

Don't eat them all while picking. While it is tempting to stuff one fistful after another in your mouth while standing in the berry patch, you really should leave a few for the muffins. Or is this just me?

1. Grind the sugar and lavender in a blender briefly to chop the buds up. (use a little less lavender if you have dried buds)

2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg briefly with a wire whisk to lighten. Add the sugar and continue to whisk until you can no longer feel any resistance from undissolved sugar.

3. Add the butter to the bowl and mix briefly to combine, then add sour cream and whisk until mixture is smooth and homogenous. (You can whisk an additional minute or two at this point, if your wrist can take it, to aerate the batter, making the muffins a bit lighter.)

4. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to mix and eliminate lumps. (I use a 6" handheld sieve — the muffins come together more easily if the flour is well aerated.)

Click to enlarge

5. Add the blueberries to the dry mixture and toss them gently for a few seconds to coat the berries.

6. Add liquid mixture to the flour mixture and combine with a few quick folds.

7. Scoop batter into muffin pan (a 4 oz scoop is about the right size).

8. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until tops are golden brown. Turn out on wire rack to cool.

9. If desired, brush still warm muffins with melted butter and sprinkle on a bit of cinnamon sugar.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tales & Travails

Laura has posted her baked brick story at LGirl's Blog and Susan offers a story about a bread-loving cat at Wild Yeast.

Wan Bui has just recently started baking bread and shared her story with us:
Six month ago, I was alien to the baking world. I had no idea what is the difference between all purpose flour, bread flour and cake flour. The only thing I know is that each time I craved for good bread I would need to travel quite a distance to Carrefour (that's a French Supermarket), Market Place or Delifrance (a French eatery) to pick up few good loaves. I was born and raised in Vietnam, the place that according to Anthony Bourdain produces the best baguette outside of France. Married to a Singaporean, I moved to live in Singapore 10 years ago and although there are quite a few bakeries around, I hardly found anything that suits my taste.

It was at the 7 month of my pregnancy that I craved so badly for those French baguettes stuffed with plenty of sausage, pate and sweet-and-sour salad (the way they are served in Vietnam). I stared to search for bread making recipes from the internet, bought a new oven, find the way to local bakery supply shops and attempted to make a very first loaf of bread. Although heavily pregnant, I still stayed up late at night, tried out difference recipes. Success did not come easy. The biggest problem was weight and measurement. I am used to metric measurement and most of recipes out there are in cups and pounds. I did not have a mixer and did everything manually.

My first loaf was as hard as stone due to over kneading, too hot oven and probably wrong measurement of ingredients. However, I did not give up, keep on searching and found Susan's Foodie Farmgirl blog. I was amazed with the way she lived and managed her farm. I am sure it is much harder than working and raising my 3 little kids here. She is such an inspiration. I read her ten tips for making good bread over and over again and tried baking bread again. I used her tips with recipes from others who follow metric systems. Six months on, I now can bake decent loaves of bread and have moved onto buns, pita, pizza and biscuits. My kids not only love home-bake breads but also enjoy baking time when they can shape their own breads or biscuits.

Thank you so much for sharing your baking experience with us, guiding us and inspire us to be good baker. It would be even better if you could produce a little note to your every recipes stating your ¾ cup is equivalent to how many grams of flour or milliliters of water.

And Darby is a rappin' baker:
Making Bread, A Rap: "Rollin' (In the Dough)"

YO! I make bread cuz I like to knead
The dough in my hands doesn't make them bleed
I got a bunch of active yeast in the freezer
I got a bin of flour, a real crowd pleaser

Don't got much money, just a wad of tens
Don't need a Cadillac don't need a Benz
I got a secret weapon to make my endz

I be rollin' (rollin') Rollin' (rollin) Rollin' in the dough…
It be risin' in my kitchen mighty high and mighty slow
Don't need no BLING to reprezent
Just my bowl, my hands and ingredienz

YO My husband likes to call me honey
But he'd rather squeeze it on his bun-ies
My kids reprezent making little dough snakes
The bread they eat, the crust they hate

I prefer my slice with jam and butter
My serrated knife is a superior cutter
Adding too much wheat germ will make you sputter

I be rollin' (rollin') Rollin' (rollin) Rollin' in the dough…
It be risin' in my kitchen mighty high and mighty slow
Don't need no BLING to reprezent
Just my bowl, my hands and ingredienz

PROOF OUT, Homies!

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Kevin: Quick Breads - Cheese Bread

This month we’re doing quick breads. A quick bread is one that uses something other than yeast for leavening, typically a chemical leavener. Biscuits are quickbreads — unless they’re sour-dough biscuits. Muffins are quick breads. Cornbread is a quick bread. Even popovers are quick breads, although they rely on eggs for leavening.

The chemical leaveners are baking soda and baking powder and they work by producing CO2 gas, which is the same way yeast works. Yeast, however, digests sugars and produces CO2 as part of its metabolism, while baking soda and baking powder work by combining an alkali ingredient (the baking soda) with an produce CO2. If your recipe contains an acid ingredient such as buttermilk, lemon juice, or sour cream then baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, an alkali) will react with that acid to create the gas.

Chemical leavening is a recent invention in the history of bread. Or, perhaps more accurately, their deliberate use is a recent invention with baking powder being the real breakthrough. Various combinations of chemicals were used in the early 19th century, but in 1856 a chemist named Eben Horsford developed a powder he named in honor of Count Rumford — yes, that Rumford Baking Powder. But it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century, when a German pharmacist named August Oetker started selling it to housewives, that chemical leavening entered the culinary mainstream.

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and an acid such as monosodium phosphate, thus providing both ingredients in a single ingredient. Baking powder usually includes cornstarch to absorb water vapor and keep the acid and alkali from interacting in the box. Adding a liquid when making something like biscuits or muffins overwhelms the cornstarch and the active ingredients combine and produce CO2. But, over time, even the ambient humidity (the water vapor in the air) will saturate the corn starch and the active chemicals will begin interacting. This is why baking powder has a limited shelf life.

Another option is to fry five strips of bacon cut into 1/2" pieces. Drain the bacon and add 1/2 of an onion, minced and sauté it for about three minutes. Make the bread according to the directions at left but leaving out the butter, substituting gruyere for the cheddar. Fold in the bacon and onion, then cook according to the recipe.

Double-acting baking soda includes an additional acid ingredient (usually sodium aluminum sulphate) that kicks in when heated. Without the heat it’s inert and so double-acting baking powder works the first time by combining the bicarbonate of soda and monosodium phosphate in the presence of water, and then, when heated up by the interaction between the soda and aluminum sulphate.

The following is a recipe I’ve been meaning to try since 2004 when Cooks Illustrated published it. This seemed like a perfect opportunity and I decided to match it up with a stuffed tomato for a late summer supper.

Cheese Bread
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, May/June 2004.

Ingredient | US Volume | Metric Volume | US Weight | Metric weight
parmesan — coarsely shredded ~ 1 c | ~ 235 ml | 3 oz | 85 g
all-purpose flour 3 c | 710 ml | 15 1/2 oz | 440 g
baking powder 1 tbsp | 15 ml | 5/8 oz | 18 g
cayenne 1/4 tsp | 1.2 ml | -- | --
salt 1 tsp | 5 ml | 1/4 oz | 7 g
black pepper 1/8 tsp | .6 ml | -- | --
sharp cheddar -- | -- | 4 oz | 113 g
whole milk 1 1/4 c | 296 ml | 10 oz | 283 g
butter — melted 3 tbsp | 45 ml | 1 1/2 oz | 43 g
large egg — lightly beaten 1 ea
sour cream 3/4 c | 177 ml | 6 oz | 170 g

Heat oven to 350F (177C). Spray a 9" x 5" (20cm x 12cm) loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread half of parmesan on the bottom of the pan.

Cut cheddar into 1/2" (1.25cm) dice.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and black pepper. Add cheddar and toss to coat.

In a medium bowl, mix together milk, butter, egg, and sour cream. Combine liquid and dry ingredients folding together with a spatula until just mixed.

Pour into the loaf pan and top with remaining parmesan. Bake in center of oven 45 to 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Note, because you may hit a pocket of cheese, use the toothpick test in two or three spots.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn bread out and continue cooling for 45 minutes.

It's hrad to beat cheese bread, and this version, with the chunks of melted cheese in it is fun to eat. The sour cream keeps it pleasantly moist and the cayenne adds a great touch of spiciness. I've just been sticking it in the toaster oven to warm up and then eating it plain.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Bread Time

Our first essay entries have arrived, we'll post a few every two or three days, so if you've sent us an entry and it doesn't appear in this post it will be in a later one.

Leanne Abe has posted her entry named "Teddy Bear Bread, I Miss You" on her blog, Three Dog Kitchen. And Kansas Allen has a bread poem on her blog, Little Things I Do.

Ruth Schall sent us this entry:
Several years ago, a friend and I, both of us accomplished cooks and very proud of that fact, decided to take an entry level bread class.

The class of approximately 20 were divided into teams and assigned a recipe. To our delight, our recipe was a cheese bread. How can you go wrong?

As I proofed the yeast, my friend began shredding the cheese. While we worked, we heard a number of other teams expressing concern over their recipe and asking of beginner questions. We smiled condescendingly at one another and continued our work. When it was time to add the cheese, my friend mentioned that she had shredded a lot more than the recipe called for. "Throw it in" was my quick response and she concurred — more cheese, how could you possibly go wrong?

As the luscious aroma of baking bread permeated the room, we pulled our loaf from the oven. It was beautiful. "Aren't we impressive," we smiled to one another.

After the remainder of the class removed their loaves, the teacher gathered us for a short discussion while the freshly baked loaves rested. She instructed us to cut a few slices of our loaf for passing and gather back to discuss each other's experiences and taste the results.

When we sliced into our bread we discovered a gooey mass of raw dough underneath the shiny toasted top. Oh my gosh... what are we going to do? We attempted to blend in with the crowd, hoping against hope that she would bypass us. Alas, it was not so and our embarrassment was complete. As she viewed the goo, she explained to all our mistake. We were mortified, particularly my friend who attempted to actually sneak out of the classroom!

We never went back!

I am proud to say that now I am aware that bread baking is a science unlike cooking where a little of this, or a lot of cheese, is a good thing!
And Elizabeth Reichhoff sent this one, including a glossary:
Bread, magnificent homemade bread. I'm imaging the warm loaves coming out of Situ's oven, warm delicious pita bread, so good with butter and honey. The softness of these loaves, touching them, you know why these are meant for eating by hand, a tactile pleasure. Or a magnificent round loaf of dense thick bread, boiled and then dipped in clarified butter and left to cool, a golden treat. Or the very thin, almost tortilla-like, loaves that wrap around everything; who needs a fork when you've got these to eat with? Jidu taught my husband to make a goat's ear by tearing a bit of thin bread and making a scoop, shaped like a goat's ear. We use these to scoop up labneh, humous, tabouli, just about anything, really.

Oh, the delightful surprise upon opening the door to the smell of bread baking. If hearts can sing, that's when mine does. The thought nearly makes an audible sound, "Bread! She's making bread!" The only moment when I feel truly small, just a kid. I run up the stairs to the kitchen from my childhood, my footsteps falling on the wood stairs, making the familiar noise of coming home. Forgetting manners and adult conversation, I grab the first loaf I come to, so hot it nearly burns my fingers, but perfectly suited for melting butter. All this comes with Situ's admonishments: "You know, habibte, you can't live on bread alone." I don't believe her, do you?

Situ — my grandmother
Jidu — my grandfather
labneh — a creamy yogurt cheese
humous — garbanzo beans mashed with fresh garlic, lemon juice and tahini
tabouli — bulgar wheat, fresh, hand-chopped parsley, tomatoes, onions, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil
habibte — sweetheart

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Prizes! Awards! Gimmicks!

Local Breads

Today we're launching our first contest at A Year in Bread. As the regular readers know, we've been looking at recipes from Daniel Leader's new book, Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers, for the past three weeks. The book is due to be released this month, but we already have a couple of signed copies in our flour-covered hands that we're going to give away over the next month.

One copy will go to a reader selected at random. If you're interested in participating in this contest, send an email to AYearInBread with your name and email address and we'll add you to the list. The subject line should be "Local Bread Contest."

The other contest is more challenging. We're asking for your favorite homemade bread story. This could be an egg (or flour) -on-your-face tale of failure, it could be a memory of bread made for a special occasion, it could be an unexpected success or even a long-sought-for success. Maybe it was how you learned to bake bread at your mother's side, or why you started baking bread. Whatever the specific event or events, we want to hear about them. Your entry should be no more than 250 words if you're sending to us to post (on your own blog, go for broke), and creativity counts. Clever poems, silly songs (just tell us what tune to sing them to), and good old-fashioned humor are all welcome.

If you have a blog, post your story there with a link back to this post, and send us an email at AYearInBread with the permalink. If you don't have a blog, just write up your story and send it to us and we'll post it here. All those participating in the story contest will automatically be included in the random drawing.

The contests will end on August 30th, and we'll announce the winners one week later.

Let the games begin!

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