Archives for posts with tag: yeast breads

Hello. It is the last day of March and I have moved again: on March 21 I moved out of my mother’s house and back to San Leandro. I am still unpacking things and rearranging them — I can’t remember where everything went last time around, although I remembered the locations of all of the pieces of furniture. As I settle into the house and take up routines of cleaning and cooking I find myself thinking a lot.

These are the kinds of things I think. “I want to make some bread. I don’t have any whole wheat flour. I have oats and cornmeal and molasses and white flour. I can make anadama bread. If I make double amounts of the cornmeal mush we can have cornmeal pancakes for breakfast tomorrow. If the oven is on to bake bread, I should roast a butternut squash from the cache that I grew last year. We can have that tonight with baked beans and fresh bread.” Then I bake bread and roast squash, saving the squash innards in the freezer for some future batch of butternut squash soup. Using the oven to prepare more than one dish at a time is something I learned from my mother in her kitchen.

I think about the garden. Because I am going on a short trip to New Mexico in late April I do not want to start seedlings or plant anything new outside until I get back. The garden, however, had plans of its own. Forty tomato plants have started themselves from the smushed remains of last year’s tomatoes, tomatoes that fell off the huge Sun Gold vine. Many of them decided to grow between the tiles of the only paved area in the yard, although some have reasserted themselves in the soil by the fence where I planted them last year. The largest of the patio tomatoes is now in flower. We will have to wait to see what we get because Sun Gold tomatoes are hybrid tomatoes. I had also planted Amish paste tomatoes and Principe Borghese. It remains to be seen if any of them have come up in the tomato forest. The chard asserted itself as well and formed two healthy clumps in a boggy area near the shed. So far my gardening activities have been limited to weeding, cutting down dandelions and thistles and teasing out oxalis from the stems of the chard. I cut chard everyday to eat, adding it to pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives and feta or scrambling it into eggs with scallions. I think, eating from the garden, that I would like to plant some lettuce soon, maybe some radishes for variety, and then I remember that I am going away in less than a month and it would be better not to plant anything until I can be here to tend the garden.

I think about what I need and what I don’t need. At certain points in unpacking I declare “I don’t need any more stuff.” Then I realize I haven’t seen my set of biscuit cutters (“Maybe they are in the cookie-cutter tins by the kitchen bookshelf”) or my dough cutter. Because two of my bookshelves sit in the kitchen as a makeshift pantry and china cabinet respectively I have to edit the books that I display on the bedroom shelves. Last time around I consigned the short story collections to the shed. This time I have them out, but I am thinking they will be boxed up once again so that I have room for music books and volumes of poetry. Another strategy is to place books I have bought but have not yet read on a high shelf and to ask Johnny, who is tall, to get them down as I need them. Tomorrow, my “day off” I will face the book-sorting issue: last time I rearranged the books three times before I was satisfied.

When I spill water on the floor I am full of desire for a new, more effective mop and a large batch of cotton rags. When I think of making soup I covet an immersion blender, or, at least, a working regular blender. When I bake bread in conjoined loaf pans I remember the nice set of bread pans I saw at a thrift store in Berkeley and wonder if they are rust-proof and if they are still there. I make mental lists of groceries: whole wheat flour, lemons, sour cream, cinnamon sticks. Whenever I put something away in some inconvenient place I think, “Is there a better place for that in the kitchen?” (or the bedroom, or the bathroom).

As per the last time I moved I cannot find my camera battery on the evening that I write this blog post. If I find it soon I will perhaps add some pictures of the tomato forest.

Anadama Bread

In a saucepan combine:

1 and 1/2 cups water

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup cornmeal

Stir constantly until cornmeal thickens and bubbles. Pour into mixing bowl.

In a glass measuring cup, measure 1 and 1/2 Tbsp of corn oil or soft shortening. Add to cornmeal mixture.

In that same greasy measuring cup, pour 1/3 cup molasses. Add molasses to cornmeal.

DO NOT WASH THAT CUP YET. Into that molasses-smeared cup, put 1/4 cup water. Pop it in the microwave for a few seconds until lukewarm and add 4 and 1/2 tsp yeast. Stir with a fork until the yeast dissolves.

In another bowl measure 4 cups sifted flour.

Either go away and leave cornmeal mixture to cool to lukewarm and then add dissolved yeast OR start adding flour to the cornmeal mixture, which will help cool it. When the mixture is lukewarm add the rest of the flour and the dissolved yeast and begin to knead the dough. You may have to add more flour to overcome the stickiness of the molasses. I like to turn the dough out of the bowl and knead it on a lightly-floured  wooden surface.

When the bread is smooth and no longer sticky, add 1 Tbsp butter or oil or shortening to the mixing bowl and place the dough in it again. Cover with a dampened and warmed linen or cotton towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled (over an hour). Punch down. Let rise again (about half an hour).

Grease a bread pan or pans and shape dough. This recipe makes a good-sized round loaf or four small loaves. Preheat oven to 375 Bake for forty to forty-five minutes until nicely browned. Remove loaves from pans and let cool before slicing.

It is cherry season in California. For a few short weeks in May or June fresh cherries appear at the Farmers’ Market in Berkeley. First there are Brooks, then Burlats. Later there are Bing cherries. I eat them all. Mostly, I eat them fresh, for a snack. Lately I have been sneaking them into my morning cereal: my current favorite concoction involves 1/3 cup blue cornmeal cooked in 1 cup of milk with a bit of salt, a small handful of raw almonds pounded in a mortar, a handful of stoned cherries and a couple teaspoons of shredded coconut. This is also good with rolled oats — if you use oats, use 1/2 cup.

Do any of you have binders full of recipes that you have clipped from the food sections of local newspapers? Do you have a lot of recipes you haven’t actually cooked? Me, too. Sometimes I try one and toss it out with a “What were they thinking?” gesture. Sometimes I learn something. Sometimes I just store them, loosely organized by main ingredient, in a huge binder that takes two hands to lift off the shelf, but I know they are there waiting for “someday” when I’ll cook them.

Cherry Focaccia with Chocolate.

One such recipe was Ed Murrieta’s recipe for cherry focaccia. A Google search for the original publication date in the Contra Costa Times informed me that I have been saving this recipe since June 7, 2004. I saved it because it has an irresistible photo of a golden brown round focaccia, dimpled with cherries, cut into wedges, with a pile of fresh cherries in the center. It looks so pretty that I wanted to make it “someday.”

Well, folks, today was someday. I made a trip on the bus to the Farmers’ Market yesterday to buy more basil for more pesto and to buy cherries for this bread. Insert disclaimers here. One, I don’t generally like focaccia — it is too thick, too bland, with the wrong ratio of toppings to crust: I think of it as failed pizza. Two, I think chocolate-covered cherries are revolting. My Grandmother liked them: nasty, sickly cherries in too sweet milk chocolate. And cherry cordials, worse, if possible: bad chocolate filled with wet cherry filling that squirts you when you bite into it. Yuck. Three, my favorite cherry recipes involve sour cherries, either canned or dried, since fresh sour cherries are hard to come by in this part of the world. Four, I can’t stand anything cherry-flavored: cherry flavor reminds me of medicine. This includes cherry Starbursts (why, oh why?). The only exception I can think of is Royal Crown Sour Cherry candy — do they still make it anymore?

But this cherry focaccia was calling my name. First of all, it is a filled focaccia: you make two circles of dough. You put fresh, pitted cherries on top of the first circle, sprinkle it with chopped bittersweet chocolate, and put the second circle on top. Then you push more cherries into the top layer and sprinkle it with raw sugar before it goes into the oven. Plus, you need a starter to make this and I keep a jar of sourdough starter in my refrigerator at all times. I fed the starter yesterday and let it sit out on the counter while I went to the market and bought cherries.

I wanted to send you to Ed Murrieta for the original recipe, but when I Googled him the first thing I found was an article about how his entrepreneurial business had failed, leaving him to live on food stamps. Then I found some recipes including marijuana. Wherever he is now and whatever he is doing I wish him well and thank him for this gorgeous focaccia recipe. I could send you to the newspaper site, but they seem to want you to activate a free trial subscription to let you read the recipe. What can I do? I can rewrite the recipe — I did make a couple of changes.

Here’s the bad kitty confession. Murrieta’s recipe calls for bread flour. In my heyday when I had a regular job and regular paychecks I would have gone out and bought bread flour. I would have insisted on bread flour. Now I am not so proud or so picky: I use what we have on hand. I am an experienced baker and can handle sticky doughs and doughs behaving badly. So I will tell you that Ed Murrieta called for 2 and 3/4 cups of bread flour, plus additional flour on the board during the kneading and shaping phases. I winged it with unbleached flour and some whole wheat flour to give it a more rustic quality. I’ll show you.

Murrieta called for a starter made  of 1/2 tsp dry yeast, 2/3 cup of water and 1 cup of bread flour. You mix this up in a glass jar with a wooden spoon, cover it with cloth and let it ferment on the counter for at least twelve hours (and up to 36). I skipped this, and just added 2/3 cup of my sourdough starter to the dough. If you already have a starter, you are good to go. If you want an official sourdough starter recipe, go here.

Focaccia stuffed with fresh cherries and chocolate.

Cherry Focacccia. 8″ x 8″ gouache on paper. Sharyn DImmick.

Fresh Cherry Focaccia with Chocolate

Make the dough first. You can pit cherries and chop chocolate while the dough rises. You can even go to the store for cherries and chocolate while the dough rises if you don’t go on the once-every-forty-five-minutes bus.

Dissolve 1 and 1/2 tsp yeast in 1 cup warm water.

While the yeast proofs, stir together in a large bowl 2 and 3/4 cups bread flour, 3 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp kosher salt. If you do not have bread flour and are intrepid, start with 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 3 and 1/4 cups unbleached flour (You will have to add more).

Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients. Add proofed yeast, 2/3 cup sourdough starter (or Ed’s starter, above), 1 cup lukewarm water and 3 Tbsp olive oil. Mix with wooden spoon until a light dough forms. If your dough is more of a batter than a dough, add flour 1/4 cup at a time.

Flour a bread board or other work surface and keep the flour handy! You might want to make sure your flour bin is at least half-full. Turn out the dough onto the board and attempt to knead it. If it sticks to the board badly, knead in more flour, dust more flour on the board, pry it up and try again. Eventually, you will work enough flour into the dough that it resembles roll dough and is smooth and uniform in appearance. If you are smart, you will oil the bowl before you put the dough back in it to rise. Cover the dough with a damp tea towel and let it rise until double — 1 and 1/2 to two hours.

Now, go away and amuse yourself or clean your counters and put away your ingredients except the flour — you are not done with that. Before the dough is risen you will need to pit 2 cups (one pound) of cherries and chop four ounces of chocolate. I used a 70% Lindt bar that had cherries and chili in it.

When your dough is risen, put it on your floured board and let it rest for five minutes. You can use this time to oil a pizza pan or baking sheet.

Divide dough into two equal portions. Ignore one while you flatten, dimple and pull the other into a ten inch circle. See pizza-pulling instructions here. (Murrieta rolls out his). Transfer first portion to oiled pan. Spread 3/4 of your cherries on it and top with chopped chocolate. Flatten, dimple and pull the second circle into shape and place it on top of cherry-chocolate filling. Pinch the edges to seal the dough. Then decorate the top with the rest of the cherries, pushing them cut-side down into the dough at attractive intervals. Let the dough rest for thirty minutes while you preheat your oven to 400 and do a round of clean-up. Just before you put the focaccia in the oven sprinkle it with raw sugar.

Close-up photo of Cherry Focaccia.

Cherry Focaccia Close-up. Photo by Sharyn Dimmick.

Bake for forty-five minutes or until top and bottom are browned to your liking. Murrieta says to let the focaccia cool and then cut it into wedges. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. I let it cool for approximately five minutes and then cut a small wedge, which I ate standing at the cutting board. Then I reached for the knife again, which was smeared with melted chocolate. I ate the second piece standing in front of the board. Then I cut a much smaller wedge. Then I stepped away from the cutting board, drank a glass of milk and made tea, which I took upstairs so that I did not stay in the kitchen eating focaccia.

It was that good. It was sort of like someone had taken my two favorite things, crusty bread and pie, and magicked them into a single entity. Crusty, gooey, chocolatey, not too sweet, with a fresh cherry taste on top.

Cherry season is short. If you like bread and pie, make this now. Now. And invite some friends over if you don’t want to stay in your kitchen eating the whole thing. You could just call it cherry Kryptonite.

Food notes. This recipe is perfect as is, once you get the flour right. But it is ripe for variations. Try other kinds of chocolate and other kinds of fruit: fresh figs? And then branch out and use almond paste or ricotta filling with cherries or peaches or blueberries. Yum.

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads. Although I have made pretty challah many times, I was tired this morning. I have recently undertaken a vigorous exercise program, involving walking up hills at the crack of dawn. Yesterday I followed that walk and subsequent breakfast with a walk through the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, and Andronico’s grocery store, came home to put away the groceries and construct a Caesar salad with kale (note to self: leave the kale out of Caesar salads — remember those tests asking “Which one does not belong?” Can you spell k-a-l-e? It was a noble effort).

Despite taking a day off of hill-walking, I dragged myself to the grocery store (on foot) because I needed milk to make challah, Mom had grossly underestimated our milk supply and I didn’t want to use canned milk or buttermilk sweetened with soda. When I got back to the kitchen the dishwasher was on the dry cycle and I unloaded that.

photo of misshapen loaf of Challah bread

Trolls’ Challah.

Only then could I begin the business of making challah: scalding milk and beating eggs, sifting flour, proofing yeast. I briefly considered embellishments: candied orange peel sounded good, but I have not yet candied my annual supply of citrus peel — the peels are sitting in the freezer, awaiting the day when I feel like doing it. I thought of making some kind of cinnamon glaze, but then I considered how tired I was and the kind of day I was having and decided to make plain old challah, the eggy, braided bread. I would use the recipe from our old Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook because I have used it before and was in no mood to mess around. Plain challah is the most versatile flavor: it can become French toast or bread pudding or croutons and will work for both sweet and savory sandwiches.

Rather than tell you what I did or what the cookbook says to do I will tell you a better way.

Film a saucepan with water.

Add 1 and 1/2 cups milk.

Set on medium heat until scalded (You’ll see small bubbles at the edges and a faint wrinkled skin on top of the milk).

Remove from heat.

In the measuring cup the milk has recently vacated mix 1/2 cup warm water and 4 and 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (2 packets). Whisk together with a fork.

Now measure 3 cups sifted unbleached flour into a large mixing bowl.

Add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour.

Add to cooling milk 1/4 cup butter (half a stick), 1/4 cup sugar and a teaspoon of kosher salt.

When the milk mixture is lukewarm, pour it into your bowl of flour and stir. Add the proofed yeast.

Beat 3 eggs until smooth in your much-used liquid measuring cup. Add to dough mixture.

Now begin adding more sifted flour, most likely about 3 cups plus.

painting shows misshapen loaf of Challah, eggs and butter.

Troll Challah. 8″ x 8″ Gouache on Paper. Sharyn Dimmick.

The Betty Crocker recipe calls for 7 to 7 and 1/2 cups total sifted flour. You have now used half of that. When I got to this stage I sifted the additional flour 1 cup at a time, adding it to the dough in quarter cup increments. Today, cold and overcast, the dough took a total of 6 and 3/4 cups flour, including the half cup of whole wheat. Although I sometimes knead light doughs by hand, I used my Kitchen Aid for the mixing and basic kneading because challah calls for a large amount of flour. When the dough was smooth and elastic and pulled away from the sides of the bowl I transferred it briefly to a lightly-floured board to rest while I buttered the mixing bowl, preheated the oven to warm and heated a damp linen towel for twenty seconds in the microwave. I gave the dough a couple of quick turns and deposited it in the buttered bowl, covered the dough, turned off the oven and set the bread to rise.

Then I gratefully escaped upstairs for an hour and lay on my bed reading my copy of The Sun, the only magazine I subscribe to. After an hour I rose reluctantly to check the dough which had risen enthusiastically and begun gluing itself to the tea towel.

Prying the dough strands away with my fingernails, I deflated the challah dough and set it for its second rise. I glanced at the clock to determine that it would probably be ready for braiding just as I was ready to eat lunch.

The thing about being tired when you are a scratch cook and stock mostly raw ingredients is that there are no quick and easy lunches unless you have previously made the components. We swing from fresh-prepared meals to meals from leftovers in a regular rotation. I grabbed the nearest carrot and a handful of fresh cherries and put on a kettle for tea. The quickest sandwich I could come up with was cashew butter on store-bought raisin bread toast. True to form the tea was steeping, the toast was toasted and I had just spread the cashew butter on the warm bread when the challah once again threatened to overflow its mixing bowl.

Mom had come down for tea.”I have to braid the challah right now,” I told her and watched as she proceeded to cover the bread board I needed with lettuce and mayo for a cottage cheese salad. She finished, wiped the board cursorily and shoved it back in. I no sooner dried it and gave it a light dusting of flour when she came back and said, “I just need to get in here one more time.”

“What do you need?” I asked.

“Paprika” she answered, reaching for it.

While my toast cooled, although I shoved it back in the toaster oven, I braided the challah into three strands, tucking the ends under. I thought the braid was too long, so I double the loaf back on itself, giving it a double-braided look in the center, re-tucking the ends. I slathered a baking sheet with butter and cranked up the oven to 425 while I rummaged in the freezer for sesame seeds. I found white poppy seeds first. Fine. That would do. As an afterthought, the freezer spit four or five packages onto the floor.

I beat my last egg in the same old measuring cup, brushed it on the challah, dropped some poppy seeds on top and put it in the waiting oven, escaping upstairs with my toast and cherries. Mom turned on a program about the Buddha while I drank my tea (irony of ironies) and thought about how un-Buddha-like it is to snap at my mother. As she poured tea for herself, the lid came off the tea pot and tea fell on her robe. She was not hurt.

I carried the tea tray back to the kitchen to check the challah, In its fervor the yeast had risen magnificently but unevenly, bursting out in bulges, stretching the dough at the braid seams. In short, this was challah fashioned by trolls — it wouldn’t win any beauty contests. (No disrespect to any trolls lurking about).

photo shows cut end of Challah loaf to show crumb and color.

Troll Challah — crumb shot.

After letting it cool, I cut the end from the monster challah. I brought my Mom the coveted end slice and took a slice for myself. The bread showed its trademark yellow crumb and brown shiny crust, releasing its lightly sweet flavor in the teeth and jaws of the local troll population.

Food notes: the half cup of whole wheat flour improves the nutritive value of the bread without altering the characteristic pale yellow interior. I could see the wheat specks like tiny freckles in the raw dough, but all trace of brown disappears in the baked bread. You can, of course, make whole wheat challah, instead, but you will have to adjust the amount of flour used and knead it for at least twenty minutes to achieve any lightness. If you want pretty challah, strive to make your dough strands relatively short and entirely even, braiding with care and symmetry, just as you would braid your prettiest daughter’s hair.

In other news, even trolls, churls and snapping daughters sometimes receive blogging award nominations. More on this on Wednesday…

Painting shows ingredients for rice cakes

Rice Cakes. 6″ x 6″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

Most mornings I eat oatmeal cooked in milk to jump start my calcium intake for the day. Our house is cold and warm breakfasts are usually welcome. But because we shop just once a week, there are occasionally mornings when the milk is gone and hot cereal is not an option. Heaven forbid that I would cook my oats in water, converting them to standard gruel.

These are some of our options for mornings we are out of milk.

1) Rice cakes: take some leftover rice. Crack an egg or two into it. Add some sugar, vanilla, nutmeg. Beat for a few minutes with a fork. Scoop out by 1/4 cup measures and fry in butter.

2) French toast: take the last few slices of bread. Toast them lightly if they are not already stale. Cut them in half. Beat a couple of eggs in a shallow bowl. Add juice and zest of one orange if you like, or just add sugar, vanilla and nutmeg as for rice cakes above. Soak the bread briefly in the egg batter. Fry in butter. Serve with powdered sugar, maple syrup, fresh fruit or fruit puree

If we have sour milk, buttermilk or yogurt on hand we can just make waffles, cornbread or biscuits.

Painting shows bread for French toast, eggs, orange.

French Toast. 6″ x 6″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

If we have no milk products, sour or otherwise, we can get out our sourdough starter and make  sourdough biscuits with that, using a cup of starter, 1/4 cup of vegetable shortening, 1/2 tsp each of sugar, salt and baking soda, 1 cup of plain flour and 1 Tbsp baking powder. Mix them. Roll them. Cut them. Brush the tops with melted butter and let them sit for fifteen minutes while you preheat the oven to 425. Bake for 10-12 minutes

If I am feeling more ambitious than making biscuits and I have gotten up very early, I might return to my breakfast oatmeal and make it into some delicious oatmeal yeast bread, flavored with maple syrup. I have adapted this recipe slightly from an old cookbook called Coffee by Charles and Violet Schafer published in 1976 and now living in tatters on my bookshelf. This bread uses the sponge method, which will save you some time on the first rise (but you will have to knead it before the second rise after you add the remaining flour and salt).

Oatmeal Bread

Pour 2 cups of boiling water over 1 cup of rolled oats in a mixing bowl.

Measure 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil into a Pyrex measuring cup. Swirl oil to coat glass to the 1/2 cup mark.

Add oil to cooling oat mixture.

Into oiled cup, measure 1/2 cup maple syrup.

Add syrup to oat-water-oil mixture

Take that same old  Pyrex cup and add 1/4 cup lukewarm water.

Dissolve 1 Tbsp active dry yeast in the lukewarm water and stir with a fork.

While the yeast proofs, add 2 cups unbleached flour to your mixing bowl and stir. When mixture is lukewarm, add yeast and stir again. Cover with damp cloth and place in warm place to rise. Check in 30 minutes.

After your sponge has risen and fallen slightly, add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 2 and 1/2 cups unbleached flour and 1 tsp kosher salt to it.

This is when you knead it. I like to knead on a lightly floured bread board for at least ten minutes. If your dough is too sticky, add flour by the tablespoon until it is workable: dough will vary by the amount of moisture in the air, the temperature of your kitchen, the particular grind of the flour. Please add a little flour to the board, to your hands, or to the dough itself if you are having a lot of trouble with it: doughs containing honey, syrup or molasses are stickier than those that don’t, but you are going to love the flavor of this bread, so persevere.

After at least ten full minutes of kneading, you may want to add a little butter or oil to your mixing bowl. Rub it all over so that the dough won’t stick. Then plunk the dough back into the bowl, dampen your tea towel with warm water, wring it out and set it on the bowl again, placing the dough in a warm place for its second rise. Check it again in 30 minutes (or forty if you are reading a great novel). When it has doubled, take the time to grease two loaf pans or one loaf pan and a pie or tart pan if you want to make a round loaf. Using butter to grease the pans will add to the flavor of the finished bread.

Take the bread dough out of the bowl and set it again on your lightly floured bread board. Cut it with your dough cutter or bench scraper into two equal portions. Roll the first one up like a jelly roll and tuck in the ends: with any luck it will fit your loaf pan. Take the second piece of dough and roll it into a ball, continually tucking any edges under and smoothing the top. Place this ball in your pie or tart pan. Return shaped loaves to the oven to rise for fifteen minutes, then move them somewhere else while you preheat your oven to 375, making sure a rack is in the middle position with no rack above it (You should have already moved it when you were using it for the rising dough, but if you didn’t, do it now).

Painting shows loaves of oatmeal bread.

Oatmeal Bread. 6″ x 6″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

When your oven is hot, set the loaves inside and putter around for ten minutes, doing dishes or having a cup of tea. After ten minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 and go back to reading your novel. Resurface in 30 minutes to check your bread: when you thump it, it should make a good solid thumping sound and the crust should have some brown color. When it thumps satisfactorily, remove it to a cooling rack. Mom taught be to remove the bread from the pans so that the crust does not steam in the hot pans: if you do this, you will get a crustier, chewier crust.

Now go away again: if you cut the bread hot you will ruin the texture. It’s best just to forget about it for awhile. When it is cool or almost cool, you can slice it and savor the beautiful bouquet of maple syrup. Whatever you do not eat immediately makes lovely toast tomorrow and the next day.

Food notes: On rice cakes: these rice cakes are not Asian rice cakes. They are the kind of rice cakes some people make in Louisiana: a fried cake made of sweetened rice bound with eggs. On oatmeal bread: for its most wonderful qualities, this bread requires maple syrup. None of the other ingredients are expensive, so splurge every now and then and make it. Can you make it with honey or golden syrup or malt syrup or brown rice syrup? Yes, you can, but it will not be the same and not yield the same deliciousness. Can you make it with more whole wheat flour? Of course you can, but, once again, you will not get the same bread: whole wheat flour will make it browner and heavier and wheatier. I keep the whole wheat flour to a half cup for the nod to health, replacing a little nutrition in that unbleached flour, but oats are good for you, too. Happy breakfast.

Equipment notes: Few things make me happier than having a dough cutter. I baked for many years without one, but it is the easiest thing to use when you need to divide yeast dough.

painting depicts meal of bread, soup and salad for January

January Feast. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

In January I crave greens. After the excesses of the winter holidays with their meat, squash, bread, potatoes and sweets, I want things sharp and bright-tasting while still needing warm dishes to chase away the chill. Thursday I cooked all day and hit upon that classic meal of soup, salad and bread.

I started with the oven on for Savoring Every Bite’s caramelized oranges and made some granola while I was at it, plus roasted a kabocha squash. Then I cleaned leeks and peeled potatoes for soup, scrubbing the potatoes first so that I could toss the peels and tough leek greens into a stock pot for vegetable stock. While that boiled, I sauteed 3 sliced leeks, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of minced ham and some crumbled dried rosemary (use fresh if you grow it) in 2 Tbsp butter. As that cooked I peeled and diced about 1 pound of yellow Finn potatoes and added them to the pan to brown a bit. I then covered them with a pint of chicken stock and four cups of water, covered the pot and let them cook. Then I got out the mandoline to shred Savoy cabbage — I shredded nearly half a head of cabbage and set the mandoline aside for another use later.

When the potatoes were tender I mashed some of them and left some chunks. The soup was a little watery, so I seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it continue to cook uncovered.

Meanwhile, I got out three small fennel bulbs, whacking off the stalks and fronds for the vegetable stock pot, along with the tough outer pieces. Then I cut each bulb in half and shredded it with the mandoline over a salad bowl. I scored the peel of 1 large navel orange into quarters, saving the peel to candy another day, and segmented the orange and sliced the segments, putting them into the bowl with the fennel. Then I took my remaining orange-sesame vinaigrette and poured it over the oranges and fennel and stuck the bowl in the refrigerator.

I turned off the soup and let it sit (I added the cabbage ten minutes before reheating and serving it).

Then I turned my attention to bread, an orange-cumin yeast bread adapted from Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe cookbook. The warm oven from caramelized oranges, granola and roasted squash would help the bread rise. Here’s my modified recipe

Orange Cumin Bread

Juice and zest 1 large orange (about 1/2 cup juice)

Scald 1/2 cup milk and set off heat to cool.

Dissolve 2 packages active dry yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water (or measure 4 and 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast).

Into large bowl of stand mixer, measure

1/2 cup sugar (any kind will do)

4 Tbsp corn oil

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp ground cumin, plus the scalded milk and the orange juice and zest.

1/2 cup warm water

Mix to combine and then add dissolved yeast. Mix again.

Now add 4 cups unbleached flour and

1 scant Tbsp kosher salt

Switch to dough hook, or knead by hand, remembering to knead for at least ten minutes to develop the gluten. This dough can be sticky so you may need to add a little extra flour a tablespoon at a time or keep flouring your kneading surface.

Put dough in large bowl (I use the same one I mixed in) greased with a little oil or vegetable shortening. Cover dough with damp smooth kitchen towel (I warm my towel in the microwave for twenty seconds) and set bowl in warm place to rise until double (about an hour). Punch down and let rise again until doubled (thirty minutes this time). Meanwhile grease two standard loaf pans.

When bread dough has risen for the second time, deflate it and shape into two loaves. Put loaves in prepared pans and let rise until dough is even with the edge of the pan. Fifteen minutes before it gets there, slash the dough with a sharp knife — I make two parallel diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf — and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for forty minutes, until crust is brown and tapped loaf sounds hollow. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Now you can heat up your soup, toss in the cabbage, take the salad from the fridge and feed some happy people.

Soup notes: Any kind of potatoes will do for this soup — just don’t use purple ones! If you are a vegetarian, omit the ham and chicken broth in the soup and prepare it with vegetable stock or milk and water. If you are an omnivore and don’t have ham on hand, you could substitute bacon or prosciutto. If you don’t have leeks, substitute onions. If you don’t have Savoy cabbage, use another kind — anything but red or purple which will give you an undesirable color.

Bread notes: Mark Miller’s recipe calls for dried milk and orange juice concentrate — I have adapted it to use whole foods instead. He also calls for starting with whole cumin seed, toasting it and grinding it. I have done this and it is good, but if your cumin is fresh or you can’t get cumin seed, you can just use ground cumin. If your cumin has been around for awhile, toast it in a dry skillet. This bread is light and wheaty: for a variation, try reversing the proportions of cornmeal and whole wheat flour. Like most breads with fruit in them, it makes excellent toast.

This month I am participating in citruslove, a glorious collection of seasonal citrus recipes, #citruslove. Check ’em out here at the bottom of the post. Click on Linky tools there to see all the submissions.