Thursday, March 26, 2015

Last Prep for Winefest and a Revised Apple Cake

The Winefest Renaissance 2015 is coming up quickly. It will be held this Saturday evening at the Ward Hotel. The event benefits the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen area. 

I have been working daily on various aspects of the foods I will pair with the wines at the event. Today I did my last grocery run, grilled the flank steaks (which will be sliced once cold and rolled with little cheese logs), heated together the olive oil and garlic that will be brushed on the little English muffin halves,  combined the pizza sauce, pepperoni and Parmesan for the mini English Muffin Pizzas, printed the name badges for all of us involved. And now it is 5 PM already. 

Tomorrow we have two friends arriving to stay with us for a bit, and they will also be attending the event. I have their bedrooms readied. I will slice and roll the flank steak tomorrow. Some of the frozen foods will be thawed. Breads will be thawed and sliced. And the day will be gone before I know it. Saturday will be finishing everything off. Baking the Mini English Muffin Pizzas, making the mixture for the little Asparagus Quiches. Reheating the mole to take off the chill. Last minute prep work before leaving. And the night will be over before I can even think. It gets so busy that time just ceases to exist. 

Then prep for Easter will start. I am going to make the Bacalao a la Vizcaina for Good Friday, though I do not truly celebrate Easter anymore except for the fact of the family coming together on that day. I will get a ham to have at home, make some of the Beets with Horseradish to go with it just because I cannot conceive of having a ham without it, and I already made bread; it is in the freezer for when needed. 

Apple Cake, Revised

Fresh Apple Cake, made with fresh apples instead of frozen
Fresh Apple Cake, made with fresh apples instead of frozen

In the meantime, I wanted to make an update on the Fresh Apple Cake recipe I posted on March 14th. I used frozen apples for this cake, though once they thawed enough to use, they made the cake exceedingly soggy. While neither my husband nor my sister-in-law had any problem with the cake as it stood, and nor did I, this texture might not be everyone's cup of tea. I bought some fresh apples and cut them in small bits and added them to a slightly revised cake batter. This time the cake was exactly as I had hoped. The cake was like cake; nice and moist, but not pudding-y. The apples did their job without oozing all over.  Here is my revised recipe, using true, fresh apples. I used Pink Lady apples, but other types would also work, as would a combination. I only needed three apples to make the 4 cups for the cake.

Fresh Apple Cake
Fresh Apple Cake

Fresh Apple Cake

Makes one 13 x 9-inch cake

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
1¼ cup granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), melted
¼cup honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup buttermilk
4 cups fresh peeled, cubed small

½ cup confectioners' sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
1 tablespoon milk or water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection Bake). Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the first 8 (dry) ingredients. Separately, mix together the melted butter with the honey, eggs, vanilla and buttermilk. Combine these liquid ingredients with the dry ingredients until no dry ingredients remain. Add in the apples and stir well. Pour this batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 40 to 45 minutes (longer if needed). Make the glaze by stirring together all the glaze ingredients. Set the glaze aside.

Allow the cake to cool for at least 1 1/2 hours before drizzling on the glaze.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mini Quiches to Serve with a Sauvignon Blanc

The Winefest Renaissance 2015 will be held this coming Saturday, March 28th. The date is coming up quickly. While I have more than half the prep done, the rest will be crunched into the last few days as the date approaches. I have written so far about the little Mini Sausage Sliders to pair with a Barbera wine, and then how that wine is no longer available so I switched to a Merlot for that pairing. I wrote about the little Chicken in Mole Sauce on Corn Masa Cakes, to pair with a Zinfandel wine, the Chicken & Mushroom Pate to serve with a Pinot Noir, and Mini English Muffin Pizzas to serve with a Menage a Trois 'Midnight'.
Four new appetizers
Chicken in Mole Sauce  |  Chicken Mushroom Pate  |  English Muffin Pizzas | Pork & Chicken Sausage Sliders

As for the mini sausage sliders, I used ground lamb and used the same seasonings and made regular hamburger sized patties, served on regular sized buns, and they were truly amazing, just FYI!

I selected only one white wine for the tastings, not realizing this until later at which point I could have made a change, but didn't. So I have one Sauvignon Blanc to serve and mused for a while on what to pair with this kind of wine. A Sauvignon Blanc can be made into a fairly austere style or a light, dry but fruity style. Often the flavors of citrus, mineral, herb or grass can be present. Fruit flavor can range from things like crisp apple or pear to lush mango or melon. While sometimes these same flavors are applied to a Chardonnay, the type of wine can be radically different. The Sauvignon Blanc will always be a lighter, drier style than a Chardonnay.

I have had many kinds of Sauvignon Blanc in past, so I am well-conversed with the flavors and variations of style. Obviously, lighter foods will pair much better with this light wine than a heavy roast beef. Chicken and fish are often recommended, as well as most seafood. When I thought about what to pair with this wine, I looked through my wine and food pairing sheets to see what to combine for best presentation. At right is the column for Sauvignon Blanc. At the top are some of the adjectives applied to this kind of wine. Just below the varietal name (Sauvignon Blanc) are some of the alternate names this varietal goes by. Below that are many types of foods that can pair well with this varietal. 

I have a recipe for Millard's Artichoke "muffins" or mini quiches that would go well enough with a Sauvignon Blanc, but opted to make substitutes and tweak the recipe to use asparagus, Feta cheese and Prosciutto, to add some salty piquancy. 

Some questions I had to resolve though:

  1. While Prosciutto is not on the list at right, I could "taste" this combination in my mind and it felt right. Still....
  2. Should I just leave Prosciutto out?
  3. Should I make these little quiches crustless, or with a crust?

without a crust, delicious
I went through the recipe and made four separate variations, to determine which way would pair and taste best with the wine:
  • asparagus and Feta quiches without a crust
  • asparagus and Feta quiches with a crust
  • asparagus, Feta and Prosciutto quiches without a crust
  • asparagus, Feta and Prosciutto quiches with a crust
I made a simple pie crust recipe and lined 12 mini cupcake wells in one (tiny, 24-well) pan, and 12 of the wells in another (24-well) pan. I scooped in the quiche mixture without Prosciutto into all the wells, both with and without crust in one of the pans. I added Prosciutto to the remaining quiche mixture and scooped that revised mixture into the other 24-well mini cupcake tin, both with and without crust. I baked all of these, opened a bottle of chilled Sauvignon Blanc and had my husband sit with me to taste and test.

We tasted the little quiches in the order I listed them above. The asparagus and Feta quiches without a crust were very good; no complaint. The asparagus and Feta quiches with a crust tasted much better, so this was progress. The asparagus, Feta and Prosciutto quiches without a crust tasted even better still. Even without a crust, the Prosciutto and its saltiness made a whopping difference in flavor and went so wonderfully with the wine, just as I had hoped. Once we got to the asparagus, Feta and Prosciutto quiches with a crust, we both groaned in acknowledgment of how wonderful the flavors melded and how wonderfully these paired with the wine.

Mini Asparagus Quiches with Feta and Prosciutto
Mini Asparagus Quiches with Feta and Prosciutto

I opted to use the recipe for these little mini quiches with the crust and with the prosciutto. That said, if you need a gluten free appetizer, these are wonderful without the crust. If you need no meat in them, eliminate the prosciutto. If you do not line the little mini cupcake wells with a pie crust, first spray all the wells with a little nonstick spray before baking. The rest of the instructions are the same.

Mini Asparagus Quiches with Feta and Prosciutto

Makes 48

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup lard or shortening
1 teaspoon salt
5 to 8 tablespoons water, or as needed

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Cut in the lard or shortening until the mixture is in nice crumbs. With a fork, stir in the water, using 5 tablespoons first and then the rest only if needed to bring together the mass into a ball. Work lightly with the dough to bring it together.

Divide the dough into 48 little balls (I measured them at 13 to 14 grams apiece, about 1-inch in diameter). Set the balls into the wells of two 24-well mini cupcake tins. Press the little balls of dough to line the mini wells completely, right up to the top. Refrigerate for an hour.

Mini Asparagus Quiches with Feta and Prosciutto

Mini Asparagus Quiches with Feta and Prosciutto

1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
6 eggs
3 scallions
1 tablespoon capers in brine, drained, minced
1 teaspoon lime zest
8 ounces Feta cheese, grated
5 - 6 ounces Prosciutto, fat removed, minced finely

Rinse the asparagus and break off the hard bottom ends. Slice the asparagus thinly, across. Toss the little asparagus bits with the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick skillet and toss the asparagus mixture in the hot pan for about 1 minute, just to take the rawness off. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended and add in the scallions, capers, lime zest, grated Feta and Prosciutto. Add in the cooled asparagus and mix well. Spoon the mixture into all the pie-crust-lined, chilled mini cupcake wells. A small "cookie scoop" works well to keep portions all the same. Bake the little quiches for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the filling is set and the crusts are golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

NOTE: This filling could be used to fill a larger pie pan and baked. The pie pan or quiche pan can be fitted with a pie crust or not. If not, spray the pan with nonstick spray before baking. This is a quiche type of filling, so test for doneness by inserting a knife tip between the center and the edge of the pie.


This recipe is not as conducive to making ahead, if using the crust. With the crust, the farthest in advance I would recommend is one day. Set the little quiches onto a baking sheet to reheat for about 10 or more minutes at 350 degrees. 

However, the crusts can be made, lining the mini cupcake wells, covered tightly and frozen for up to a week prior to filling and baking as in the recipe above.

I would hesitate to mix all the filling ingredients too far in advance of making these quiches, however:
  • the eggs can be whisked and kept in a sealed bowl, ready to mix with the other ingredients when ready
  • the Feta can be grated (on a larger holed grater) and stored int he refrigerator for up to 2 days before adding to the mixture.
  • the Prosciutto can be prepped and chopped and kept in a little zip-top baggie in the refrigerator up to 3 days in advance.

Without the crusts, the little quiches can be made 2 or 3 days ahead and reheated for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Without the crust, I have also frozen these and reheated them in the oven.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Couple of Salad Dressings and a Side Dish

I don't think I bought salad greens more than once all winter. I do love a good salad, particularly if it is made with lots of the baby greens, or spring mix types, with all the different colors of green and burgundy, and all the different types of leaf shapes. Somehow though, this past winter I just wasn't much in the mood for salad, plus, when it is really cold out, the greens we get up here leave a lot to be desired. Obviously, even just the time it takes to unload the trucks is enough to seriously harm these tender greens.
Buttermilk Dressing on Spring Greens with Avocado

Last week though, with temps heading into the high 50s and even 60s on a couple of days, I was in the mood. But I had very little of salad dressings in the fridge. More often than not, I make my own, and have a couple of particular favorites like Chris's Oriental Dressing and Sherry Balsamic Vinaigrette. However, I had no homemade dressings in the fridge already. Why bother, when I wasn't eating salads? I was going to be serving salad with dinner that night though, so I needed something.

What I whipped up is one I called Ginger Sesame Dressing. I went for the oriental flavor of ginger and garlic and used some sesame tahini and soy sauce along with the rest of the seasonings. I did use olive oil rather than something with less flavor, because I mostly keep only olive oil in the house and use it for everything. If you keep light sesame oil in the pantry, this would also be an excellent choice. I added in a little of my Pepperless Piquancy Seasoning, because two of the main ingredients are ginger and Sechuan peppercorns; both oriental spices. This mixture is wonderful, but completely optional. The flavors of this dressing were certainly bold, and very little was needed for the salad. Not a bad thing, in my opinion. Here is my recipe:
Ginger Sesame Dressing

Ginger Sesame Dressing

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

½ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup agave syrup
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced or passed through a press
2 teaspoons sesame tahini
1 teaspoon dry onion powder
1 teaspoon Pepperless Piquancy, optional
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

In a large mixing bowl combine the agave syrup, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, tahini, onion powder and PP seasoning. Use a wire whisk to incorporate the tahini fully. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Add in the dark sesame oil and whisk until incorporated. Store in a jar with tight fitting lid in the refrigerator.


Yesterday I wanted to try something similar to a mixture I saw in a photo somewhere. It was broccoli, bacon and cheese. This mixture had a creamy, thin mixture stirred in, but I was unsure what. It has also been a very long time since I ate broccoli. My husband will not come near broccoli, so I generally opt to omit it from our menus. This time, although he loves bacon and cheese, I figured this would be my own dinner dish as the bacon and cheese would be tainted, in this instance, by their proximity to the broccoli! I ate this as my dinner last evening, and was in heaven. I really missed the green things!

What I opted to do was create a buttermilk dressing to go on this mixture. There are any number of ways to combine ingredients and make a buttermilk dressing. I just added in a few, whisked, tasted, added a little of this or that. It came out absolutely stellar. It is now added to my favorite of dressings, for sure. 

Buttermilk Salad Dressing
Buttermilk Dressing

Makes about 1 cup

4 teaspoons tarragon vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced or passed through a press
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
3 tablespoons real mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
½ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
1 teaspoon dried dill weed (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
¼ teaspoon sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, garlic and shallow and allow to stand for at least 5 minutes. Add in all the rest of the ingredients and whisk briefly to combine. Store in the refrigerator up to a week in a jar with tight fitting lid.


This dressing is wonderful on salad greens, and was exceptional mixed with the broccoli, bacon and cheddar side dish:

Broccoli, Bacon & Cheddar Side Dish
Broccoli, Bacon & Cheddar Side Dish

Serves about 4

1 package frozen broccoli florets (about 12.6 ounces)
3 or 4 strips of thick sliced bacon
4 ounces sharp cheddar, in 1/4-inch cubes

¼ cup Buttermilk Dressing (recipe above)

Steam the broccoli to desired doneness. Drain and place in a mixing bowl. Cut the bacon into 1/4-inch strips across the grain and fry to desired doneness. Drain on paper toweling, then add to the bowl with the broccoli. Once these two ingredients have reached room temperature, add in the cubed cheddar and the Buttermilk Dressing and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.

I hope these salad dressings and this side dish will please someone else as much as they pleased me!

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Things that Come Up When Surfing the Web

It never ceases to amaze me all the things that come up when you are on a search for something online. Invariably, when looking for one particular thing, I end up learning about 3 or 5 others. If I look for one recipe, I end up finding others, equally interesting, but not even close to my search.

Today, I was online searching to find if barley was ever used in an Irish Soda Bread. Apparently it is not, at least as far as my search results came out. Still, I used barley and made another attempt at a Soda bread that came out really great. Along the way in this search, I found a slew of other information. None of which might be of the slightest interest to any readers, but still, just for the record:

  1. I learned that it is possible bicarbonate of soda may have been first created and used in the early Americas! No 100% facts on that, but it was interesting.
  2. Soda Breads are made all over the world, including in Serbia, from where my paternal grandparents haled. 
  3. This in turn led to looking at a site about Serbian Soda Bread and:
  4. Other recipes listed in that site included a cod and potato casserole made for Christmas Eve. My paternal grandmother made a fish and potato casserole (which we all hated) for Christmas Eve also, though it bore little resemblance to the recipe I saw online, which actually sounded very good. 
  5. Thinking of cod in turn led me to the fact that Easter is not far away and I had been meaning to get some dried salt cod to make the recipe for Bacalao a la Vizcaina that is served on Good Friday in Guatemala.
  6. I ended up on various sites looking for dried salt cod, which I eventually ordered, and:
  7. Then since I was ordering things, I also went to Vitacost to place an order I had been putting off for over a week. So the mind works.
I am sure many of you do this same thing, but it just struck me funny today how all over the board my searching ended. And now, of course, I am certainly planning to make the recipe for Bacalao. It may not resemble Spain's version of this dish, but then again, no matter how "authentic" a dish is, it is always changed by imaginative cooks. So, while my recipe uses mainly a can of this and a jar of that, it is also highly tasty. It has been more than 25 years since I made that dish, so I do want to get my own photos into my Guatemalan Cookbook / Memoir I have made for my children.

Grandma (Tina Makaji Hromish) and Dad
As for the Fish and Potato Casserole of my Grandma's, ("Bakalar s Krumpirom," according to many websites, though I never heard Grandma call her dish by this or any other name): we all hated it, including my Dad, which really surprised me when I found out. I am interested in that casserole from the standpoint of saving and preserving our cultural roots. Just because Grandma's casserole (to be fair, made with a lot of religious restrictions: no meat, eggs, milk or cheese) was unpalatable to us, does not mean it can not be made palatable. As I stated in my previous blog, Grandma's forte was pastries. Her pastries were absolutely the best, ever. Her chicken or beef soup and homemade noodles were a standard, and delicious. My love of saffron comes from Grandma's soup. What I am trying to get at is that I am interested to make some kind of version of her recipe, possibly with better results. Who knows? 

What I do recall about Grandma's casserole was that it contained fish, potatoes, sliced very thinly, and rice. The casserole was never thickened, but had a lot of runny liquid in it. I can still see Grandma in my mind, pulling out the oven rack, lifting the edge of the foil covering the casserole and checking for doneness. I remember vividly watching this with trepidation, knowing I had to eat it soon. Looking back, it seemed like there was just no flavor at all, and this was so rare in Grandma's house. 

Anyway, all that was a long time ago and far gone in all but memory. For now, I do have some salt cod ordered and will soon be making my Good Friday stew. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Another Soda Bread Recipe

I wrote a few days ago (the day before St Paddy's) about my take on Irish Brown Bread, or Soda Bread. Which turned out so wonderful, by the way, that I was just itching to try another recipe, this time using some barley flour. Since the loaf made a few days back is down to the last two slices remaining, I made a second loaf this morning. It was in the oven before I sat down to breakfast.
New this morning: Barley Flour Soda Bread

I will tell you why I so loved this first bread that I had to make a second loaf so soon after: It is moist and dense, chewy but not hard, smells sweet, somewhat like molasses, though there is none in the recipe, toasts beautifully, tastes great just with butter, goes excellently with stew (or eggs for breakfast, or a sandwich for lunch, if sliced thinly and for a lot more things, I am sure). I imagine you get my drift. I really loved this bread. And it is almost instant gratification. Only baking soda in the recipe, means no waiting for the bread to rise. 

Not that I have a problem with waiting for breads to rise. I have been making yeast breads for almost 45 years. I am well-used to the waiting part!

Irish Brown Bread with oats making little lines
As I mentioned in the blog on the first Irish Brown Bread, since I have an electric grain mill, I wanted to try this with barley flour. Not all barley flour, but just some. In that first bread, I used mostly whole wheat flour, with some all-purpose flour and cake flour, and then added in some toasted wheat germ and rolled oats. The oats caused the bread (seen at right) to have little lines running through the cut slices, which is no problem whatsoever. Still, this time I milled some whole pearled barley (the long-cooking kind) and wheat berries, and used all-purpose flour and cake flour as the other flours. No extra additions. I was tempted to add currants, but opted out at last minute. What I do need to do is find a source for some soft wheat rather than only the hard red wheat I currently have. That is for another day.

Once my second attempt this morning cooled enough to slice, I tasted a tiny corner (I had just finished with breakfast, but wanted to get some idea of flavor differences). I find that this one smells less of molasses (maybe it was the toasted wheat germ giving that flavor?) and has a more straightforward whole-grain flavor, but it is still nice and dense, moist and chewy, so I am very content. I might be on this kick for Soda Breads for a while, at this rate!

Barley Flour Soda Bread
Barley Flour Soda Bread
And then this morning, reading further on soda breads, and other things, I came on a site that talked of bicarbonate really first being used in the early American colonies in the later 1700s. So, how "original to Ireland" is Irish "Soda" Bread? Who knows? None of this really matters. What matters is that these breads come out so wonderfully good. Soda breads are known in many countries, including Serbia, from where my paternal grandparents haled (then Yugoslavia). I had no clue. Grandma never made soda bread, to my recollection. I believe she did occasionally make yeast bread, but that was not her "thing". Her thing was making pastries: rich, full of lard, flaky, not-too-sweet pastries. I can still taste them in my mind, though the last time I ate her pastries was in the early 1970s.  They were truly memorable. Who cares if bread baking was not her thing!?

Long and short, if you have the ability to grind barley and wheat, these breads, or any using whole grain flour, taste immeasurably better if the grain is freshly ground. Store-bought whole wheat flour has always tasted awful to me, and now I realize that this is because, once ground, the germ goes rancid very quickly. I would not recommend making these recipes of mine unless you have a grain mill of some kind and can grind your own fresh grain. This is what I did this morning:
Barley Flour Soda Bread
Barley Flour Soda Bread

Barley Flour Soda Bread

Makes one loaf

1 cup whole wheat flour
Barley Flour Soda Bread
Barley Flour Soda Bread
1 cup whole grain barley flour
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside. In a large mixing bowl stir together all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in all the buttermilk. Stir, beginning in the center, with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating all the dry ingredients, until no dry remains. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and "knead" gently by patting out the dough, folding it in half, flattening and folding, about 8 to 10 times. Form into a round loaf approximately 8-inches in diameter and 2-inches high. Set it in the prepared baking sheet. Cut a large "X" across the top (this allows for easier expansion and helps to have the loaf baked through in the center). Bake the loaf for about 50 to 60 minutes, until nicely golden and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. If an instant read thermometer is among your kitchen gadgetry, the loaf should read at least 185 to 190 degrees in the center. Cool completely on a rack before cutting.


My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Time for an Anadama Bread Update

Anadama Bread: heard of it? I had heard of it long, long ago, and even tried making it once, when recently back in the US after living in Guatemala. The problem is that I really don't care for molasses. I use it, don't misunderstand. I just use it very sparingly. The other notable ingredient is cornmeal.

The Story of Anadama

Anadama Seed Bread
The story of how this bread came to be called "Anadama" is different, depending on where you've heard or read it. All the stories have some similarity, dealing with a Massachusetts man, angry with his wife and stating, "Ana damn her!", and thus the bread was shortened to Anadama. Some of the stories say that Ana began making bread but decided to leave, whereupon her husband came home and tried to finish the bread, calling out "Ana dam her". Others say that the husband was tired of cornmeal mush and molasses every day and tried adding some yeast and flour and making a bread, using the same epithet. The stories all vary just a little, but all of them deal with cornmeal and molasses and finally becoming bread - which then became famous, somehow. 
beautiful texture
beautiful texture

As I said earlier, I did try making this kind of bread once over 30 years ago. I have had no great urge to repeat the experiment until very recently. The same bread baking book I have been rhapsodizing over for more than a year now is the reason I became interested in trying this bread again. In The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart, there is a recipe for Anadama bread, with Mr Reinhart's own version of how this bread came to be. As I have made over a dozen kinds of bread from this book, ALL of which have been splendid examples of bread creation, I figured that the recipe for Anadama Bread might just be something I would wish to try again. Mr. Reinhart advises that one find the very lightest molasses possible. This, alone, made me trust that maybe this recipe would be a better version than what I had tried so long ago.

Still, I waffled on actually making the bread. I would periodically look at the recipe, and then turn to something else instead. And so passed a year. And then I got one of my cooking magazines in the mail, and what should I find inside? A recipe for Anadama Bread! This one though, had a little twist: the addition of seeds. They used light and dark sesame, light and dark flax and poppy seeds. I love seeds in breads so this sounded wonderful. I have light and dark sesame seeds, but had no flax except ground. Since flax seeds will pass right through a person without ever breaking down to yield their health-giving properties, I figured using pre-ground seeds would be a good idea anyway. I left out the poppy seeds, only because there wouldn't be enough of them to really taste, with everything else going on in this bread. I do love poppy seeds in things! I thought it would be a waste to use them here.
Anadama Seed Bread
fresh from the oven

Creating a Recipe of My Own

When I read this recipe for Anadama Bread with seeds in my magazine, I wondered what differences there would be, between the recipe in my revered book and the recipe in the magazine. (I keep saying "magazine" because I cannot recall if it was Food and Wine or Bon Appetit). I got out the book and sat comparing the two recipes. I was amazed at how vastly different they were. The ingredients are much the same: flour, cornmeal, molasses, yeast. Little variances: the addition of milk or not, seeds or not, etc. 

I decided I would create a recipe of my own, walking a line of sorts between the two recipes. Since my tolerance for full flavored molasses is very low, I opted to use half molasses and half honey for that portion of the recipe. I went in between with other ingredients: neither as much as one, or as little as the other. It is a straightforward bread, mixed, allowed to rise, form, shape and bake. No exceedingly long "sponges" that need to grow for a day or more. Nothing difficult at all. I've made bread for so long that it is a way of life for me (though my whole foundation for this way of life was my Mom's bread: said foundation was shaken to the core with Mr. Reinhart's book). I know the basics. I know how a yeast dough works, how it looks and feels. 

Once I had decided on the amounts for my version of this bread, I went to work. I made up the dough; the recipe worked splendidly. It grew nicely, rose beautifully in the pans and baked perfectly. I allowed the bread to cool and sliced it. The flavors were wonderful. While I cannot specifically taste the seeds, they do make for a lovely presentation. Whether the seeds (optional in any case) are added or not, my version of this bread is all I hoped. And I hope some of my readers might try it out!

Anadama Seed Bread

Anadama Seed Bread
Anadama Seed Bread

Makes two (4 x 8-inch) loaves

1½ cups (210 g / 7.4 oz) yellow cornmeal
1½ cups (12 fl. oz.) warm water
3 cups (420 g / 14.8 oz) bread flour, divided
2½ teaspoons (8 g / 0.28 oz) instant yeast
½ cup (120 ml / 4 oz) water
4 tablespoons (60 ml / 2.8 oz) light molasses
(or use half each molasses and honey)
1½ teaspoons (6 g / 0.21 oz) fleur de sel or coarse salt
3 tablespoons (19 g / 0.67 oz) softened butter
2 tablespoons (20 g / 0.71 oz) white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons (20 g / 0.71 oz) black sesame seeds
3 tablespoons (22 g / 0.78 oz) flax seeds, ground
½ cup (70 g / 3.0 oz) bread flour, if needed

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer, stir together the cornmeal and war water. Allow these ingredients to soak for 1 hour to soften. After the hour, add in half the bread flour, with the instant yeast and the 1/2 cup of water. Stir well and allow to ferment for an hour.

Add in the remaining half of the 3 cups of flour with the salt, molasses (and honey if substituting part), the butter and the seeds. Stir these ingredients until they come together. If mixing by hand, turn dough out onto a floured surface, using some of the last half-cup of flour as needed. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes. If mixing in a heavy duty mixer, set dough hook in place and begin kneading at lowest setting, slowly increasing to setting 2 or whatever speed is recommended for kneading bread. Add in the remaining half-cup of flour if needed, until the dough comes together well. Continue kneading for 8 to 10 minutes. The resultant dough should be tacky but not overly sticky.

Grease a large bowl and place the dough into the bowl, turning once to grease all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for approximately 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Grease two (8.5 x 4.5-inch) loaf pans with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Set aside. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half. Form each half into a smooth loaf, flattening the dough and then rolling tightly. Tuck in the ends. Place each loaf into one of the prepared pans. Spray the tops of the loaves with cooking spray and sprinkle liberally with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow them to rise until the dough shows at least 1-inch above the rims.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set the loaves on a lower-middle rack and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate pans, for even baking and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the loaves are golden and test 185 - 190 degrees with an instant read thermometer inserted into the centers. Turn loaves out onto racks to cool before slicing.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.