Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Whole Wheat Rye Loaf Revisited

This post exists solely to let you know how delicious the Whole Wheat Rye Loaf was.  4 days later I baked a second loaf (since the first was long gone) and it came out just as wonderfully, if not even better than the first due to the extra time in the fridge.  I'm definitely going to revisit the recipe and play around with it a bit, so I'll post the full recipe once I've made some changes.  In the meantime, go get Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and make yourself some of that rye bread.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Homemade Matzah: Flatbread Not Cardboard!

On Passover, Jews do not eat bread (or anything that rises for that matter).  Long story short, we do this because indecisive Pharaoh released the Jews (only after all the convincing of the 10 plagues) and they high-tailed it out of there.  In their haste, they whipped up a crude dough but they did not have time to allow it to rise.  Jim Lahey's no-knead technique was a no-go.  And it's a good thing they didn't wait around -- Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his men after the Jews.  Then, the miraculous scene we all know with the Red Sea parting, allowing the Jews to run to safety and (spill some wine) swallowing up the Egyptians chasing after them.  For thousands and thousands of years thereafter, all Jews everywhere would suffer through eating cardboard-esque Matzah, or flatbread typically consumed on the Jewish holiday of Passover.

As a Jew with a bread blog and Pesach fast approaching, I was both relieved and excited to try Mark Bittman's recipe for Olive Oil Matzah.  We modified the recipe a bit by using white whole wheat flour and adjusting the liquid slightly to compensate.  

White Whole Wheat Matzah
(Printable Recipe)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup water (and a little extra)
1/3  cup extra virgin olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 550°F
  2. Stir together flours.
  3. Add oil slowly as you mix with a hand blender or food processor.
  4. Help dough come together with hands.
  5. Divide into 12 equally sized pieces.
  6. Roll out as thin as you can.
  7. Arrange on baking sheet and either make little holes with a fork, or don't.  
  8. Bake for two minutes on first side.
  9. Flip, and bake for another minute until golden brown.
  10. Let cool and top with haroset, horseradish, or some cream cheese and enjoy!

Leavening Agents:  A short list of culprits on the rise...
Lactobacilli bacteria (Sourdough starter)
Baking soda (like in Irish Dairy Bread Buns)

A leavening agent is anything used in a dough or batter that causes it to rise thereby lightening/fluffing the finished product.  In bread, when the water mixes with the flour a matrix supported by gluten is formed in the dough.  This matrix traps the bubbles from yeast/lactobacilli/baking soda leaving behind the beautiful holes we all see in our loaves.  For the eight days of Passover anything that rises is a big a no-no.  My chametz (sourdough starter) is living in the freezer for the time being.

“If that’s moving up then I’m moving out.”

Disclaimer: The kosher-ness of this Matzah is questionable.  From what I understand, to get the little U in a circle you need to finish the cooking process in 18 minutes flat.  Our first batch was out of the oven by then but since we have a tiny oven we had to cook the 3-minute flatbreads in shifts.

Chag Sameach
- Sarah

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Luck of the Irish Soda Bread Buns

"I want another piece!"
"I love Irish Bread!"
"It's still warm. It tastes warm and yummy warm!"

The critics agree, Irish Soda Bread is awesome! Now, I am sure you are wondering who these tough critics are.. So I'll tell you: they are the four-year-olds in my UWS nursery school classroom.

As picky eaters go, nursery school children top the charts. In this infamously picky crowd, it is almost unbelievable that every child present in school today ate (devoured) their portion of Irish Soda Bread. Not all, but most, requested more. This cooking project supports my belief that if you allow children the opportunity to take part in cooking and food prep they are more apt to try (and love) foods.

With all of this bread baking in our UES apartment I have been looking for an opportunity to bring it crosstown into my classroom. I feel that cooking is great for kids and that bread especially is therapeutic -- the kneading is a perfect outlet for movement.. and in a productive way! So, as Saint Patrick's Day approached I planned to make Irish Soda Bread with the classroom.

Children "folding and smooshing" aka kneading:

I modeled kneading and asked them to describe what I was doing. I threw in the word "kneading" and gave equal (if not more) emphasis to "fold and smoosh." Some children wanted to shape their dough "like playdough" which is perfect. They played and kneaded for about 5-10 minutes and rolled the dough into a ball as they were ready to put it onto the baking sheet.

A soda bread is a term that encompasses a everything from your basic baking soda-flour-salt bread to a sweeter, raisin-filled, more dessert-like soda "bread" (in quotes because it may be more cake-like than bread). American's are more familiar with the cake-style and the Irish are more familiar with the basic, bread. It is a quick bread which means there is less wait time because the recipe doesn't call for any yeast -- the rising agent is the baking soda.

Luck of the Irish Dairy Bread Buns (adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion)
(Printable Recipe)

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Combine dry ingredients. Blend thoroughly making sure to press out any lumps in baking soda.
  3. Add butter.
  4. Use fingers to rub in butter.
  5. Make a well in the center.
  6. Count to 20 while slowly pouring in buttermilk.
  7. Stir gently.
  8. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough comes together.
  9. Divide into 6-8 equally sized pieces.
  10. Knead and shape individually.
  11. Bake for about 20-30 minutes** until golden brown.
  12. Let cool and finally, ENJOY!

**If you bake this as a whole loaf of bread you'll need to adjust the cooking time to be longer, about 40 minutes.

I will spare you most of the teachable moments this recipe provides.. counting to 20, digging the well, etc. I could go on and on. Lil can testify. I would like to note the fourth step, using fingers to rub the butter into the flour. It was a fantastic tactile experience for the children with the exception of one child who had a sensory hesitation so I invited him use a spoon. Even he participated in the kneading. Both kneading and stirring with the hands provided awesome, joyful learning experiences.

Happy belated Saint Patrick's Day!
- Sarah

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Whole Wheat Rye Loaf and a Lesson in Economics

OK, so I won't really bore you with a lesson in economics.  Supply, demand, equilibrium, free trade yadda, yadda, yadda.  I was an Economics major in college, so I know exactly how dull that all can be.  There is a very important and relevant theme throughout economics, though, that I think we need to talk about - saving money.

Here's a condensed version of Microeconomics 101 (I lied; I am going to bore you): Consumers won't pay above a certain price for a good simply because it's in their best interest to save money so that they can keep as much of it as possible.  Suppliers, on the other hand, demand that consumers pay above a certain price for that same good because they, too, would like to get their hands on more money.  Everyone's really looking for the same thing - to keep as much money in their own wallets as possible.  

The bread market is no different than any other economic market out there.  Suppliers, be they large manufacturers or small local bakeries, need you to buy their bread for far more than the cost to make it in order to make money.  You, on the other hand, would like to keep that money, right?  Luckily, there's an easy and delicious solution here:  

Make your own bread! 

I'm not saying that the little old woman down the street is diabolically planning to chip away at your life savings by charging $6 or more for a loaf of her wonderful bread, because she also needs to pay the bills.  What I am saying is that, if you can't afford to pay the lovely woman down the street for her healthy, natural, and scrumptious loaves, making your own bread is a far better alternative than buying cheaper sandwich loaves from the store.  I'm not saying that's the worst thing in the world either, but why not avoid the preservatives and processed ingredients if you can? 

Sar and I recently took Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois out from the library.  Not only is the book filled with delicious recipes, it proves that baking bread is not inconvenient.  Additionally, I'm here to prove to you exactly how economical it is to turn your kitchen into a pseudo artisan bakery.  For the Whole Wheat Rye that I made from the book (I won't post the recipe, since I didn't really make many changes, so please check out the book or the authors' website) I needed the following ingredients:

White whole wheat flour, dark rye flour, bread flour, yeast, salt, and water.  

This is what they cost here on the UES:
King Arthurs brand white whole wheat flour - $5.69 (5 lbs)
Bob's Red Mill brand dark rye flour - $3.24 (1 lb 6 oz) 
Gold Metal brand bread flour - $4.89 (5 lbs) 
Fleischmann's brand active dry yeast - 2.69 (3 packets)
Salt & Water - basically free
Grand Total - $16.51

To make the bread I mixed all of the dry ingredients together and then added the water and mixed it until just combined - no kneading in this recipe!  This is what it looked like in the bright afternoon light of our kitchen:

I let this sit, covered with plastic wrap and out of the sun, for 5 or 6 hours until it looked like this:

Once the dough reached that stage, I took half of it it out and shaped it into a boule.  This was extremely challenging given the stickiness of the dough, but some extra flour on my hands and sprinkled on the dough made it possible.  I sprinkled some corn meal over the top and let the boule rest for another 40 minutes.  Here it is looking very controlled:

Once the boule finished resting, I quickly slashed the top with a serrated bread knife and popped it in a 450 degree F oven for 30 minutes.  Ta-da!!

Now, if you breakdown the prices shown above into the amount that you spend on just one of the two amazing loaves the recipe made, the total cost per loaf is only $1.47!  This would probably be even less if you live somewhere that grocery prices aren't as absurdly high.  The cherry on top is that this bread took less effort than navigating the narrow aisles of Manhattan supermarkets and schlepping a sub-par loaf back to your apartment.  Alternatively, the price should be enough for you to graciously say "good-bye!" to that kind old woman at the bakery down the street.  


PS - I'm here to tell you that caraway seeds are NOT a necessary part of a good rye bread.  Since Sar and I are officially done with our feud, I'll say it loud and proud - I absolutely hate caraway seeds.  

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Don't Yuck My Yum Sourdough Olive Bread

This Sourdough Olive Bread uses White Whole Wheat flour!  

I made it because I promised Nell I'd have a fresh loaf of Sourdough Olive Bread upon her arrival to New York.  However, this is also a retaliation post.

In a previous post, Lil confessed her dislike of raisins.  It used to be a much stronger hatred but I can give her some credit for letting raisins grow on her.  Fortunately, somebody taught me from a young age that raisins are candy.  

Our all out war over who was pickier started many many moons ago.  We were young and hot blooded.  I was upset that as a vegetarian I was treated as a picky eater.  Meat aside I eat most everything else.  I have never met a fruit or a vegetable I didn't love.  Except olives.  And mushrooms (but they're a fungus).  Both olives and mushrooms have a gross, slug-like texture.  I've never eaten a slug but if I did I am sure it would be just like a salty icky olive.  I can enjoy them when they are chopped up in a sauce or soup and (sometimes) on a pizza.  Otherwise, no thank you.  That is, until I met olive bread.   

For this olive bread, I set out planning on doing the Pain au Levain (the first sourdough experience) again and folding in olives.  I read that when you add nuts or olives to a sourdough loaf you need to compensate the waterworks.  For nuts, add a little extra water since they tend to dry out dough.  And for olives, use a little less water and salt because they are wet and salty.  Makes perfect sense.  
While measuring the flour, I realized we only had only enough all purpose to feed the starter... This is like the Nes Gadol Haya Sham (Chanukah miracle) of Sourdough breads:

Sourdough Olive Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups sourdough starter
1 3/4 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup kalamata olives (although next time I would probably use a full cup)
  1. Combine flours, water, olive oil and starter.  Stir well and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Carefully dump out onto a floured surface (I used bread flour).
  3. Fold in the salt and chopped kalamata olives.  I've learned that you don't really knead sourdough in the typical way.  Folding and patting the dough into thirds (sort of like you were folding a piece of paper to go into an envelope), rotating 90 degrees and repeating is the way to go so as to prevent degassing the good lactobilli bacteria.  
  4. Shape into a boule and let it rise for one hour in a olive-oiled bowl.  Be sure to turn the dough in the bowl so that the top gets oily as well.
  5. If you'd like, now is the chance to retard your loaf.  Either, pop it into the fridge overnight or proceed to step 6.
  6. Preheat oven to 450°F and let it rise for another hour outside of the fridge.  Remember to preheat your cast iron pan and dutch oven with the oven.  Also, have your water boiled on the stovetop and ready to turn your oven into a sauna.  
  7. Shape, slash, brush with olive oil, and bake for 20 minutes steamy and uncovered (resist opening oven door) and an additional 25 minutes steam-less, covered until the crust is richly colored and the internal temperature** of the loaf is 200°F.  
  8. Let it cool in dutch oven for 10 minutes.
  9. Resist cutting into your bread until it is completely cool.  Listen to it sing (crackle pop noises of water escaping out of the crust).  It's worth the wait.
  10. We recommend this bread with hummus, dunked in olive oil, or topped with a slice of brie cheese.  
**Internal Thermometers are relatively inexpensive and very helpful in bread baking.  We have one similar to this... It's a foolproof way to know if your bread is cooked through.   

So, Lil can eat raisins and I can eat olives.  Which is good because olives are really a miracle fruit.  They contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and natural antioxidants.  

I am over this "who is pickier" war and I am ready to sign the treaty.  I will eat the cilantro and Lil will eat the mushrooms.  And of course, I'll finish the milk.  All in all, our "No Thank You" lists are relatively short and complimentary to each other.  

What started out as a retaliation post has turned into a peace-making post.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Naan (Yogurt Flatbread) with Cauliflower Lentil Dal

This is getting serious.  We need a bigger oven.
I had to bake this bread in two shifts because we can only fit one cookie sheet at a time in our oven.

I'd like to introduce The Upper Yeast Side to Flatbread.  Naan, meet The Upper Yeast Side.  UYS, meet Naan.

Naan is a type of flatbread originating from Central Asia.  
How exotic.  It's glutenous, almost like a small, thin pizza crust.
If you've ever gone out to Indian food and wondered how to make that awesome warm, thin bread they served you... Keep reading.  Disclaimer: I hope that I in no way butchered classic naan bread (if so, please email me privately to discuss).  To my melting pot taste buds this bread turned out awesome -- next time I am going to try brushing the top with herbed olive oil and garlic.  

Naan (Yogurt Flatbread) with Cauliflower Lentil Dal
(Printable Recipe)
Prep time: About 1 1/2 hours
Yield: 10 naan breads and a big pot of dal!

For Naan (recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison):
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
3/4 cup hot water
3/4 cup plain yogurt (low fat or whole milk)
1/4 cup butter or ghee**
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
**I used olive oil because I forgot two things: to replenish our butter and to look for ghee.

For Dal (recipe inspriation from Bitten Blog -- his "Spiced Red Lentil Dal" specifically):
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric or curry powder
4 cups cauliflower florets
Cayenne pepper (optional, but recommended), black pepper and salt to taste
5 tablespoons plain yogurt
Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish

Game plan:
About 12 hours before you want to embark on this Indian journey, rinse and soak 1 cup of your favorite dried lentils.
Start by proofing the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water.  Give it 10 minutes to bubble.  While you wait, combine all other ingredients EXCEPT the 3 cups of white flour (1.5 bread 1.5 all-purpose) for the naan.  By the time you've measured and combined, the yeast should be bubbly.
Add it to the hot water, yogurt, butter, salt, whole wheat flour, and wheat bran.  Slowly stir in as much white flour as the dough will absorb.  Then, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead in more flour until it feels wet-tacky but doesn't stick to your fingers (this may mean washing said fingers).
Now, your dough needs to rest in an oiled bowl for about an hour.  Turn the dough in the bowl so that the top gets oiled also.
No time to waste -- get going on the dal!  Heat the vegetable oil in a pot.  Add the onion first followed by the ginger and the garlic.  All should be chopped to your liking -- I recommend the onion diced and the ginger and garlic minced.  After about 3 minutes (or once it smells awesome), add the lentils and enough water to bury everything underwater about 1inch.  Add the spices of your choice -- I highly recommend turmeric and coriander (or curry powder which is really the combo of turmeric+coriander+some other spices) and as much cayenne as you can handle.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.
While it's cooking, chop up cauliflower.  Set cauliflower aside and check on your Naan.
The dough should be doubled in bulk by now.  Preheat the oven and a pizza stone (if you have one) or a cookie sheet to 450°F.  Then, dump dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Cut dough into 10-12 equal pieces.  Shape into balls and let it rest, covered with a cotten dishtowel, for 10 minutes.
Take this time to check on the dal.  Pop cauliflower in there.  Stir it up.  Cook until tender until there is little to no water.  Turn off heat and stir in 5 tablespoons of plain yogurt.  Serve garnished with parsley or cilantro.
Flatten the naan with your fingers -- poke it in the shape of a sand dollar with your fingers.  You want a bumpy surface so you achieve the perfect combination of crispy-chewy.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

I used flat leaf parsley as a garnish -- Lil thinks cilantro tastes like soap.  
naan naan naan naan hey hey hey goodbye

- Sar

P.S. Add to Wish List: A pizza stone (assuming it would fit in our oven).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Inevitable Stuffing Post

Here it is, folks.  Stuffing!  I know, most people don't even think about stuffing unless its the last Thursday in November, but this dish is something I think about weekly (at least).  My best friend Emily once delivered a 10 minute speech to someone I've never met detailing my love for stuffing.  It's the stuff that legends are made of.

Savory herbs paired with moist bread - I have no idea what about it is so fabulous, since it really doesn't sound too great in print.  Oh, well.  I love it and you should, too.  Here's all you'll need:

Savory Cornbread Stuffing
(Printable Recipe)
Serves 8

1 loaf of this cornbread (or your favorite bread), cut into 1/2 - 1 inch cubes
1 medium (or 1/2 large onion), diced
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2 teaspoon dried parsley, or about 1/3 cup chopped, fresh parsley
1 cup veggie broth

What to do:
First, saute the onion, garlic, and celery until translucent and soft.  Add the herbs (except for the parsley, if using fresh) along with salt & pepper to taste.  In a large bowl, toss this mixture with the cubed bread.  Slowly add 1/2 to 1 cup of the veggie broth until the bread is moist.  The amount of liquid you use is completely up to you - I prefer my stuffing to be pretty moist, but you may like yours to be a bit more dry.

Let the stuffing sit with itself so that the flavors can meld while you heat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Once heated, transfer the stuffing to a greased baking dish.  If you're using fresh parsley, toss it in with the rest of the mixture right before baking.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and crunchy.

We ate the stuffing along-side Brussels sprouts that were tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt & pepper and then roasted until they browned around the edges.  Both of these dishes would be perfect for Thanksgiving.  If you're like us, though, you're thankful enough on any night of the week - at any time of the year - to enjoy some of the holiday's classic flavors.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Basic Whole Wheat Sourdough Boule: Isolating the Variables

The following recipe is an The Upper Yeast Side original with inspiration from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion (as always).  It takes a full 24 hours.

Basic Whole Wheat Sourdough Boule
(Printable Recipe)

Baking time: 40 minutes     Yield: One medium-sized boule.

2 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup rye flour
¼ cup bread flour
¾ cup water
¼ cup oil
1 cup sourdough starter
A little semolina flour for dusting

  1. Combine flour.  Reserve ½ cup whole wheat for kneading.
  2. To the flour, add liquid and starter (straight from the fridge)
  3. Stir well.  Get your hand in there until it’s all combined.
  4. Autolyse.  Let it be for 20 – 30 minutes.
  5. Then, knead in salt and an additional flour (as needed).  The proportion ends up being 2.5 cups flour:1 cup liquid (water+oil):1 cup starter
  6.  Let it rise, covered, for 2 hours.
  7. After a couple hours, move it to the fridge.  Retard over night.
  8. First thing the following morning, remove dough from fridge.  Allow it to warm at room temperature for at least an hour.
  9. Preheat oven to 450°F with cast iron pan and dutch oven inside.  At the same time, boil water on the stove top.  Let your dough be on the stove top so it can warm up slowly with the oven.  
  10. Dust pan and boule lightly with semolina flour.  
  11. Cook in a steamy oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes.  For details on how to turn your oven into a sauna, click here and scroll toward bottom of post.   After 15 minutes, open oven door and let steam escape.  Quickly (and carefully), remove cast iron pan.  Lower oven temperature to 375°F and bake for an additional 25 minutes, covered.  
  12. Turn off oven and open oven door.  Allow bread ten more minutes just where it is, door open and all.  
  13. Remove dutch oven from oven.  Remove bread from dutch oven.  You can close the oven door now.  Let cool.  Enjoy!
My boule came out with a moist crumb and a soft crust.  It rose slowly, but surely -- whole grains slow leavening.

Variables:  So, this week in my Science for Teachers class we had an open-ended, free investigation of pendulums.  Without any explicit instruction we encountered all the different variables affecting the path of our bobs.  Granted, we are graduate students.  The idea is that this happens when you allow third graders free exploration as well.  It got me thinking on the crosstown bus ride home: What variables have Lil and I discovered that affect bread-baking in our kitchen?

Hydration of Starter
The hydration of starter refers to the consistency (thickness/thinness) of your batter.  My batter is 100% hydration because I add equal parts (by weight) of flour and water.  Every week when I use starter in a recipe and then feed it I add 8oz. (1 cup) water and 8oz. (2 cups) all purpose flour.  This makes a wet, dough-like consistency.  Some recipes I have read call for a wetter starter and others a drier starter.  In both cases, I would modify the liquid in the recipe rather than worry about disrupting my happy, established starter.  It's really matured since the days when it was exploding all over our apartment.

Wild Yeast: Let's rage!
Wild yeast is mysterious.  Wild yeast is…
…the bread knowing that other bread has been baked here before.  Areas that bake bread regularly have a high level of wild yeast in the air.  Bread knows when other bread is around.  The more bread you bake the more wild yeast lives in your kitchen.
…the difference between rotting and fermenting.  Wild yeast is what keeps our sourdough starter from becoming infested with strange mold and bacteria.  Wild yeast brings starter to life, in a good way not a scary way.  
...the reason we can bake a delicious sourdough bread without "domestic yeast" (instant or dry active packets).  

Forecast and Elevation of Bakery: What’s in the air?
Location affects bread.  Bread depends on the interactions of flour, leavening agents, and liquid to do it’s thing.  Throwing atmospheric pressure into the mix is not in the recipe.  Bread and different baked goods require different types of adjustments.   For yeast breads, The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion says:
·      Decrease the amount of yeast in the recipe by 25% and use your own judgment to make (slow, careful) water/flour proportion adjustments to get your dough to be the right “tacky” texture. 
·      Allow your dough a longer, slower rise. 
·      If you have sourdough starter, supplement a small amount in place of the liquid in your recipe.
Beside elevation, the weather also affects bread.  The Breadcast: Moisture in the air affects dry ingredients.  On humid days, flour will want to absorb less water than on hot, dry days.  It’s not as thirsty because there is already water in the air.  In addition, yeast loves a warm, wet day.  Rainy days are perfect for baking! When it’s wet outside, your flour will want a little less water so just be aware of the texture of your dough.  

Crust and crumb shot:

After having just tasted it, I feel this bread would be delicious with some extra-sharp cheddar Cabot cheese.  When I meet my parents in Larchmont later tonight, I will barter with them -- trading this loaf for replenishing our cheese.  Fair trade.

- Sarah

Friday, March 5, 2010

Such Good Cornbread

I'm the kind of person with a million different favorites.  It's impossible for me to pin down my favorite color (purple?  coral?  blue?), I've always had more than one "best friend", and I cannot, for the life of me, pick my favorite food.  I am obsessed with pumpkin pie, I drool over Goldfish crackers, and my love for stuffing (OH, stuffing!) is epic.  Cornbread is another one of my favorites, albeit this is a lesser-known love of mine.

I've never had success in making my own cornbread from scratch.  I've only made quick, cake-like cornbread recipes and have always shied away from the amount of oil or butter necessary to make them moist and delicious.  This recipe (adapted from 101 Cookbooks) really spoke to me since it's a yeast bread, but it still contains the aspects of classic cornbread that make it so delicious - juicy corn kernels, sweet honey, and toothy cornmeal.

Incidentally, I've changed the original recipe quite a bit.  Not necessarily on purpose, but these things happen.  The largest change I made to the recipe is to include semolina flour in addition to corn meal.  Semolina, which is most often used when making fresh pasta, is more fine than cornmeal, but still gives more texture than run-of-the-mill wheat flour.  Dennis' mom generously donated the semolina to Sar and I to use in our bread-baking adventures.

Flour Power:
Whole Wheat flour, Corn meal, Semolina flour, Bread flour

Yeasted Cornbread 
(Printable Recipe)
More loosely adapted from this recipe at 101 Cookbooks than planned
Makes 2 standard sandwich loaves

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen - thawed, if frozen)
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs

Start by mixing the flours and the salt in a bowl.  Just so you know right now, you might not use all of this.  Accept it now - we hate waste as much as you do.  But overly dry bread is no good either.

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Once it's had a chance to dissolve for a few minutes, stir in the honey, eggs, corn, and oil.  Once combined, add about 2/3 of the flour mixture and stir until combined.  Once totally combined, add half of the remaining flour and combine.  When it becomes too difficult to stir, turn the dough out onto a floured (use the bit left in the bowl) surface and knead it until combined.  You can add some water if the dough seems too dry - it should be tacky.  Knead for about 7-10 minutes.  

Once you're done kneading - what an arm workout, right? - oil a bowl and place the dough in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap, until doubled.  This should take about an hour.  Next, cut the risen dough in half and place each half in an oiled/cornmeal lined bread pan.  Allow this to rise until doubled again (another hour, or so).  It's a good idea to start pre-heating the oven to 375 degrees F after about 30 minutes and to place the dough on top of the stove while the oven heats...dough loves a warm place to rise.

Once doubled in the pans, bake the loaves for about 45 minutes in the pre-heated oven.  The internal temperature of the loaves will be 200 degrees F when they're done.

By the time the bread comes out of the oven you're going to be CRAZY over the smell that it fills your kitchen with - I'm practically dying as we speak.  But WAIT!  It hurts bread to cut into the loaf before allowing it to cool for at least an hour.  I know, it's hard, but baking bread is a constant lesson in patience.  Oh, and ENJOY (with some pear, butter, and a drizzle of honey)!

- Lil

PS - As you can probably guess, I'm going to turn the second loaf into stuffing.  And it's going to be awesome.  So watch out for that post.