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Entries in bread (10)


Each on their own

I have a cardigan that's unmistakably ugly; the colour is drab and makes me look like I'm either coming down with a cold or getting over one. It was made for a tall man, which I am not, so the shoulders droop. On the left side, at my hip, above the pocket, there's a small hole, round and neat like you pushed a sharpened pencil through the wool. I've rolled the cuffs so many times that they're stretched out, and are beginning to ruffle at the edge. Still, the sweater is in my closet, because it is warm and comfy, and I like it. No matter its looks.

I feel very much the same way about panadeI'm a sucker for substance.


A panade is like a savoury bread pudding, or the best parts of French onion soup and a gratin packed together in a casserole. There's bread and cheese and vegetables stacked up on top of each other, baked until the bottom goes lush and the top is crusted golden. A collection of humble ingredients — a fine use of those past their prime, actually — and one that lands up at an end far more auspicious then its start. It's made with stock rather than a custard to bind the layers, so even though rich and filling, the flavour of is clearer. There's acidity from the wine and tomatoes, the sharpness of sturdy greens, the pronounced, aromatic nuttiness of Gruyère; all together, yet each on their own. 

You may be familiar with the recipe for chard and onion panade from the Zuni Café cookbook; if not, you'll find it has a deservedly faithful following. This version adds tomatoes, and their inclusion made it perfect for our start to October, as the trees are starting their turn to technicolour but the days are warm enough that there are (crazy) folks wearing shorts and no coats. This panade is what we had one night when, if not for dinner, I was ready for the blanket we keep tucked by the couch. Hot and bubbling from the oven, we spooned our meal sloppily onto plates — though the crust shattered with an impressive shower of crumbs, underneath there were puddles of broth, and the oozing slip of melted cheese. The vegetables were supple but retained a messy integrity, if not their colour. We had fried eggs on top.

season's ending.


It seems a counterintuitive to take vibrant tomatoes, minutes away from the end of their season, pile them with bouncily green bunches of rainbow chard and lacinato kale, and cook the lot of it to a muted sog, and yet, it makes absolute sense. The result is pretty much exactly what's going on outside right now, a season that blazes but feels cozy; one that's equal parts shining sky and colours turned up to eleven, as it is grey clouds and dim evenings, with the lights turned on early. 

Floppy sweaters and panades, both fit me fine.

Tomato, greens and Gruyère panade
Adapted from 
Food and Wine. With two children at the table, I didn't let the panade bake too long uncovered, since when the crust goes terminally crunchy it can be difficult for small mouths to manage. If that's not a concern, feel free to fully blitz the top until crispy all over. 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more for the pan
5 pounds mixed sturdy greens, such as chards and kales, stemmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
One 1-pound, day-old peasant loaf, sliced 1/2-inch thick
3 pounds beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick, see note
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated, plus extra for garnish

Butter a 10x15-inch baking dish and set aside. Preheat an oven to 400°F (200°C), with a rack in the upper third.

In a large, wide pot of boiling water, cook the greens for 2 minutes, then drain into a colander and run under cold water. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess water. Chop coarsely and set aside.

In the same pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter with the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions have softened, around 12 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Raise the head to medium-high and pour in the wine; simmer until the wine has reduced to 1/4 cup, around 5 minutes. Stir in the greens and season with salt and pepper. 

In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer. Line the bottom of the prepared baking dish with one-third of the bread slices, overlapping and trimming the bread to fit. Layer half the tomatoes on top, and season with salt and pepper. Spread half the greens mixture on next, then half of the cheese. Repeat layers with the remaining ingredients, gently pressing down as you build, ending with the bread. Carefully pour the stock over the casserole and press down again, this time using a spatula. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and brush over all. 

Cover the dish with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until the top is browned and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow the casserole to rest for 10 minutes before serving. At the table, sprinkle some reserved cheese on top, if desired.

Serves 8, nicely with a salad and/or a fried egg alongside.


  • I used a mix of tomatoes we had hanging about; if you don't have beefsteaks, semi-roasted Romas would be particularly fine, as done here
  • Fontina is a good switch for the Gruyère




From UPPERCASE magazine, issue #15: cooking science and a recipe for roasted carrots with rough dukkah, and one for harissa mayonnaise.

I am especially proud to be a contributor to UPPERCASE magazine, and I'm heartily thankful for support shown for my stories over there. To show that appreciation, I'd like to give away two copies of the latest, jaw-droppingly gorgeous issue! It even has a super-nifty embossed cover — you'll want to see this one in person. Simply leave a comment here if you'd like to be considered. (Please provide a way to contact you, either through your own website or email address. If concerned about privacy on the latter, the information is only visible to me when entered in the contact email field of the comment form. It will not be made public.)

Entries will be accepted until at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, October 12, 2012.

My continued thanks and best of luck! xo


Our journey of getting here

I'm over being sick, hooray for that — and hurrah for your company and all of your magical home remedies. The combination made for fantastic one-two-punch to knock out that pesky cold. While I'm no longer under the weather, I am under the spell of a bout of nostalgia, just so you know. 

And, so you know, sometime tomorrow you'll be wanting to preheat your oven to 400°F. There's brioche to be baked.

My husband Sean and I are coming up on an anniversary — not an "official" one exactly, and maybe not the most major in the grand scheme of things, as we've been together long enough that our calendar is peppered with small remembrances to mark our journey of getting here.

It's not an event that warrants a fuss, really. We've both got milestone birthdays next month, so there'll be fuss to spare. He is seven days my senior, a fact that hasn't lost its charm to me in all this time of knowing him. There's a smile in the thought that on the day that his parents were celebrating his one-week-old-ness, my parents were celebrating my arrival.

These small things, these scraps of our shared history wrapped up together, is what led to today's baking.

You see, also tucked in that package of sentiment is the day in May, ages ago, when Sean asked me to live with him. With that question he was also asking me to move to another city. After years studying, then teaching, then working abroad, and across this country, he had returned to the city where he was born. A city he knew well, and was full to its borders with his stories, but one I'd only visited.  

I moved. And I fell for that city as I'd fallen for him. 

I got to know his friends and made them even more mine. Those guys have good, strong arms for lifting furniture up three flights of stairs, arms that are even better for opening wide in welcome of a newcomer into their Club of Locals. 

Together Sean and I discovered the places that had changed in his absence, and he introduced me to his old haunts that had stayed the same. One of those places was a particular deli.

That deli, which is still there though we're not, has aisles of mustards and oils, along with a bakery and a meats counter, and one side where you can sit down to eat things like cabbage rolls and soup. Sean and his folks had gone there when he was a child, and I don't know if it was a habitual stop, but I do know it made quite an impression on his young senses. It was the place where he tried his first chocolate spiked with liqueur. He didn't like it much.

What he did like was their egg bread. 


Their bread is actually made into buns, though not the ones we've got here. Theirs is most likely close to challah, though I've never asked. (I really should.) It's scattered with poppy seeds and is deeply yellow and sweet. When he and I would go, we would buy a bag of buns on every visit. They were our usual, back in a time when having a "usual" with someone else felt new and kind of exciting in a silly way. 

Today there's brioche on our counter and not challah — the Francophile version (read: stuffed with butter), if you will. It's probably excessive to be considered a usual. That said, it's exceptionally appropriate for a sort-of celebration. 

Brioche lives in between bread and pastry, which is a nice place to hang out. It has a proper crust like a bread, with a soft, almost cakey crumb that peels apart in lacy layers like the interior of a croissant. It is deceptively light, dangerously so, as it takes a pat of butter like nobody's business. Top it with jam and, well then, you do things right.

Brioche is yeasted, enriched with eggs, and is hardly a fuss either, though it requires an overnight rest. I prefer to look at that lull in activity as a boon, with the work spread out over two days. One evening, you bring together this smooth, rich dough that does in fact feel much like a baby's cheek — so much so that if you told me that brioche dough was the inspiration for the phrase "soft as a baby's bottom," I wouldn't be surprised.

Then, tucked in the fridge, everyone's off to bed.

the last of the raspberry

I lost something recently; small enough that I didn't notice its absence until yesterday — and then I spent the following hours upturning every drawer I could find, turning out every pocket I came across. It distracted me. I kept looking for it in corners and running to another end of the house, with a sudden inspiration of where it might be. I woke up this morning with what was lost tugging at the edge of my thoughts, like a loose thread caught on a splinter.

But there was bread to be made, dough that had waited hours for my attention. With two small lads in my aid, we learned that silken dough is no match for hands skilled with Play-Doh, and made quick work rolling that dough into teeny rounds, which were then tucked snugly into a well-buttered pan. The buns rested, and brushed with beaten egg as a glaze."Dab, dab, dab, paint, paint, paint" we said. Instructions work best in threes. 

Into the oven went our handiwork, and in 20 minutes the brioche rose and bloomed, like clovers. 

So on this Monday, as much as I'm annoyed with myself for what I've misplaced, the loss is that much easier to swallow with bread, butter, jam, made and shared with good company, in reminder of all that's been found.


Bubble-Top Brioches
From Dorie Greenspan, as printed in Bon Appetit magazine, October 2009.


This recipe was part of a brilliant article; it is full of charm, helpful anecdotes, and a goldmine of information when it comes to producing dependable results when baking this sublime bread. I highly recommend you give it a read.




Good to go


At 10:54 or so on Wednesday night, I started thinking about crackers. The thought was so engrossing, the interest so strong, that it took no more than three seconds after the notion entered my mind for me to say to the friend with whom I was chatting "I would really like some crackers."

I am a riveting conversationalist.

There were no crackers in the pantry, so to satisfy my desire would mean productivity on my part. Good sense and laziness thankfully won the day, and I managed to leave the kitchen neat and tidy that night.

In a stunning display of restraint, I held off until the morning. And thus, at 7:15 a.m. on Thursday a bowl of dough, dusted in flour and proofing quietly, rising and puffing proudly, resided on our counter. By noon, there would be Garlic Herb Bread Twists.

Please don't look at me like a crazy person, I know full well that a stick of bread may not be a cracker, per se, but they met our requirements with ease. I wasn't aiming for a crackers-and-cheese cracker, not a shingle demoted to the role of vehicle for something else. I wanted salt, crunch, a snack on its own that required no further accessory.

These fit the bill.

All they take is pizza dough, bought or homemade, laminated with parmesan, rosemary and thyme, salt and pepper. Cut and twirled into curling lengths, they receive a brush of garlic oil before they're into the oven. A second anointing as they come out of the heat, in my version the oil is cut with honey, and then a toss through a mix of Parmesan and parsley. Thoroughly coated, utterly habit-forming, they're good to go.

I like the ones with some relative heft - their crust has a pleasing substance, and through the middle the crumb is spongy and dense for a satisfying chew. However, Sean prefers those stretched thin and allowed to crisp, so their crunch is not only at the edge but remains right on though. The one for him are the ones down below, gnarled and uneven, thoroughly golden and pleasurably snappy.

Eight hours is what it took from impulse to the making of these cracker-ish sticks, three hours from start to munching, and less than an afternoon for them to be gone. A pretty neat little timeline I'd say. In the name of efficiency, however, I think next time I won't bother waiting and set about making them right the very minute the craving strikes.

And strike it will, to be sure. Patience may be a virtue, but snacks are a necessity.


Garlic Herb Bread Sticks

From Gourmet Magazine, July 2009. Since I have made changes to the ingredients and method, I've rewritten the recipe for ease. To bring further depth to the garlic oil, the garlic is steeped in warm oil to rid it of any harsh bite. I've also added a pour of honey, to round out and soften the piquancy of the cheese and garlic.

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (2 ounces), divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 lb pizza dough, (or use store-bought)
A generous teaspoon honey
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C), with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together rosemary, thyme, 1/4 cup cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

In a small saucepan, stir together the olive oil and garlic. Place the pan over medium heat, and warm gently until the garlic starts to become fragrant. Do not cook the garlic or let it sizzle. Remove from the heat, stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and set aside to cool.

Divide the dough in half, covering one portion with a tea towel (not terry cloth). On a lightly-floured work surface and with a floured pin, roll out second portion to a rough rectangle measuring 15- by 10-inches.

Sprinkle half the herb mixture over the lower (crosswise) half of the dough. Fold the dough towards you, bringing the two top corners to the bottom, sealing in the herbs. Roll gently to bring the envelope of dough to a 10- by 8-inch rectangle. Using a knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough lengthways into 9 strips, each less than 1-inch in width. Twist each strip, turning from both ends, and place on one of the prepared baking sheets, each strip about 1 inch apart. Brush the strips with garlic oil, using 1 tablespoon divided amongst the 9. Set aside.

Repeat process, rolling out the reserved dough, sprinkling with the remaining herbs and cheese mixture, rolling again, cutting and shaping. Arrange these strips on the other baking sheet, and brush them with 1 tablespoon of oil divided between them. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Bake the twists in the preheated oven, rotating pans and switching positions halfway through, until golden brown and crisp. This should take between 20-25 minutes.

While the breadsticks bake, stir the honey into the remaining garlic oil. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup cheese on a shallow baking pan along with the parsley.

When the breadsticks are done and still hot, brush lightly with the oil and honey. Immediately roll them in the cheese and parsley, until well coated. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 18.


Ebb and flow

The days of these weeks have washed over us like waves; we've been carried on their highs and lows, along their ebb and flow.

We've followed the constant movement of the current, and kept our heads above water. Buoyed by a raft of bread, no doubt.

That last bit was probably only funny to members of my family, as in the midst of all of this, my island refuge has been the kitchen and my conveyance out of the deep has been bread.

Lots of bread. Oh, the bread there's been. Breads both sweet and savoury. Bread to eat, to share, to pack up and send out into the world.

To pick the candidate for our bread-boating excursion, I'd would most certainly choose the Pane Integrale from Jim Lahey. It is a bread flour and whole wheat incarnation of his famed No-Knead Method, a recipe I'm sure familiar to many of you, but I'll offer a refresher just in case.

Most often, baking bread sets the pace for our hours; it is in the time between the kneading and the shaping and the baking, that the rest the day takes place. There is a schedule to be kept and yeasted breads often benefit from your rapt attention. They are enlivened by your efforts, requiring your labour to turn boggy dough into a sprightly loaf.

But this bread, however, is another sort of bread. It is a bread that asks for very little of its maker, only a warm spot to reside for a day. There's a quiet companionship of that bowl upon the counter, its presence made ever the more gratifying when that bowl is a glass one and you can observe the metamorphosis of flour, water and yeast inside. For in that day, a slump of dough transforms itself into a billowing sponge that's double the size of what it was to begin.

After that, a quick shaping and another rest. A few more hours now, while a cast-iron pot (with lid) preheats in a blistering oven. Dough goes in, lid goes on. And then, while unobserved, is when magic to this trick becomes evident; the dough goes swelled and bronzed, gently arched on its top and deliciously-scorched underneath. When the lid is lifted, you're met with steam touched with smoke and the heady scent of baking bread. Like I said, magic.

Out of the pot and on the counter the bread snaps, crackles and pops as it cools. Lahey calls this auditory phenomena of exterior and interior settling as singing, and I'm pretty fond of that thought.

When the tune finally ends, you are left with a bread with a chewy crust and a crumb full of pockets to hold lots of butter. Or to dunk into soup. Or to smear with chèvre and honey.

As a meal upon the water or the raft upon which you float, and through calm or choppy seas, some good bread is often just what you need. Smooth sailing to you, friends.

I'd forgotten until now, that they boys have a book where in the pivotal scene, the characters set out for a new world on sailboats made from sandwiches. Thanks for the inspiration, Ms. Barrett.

Pane Integrale
A no knead crusty boule using whole wheat flour, from Jim Lahey's book My Bread.



* * * * * * *

It happens that I'm also talking about bread, soft and squishy sandwich bread in particular, in the latest issue of UPPERCASE magazine. You can find it here, if you'd like.


Munched, gleefully

I failed. F-a-i-l-e-d. It was epic.

It was gnocchi.

Had you walked into my kitchen in the late-afternoon hours of Wednesday, September 16, 2009, you would have found me covered from hand-to-elbow with dough and in near exasperated tears, with every viable work surface buried under the detritus of my humiliation, my father at my side in a valiant effort to salvage the day, my husband on the phone patiently talking me down from my fit of pique and, in calm, even tones, assuring me that takeout would be more than fine for dinner.

I tell you, I can make gnocchi. Honestly. While not regularly enough to say often, I've made it enough times to consider myself passably adept. But this, this was a new, devil of a recipe. A recipe that wanted to take me down.

And boy, did it ever.

It went straight for the knees, pinned me to the mat and had me calling for Daddy. I won't go into too many details or point any flour-encrusted fingers, since I'm not entirely sure that the fault is that of the recipe or my own. Or a combination of the two. The blame may lie with the potatoes. Who knows.

I will tell you that the dough refused to come together in any semblance of a workable substance. I had a languid blob lounging smugly on my kitchen counter. No matter how much flour I fed it it would not be sated; it was still boundless, still a slowly-oozing, formless mass.

That's when I called in reinforcements.

We rallied, we prevailed. Somewhat. My father and I managed a handful of successful dumplings, those few sent into the boiling water, then tossed with softened butter and a handfuls of Parmesan. Optimistically, we each tried one.

It was a joyless mouthful. They tasted of defeat. Defeat and cheese.

So abject was I, I was tempted board up the kitchen and declare it all a lost cause. If it weren't for the Fig and Walnut Bread we had made earlier in the day, I might have scrapped any tattered remnants of faith I had in my culinary ability.

The bread was a riff on Julia Child's white bread that we make quite often, a fruit-filled version based on a combination of flavours I have done before. Enriched with milk and fragrant with honey, the sturdy crumb is the ideal sort to be wrapped around a swirl of dried figs, walnuts and the subtle, savoury presence of thyme. It is a bread to be cut into thick slices, toasted enough that you hear the fruit sizzle ever so slightly, slathered with sweet butter in lavish proportion and then munched, gleefully.

And we did exactly that, while we waited for the delivery man.

Fig and Walnut Bread with Thyme
Adapted from Julia Child's Homemade White Bread.

More than just saving my pride, the bread saved today - if it wasn't for the bread, I'd be here empty handed. And I hate to do that. So while this may have not been my intended offering, please accept it, with the admission that since this was an unplanned debut, I did not take notes as conscientiously as my usual. But we are all good enough friends that I hope that my best guess will suffice for now.

The loaf in question is already a thing of the past, and there has been another petitioned for the weekend; I will retry the recipe then, to double-check my recollection.

Saturday, September 19, 2009: I tested the recipe again last night, and made two changes - both pertaining to butter. I added the 2 tablespoons of butter to the milk/water mixture to reduce the number of steps, with no ill effects to the final bread. Surprisingly, I also decided it is better to forgo the smear of butter in the swirl since the fat causes the layers to separate, leading to loss of filling when the bread is sliced. Without the butter the dough gripped the figs and walnuts more firmly.

3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
fine grain sea salt, optional
1 cup water
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
6 cups all-purpose flour (or thereabouts)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar
1 cup chopped dried figs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In a medium skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Once the nuts are lightly-golden and fragrant remove immediately from the heat and into a bowl. Toss through with a sprinkling of fine sea salt, if using, and the chopped thyme. Set aside to cool.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, gently warm the water and milk. Add the honey, stirring to dissolve. Stir in the butter, heating gently until melted. The mixture should be warm, around 105-110°F. Pour liquids into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. Stir in the yeast and allow to stand for five minutes.

To the yeast, add 3 cups of the flour and the salt. With the dough hook attachment or by hand, mix to combine (if using a mixer, proceed on medium speed). Continuing to stir, add the remaining flour a little at a time, until the dough begins to pull away cleanly from the sides of the bowl; it should still be slightly sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. The amount of time will depend on if you used a mixer or worked by hand, anywhere from 2-10 minutes. Place the dough in a large, lightly-greased bowl, turning the dough over to coat. Turn the dough right side up and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Set bowl in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until doubled in bulk, around 2 hours.

Butter two 8-by-4-inch loaf pans and set aside. Punch the dough down gently, then divide into two equal portions on a lightly-floured work surface. Taking one ball, roll out to a rectangle around 9-by-12-inches. Sprinkle half the sugar over the dough, leaving a thin border at all sides. Repeat with half of the figs and half of the toasted walnuts.

Start rolling the dough from the short end, forming a tight cylinder, pinching the seam together to seal. Bring just the edge of the ends of the roll up to enclose the sides and pinch to seal. Place the dough into one of the prepared pans. Repeat process with the second ball of dough.

Cover loaves loosely with plastic wrap or with tea towels, and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled again in bulk, around 45-60 minutes. Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C).

Brush the loaves with the remaining melted butter, and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. The bread is done when it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped from the bottom. Turn loaves out immediately onto a rack, turning them right side up to cool.

Makes 2 loaves.


• It is best to use a mild honey here, nothing with so much presence that it overshadows the mellow sweetness of the figs.
• Raisins, dates or dried cranberries would all be good substitutes for the figs, and resh rosemary for the thyme.
• For a straightforwardly-sweet filling replace the thyme with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. Feel free to be generous with the muscovado as well.
• I scatter the figs and walnuts somewhat erratically; I think the uneven distribution results in a more interesting loaf. If you want a perfect coil of filling, be more precise.
• Zoë has a helpful photographic step-by-step of how to roll such breads on her (lovely, inspiring) site. Any of the doughs she mentions would be a fine match for this filling.