Okay, so I guess I slowly climbed on the pumpkin band wagon. It’s not the pumpkin flavored coffees at Starbucks. I can’t stand flavors in my morning coffee…too much like candy and certainly not enough kick. Nor is it the stand of cinnamon brooms whose scent assaults my olfactory system like a WWII blitzkrieg the moment I step foot in Publix. No. It was something as simple as two girl’s weekends, both with girls from college, one was sorority sisters and the other girls that I love. It got me to thinking about college days. And Fall. I went to Mercer University in Macon, Georgia where we had seasons. That’s where I saw leaves change color for the first time. I thought how I walked across the beautiful southern campus; orange, yellow and red leaves bouncing and spinning on gusts of wind as if doing cartwheels. Kind of like sorority sister Anne B. who, drunk and making her way across campus late one night, fell on her face in the middle of a cart-wheel and knocked out her big front tooth. The whole thing. Yup. Serves her right, though. She was never particularly nice to me plus she had borrowed a very expensive pair of gold earrings and when she finally returned them to me one had been completely destroyed. Apparently she had stepped on it. But she was very, very sorry. Anyway, where ever she is, she’s running around with a fake front tooth. Those Autumn nights were chilly for us Florida girls. In my mind’s eye I can see the wool plaid tweed car coat Daddy had special ordered for me. A soft, tobacco brown with ebony black and pumpkin gold flecks. It was sumptuous and luxurious. Striding across campus to get to class on time, I’d turn the collar up and dig my hands deep into my pockets to stay warm. In the dorm it was cozyand comfortable and on weekends music would spill out of our rooms into the halls as we got ready for our dates and went from room to room sharing cocktails before we went out. Those were the days of albums and turntables. We listened to everything! Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan, Marshall Tucker, Allman Brothers, the Eagles, Grinderswitch, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Wet Willie had us singing and dancing like you wouldn’t even believe. That was our kind of finger poppin’ music. As I walked out of my dorm with girlfriends or on a date with my boyfriend, you could almost touch the excitement in the darkness, the sensation of anticipation in the frosty, brittle darkness. Our eyes sparkled from the cold as we laughed, chatted and guzzled booze in the chilly night air. Fraternity parties were held outdoors on the patio of the lodges. Mammoth speakers were set up inside and out, as were the kegs and garbage cans filled with grain punch. More Atlanta Rythym Section, Doobie Brothers and Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Boston. Lord, I think back and laugh. Those days celebrated the folly of youth and the good looks that come with it. I’ll stop at the risk of divulging any ancient secrets. But, hey! Try this way easy bread pudding. It’s Fall and time for a little pumpkin!
Why is it no one makes dinner rolls anymore? I understand the time crunch and lack of energy when you finally get home from work and then have to crank out dinner for the fam but weekends are the perfect time to stock up on these little luxuries that can be stashed away in the freezer to be enjoyed weeks later…maybe some evening when it’s dark, chilly and rainy. Well, this recipe is one of those kind of keepers. Soft and fluffy, slathered with warm butter and perhaps a drizzle of that honey you picked up at the farmer’s market, these rolls are a rare treat yet exceptionally easy to make. They mix and roll up quickly. There are two risings but the dough sits quietly in the corner while you go about your business.
The recipe makes 24 rolls so you’ll have plenty of leftovers to freeze, (and they freeze beautifully), or they can be served at breakfast as is or pulled apart and stuffed with a sausage patty or egg. The slight sweetness of this bread pairs well with a scoop of homemade chicken salad or spicy crab salad served in the opened middle. With cooler weather right around the corner consider stocking up on these little golden treasures. You’ll pat yourself on the back for planning so well!
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional if needed
1 sachet active dry yeast
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, melted, to brush on before serving
1 tablespoon honey, to brush on before serving
In the bowl of a stand up mixer fitted with a dough hook combine flour and yeast.
In a small saucepan combine milk, 1/4 cup honey, sugar, 1/4 cup butter and salt, stirring until all ingredients are combined and heated to 105° and 115°.
Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and beat until just blended.
Add the egg and beat the dough for 3-4 minutes until the dough becomes thick and soft and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It will probably be very sticky depending on the humidity in your area. If the dough is too sticky to handle add one tablespoon of flour to the bowl and beat another minute or so. If needed add another tablespoon of flour to thicken and continue beating.
Beat the dough until smooth and elastic about 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn to grease the top as well.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm corner to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Lightly spray 2 muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.
Punch dough down and cut in half with a bench knife or large, sharp knife. Cover half of the dough and set aside.
Cut one half of the dough into 12 equal pieces.
Cut each of the 12 pieces into 3 equal pieces, you should have 36 chunks of cut dough.
With your hands gently roll each chunk into a small, fluffy ball and drop three into each muffin cup.
Continue in the same manner with the 2nd half of the dough that was set aside.
Cover both muffin tins and set aside to rise for 45 minutes or until double in size.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes or until slightly golden on top.
Remove rolls from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.
Mix the melted butter and tablespoon of honey until well incorporated. Brush on top of each roll.
Warm any leftovers in a pre-heated 300° oven for 5-7 minutes.
We are a house divided. Jimmy and James are Greek Orthodox and I am Roman Catholic. However, I’ve spent a great deal of time in the Greek church and nothing thrills me more than when I discover a new dish. Several years back while we were in Boston, we went to church with Jimmy’s brother, George. Jimmy and all his siblings grew up in the cathedral, with all the big city hustle and bustle of downtown. All the Greek families grew up in the church. The church was the religious and social nucleus of the Greek community. The cathedral’s youth group was enormous. All the kids went to the church after school and on weekends for pick-up basketball games, church dances and just to hang out. It was where most of Jimmy’s friends met their future wives and husbands. Here we were, years later, and as always, in the church hall after Sunday service. While my husband and brother-in-law caught up with old friends I strolled the perimeter of the coffee table. A pretty, little basket caught my eye as it held some sort of coffee cake or bread or maybe it’s cake…I didn’t know but I sure was going to try it out. It was life altering. Chewy on the outside yet moist and yielding on the inside, its mysterious, warm flavors caught me off guard. Turns out it was a bread called Artos, redolent with the flavors of the Middle East. At first bite I was reminded of the gifts the Magi offered the Christ child because of the heady fragrance of cinnamon, cloves and ground aniseed. I had to make it. I had to! Well, here it is. Artos is an easy bread to make but it is a bit messy and does require a little rising time. Well worth it if you ask me. The recipe can be doubled and I feel you may as well make two then you can give one to a friend or someone special. The recipe is adapted from Anissa Helou’s book “Savory Baking From the Mediterranean”. The bread is fabulous with almond butter or Nutella accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee. It’s great as breakfast or as a snack and is fabulous as sandwich sliced, stuffed with bananas and nut butters then grilled. Try it. You’ll amaze yourself!
Bread has always been the ultimate temptation for me. Whether swathed with melting butter, creamy peanut butter, toasted with cheese or redolent with garlic and tossed in a salad, I cannot resist. Growing up with a mother who barely cooked we were always hungry. But bread, albeit it “brown bread” as it was called back then, was our reliable safety. And we loved our bread. For breakfast Mama prepared soft-boiled eggs with a slice of brown bread on the side and split in half, to dip into the sunny, runny yolks. With a pinch of salt and pepper this was our version of heaven. My little brother, Tommy, bless his heart, was always hungry. Skinny as a rail, he’d wake up in the middle of the night from hunger pains in his stomach. That boy would crawl on his stomach across the house, grab seven or eight slices of bread from the refrigerator and crawl back to his bed undetected by Mama. He said those late night trips to the kitchen were what kept him alive. I knew when I was hungry I could always find the fixins’ for a lettuce and butter sandwich. Actually it was margarine as we never had real butter. The “brown bread” was Roman Meal brand and the lettuce was iceberg but the combination made for a cool, crunchy and satisfying snack that, as a child, held me in good stead. As I grew up I learned of the further glories of bread. At a grade school friend’s house I first tasted real butter on toast. Whoa! I’ll never forget THAT experience. Third or fourth grade brought Susie next door as a new neighbor. That, Gentle Reader, was the exacta of culinary discoveries. We had been playing outside, probably our version of Man From Uncle, we were hot and hungry. Susie casually turned to me and asked if I wanted a toasted English muffin. I had never had a muffin, never mind an English muffin, but I thought if she wanted one I’d have one, too. I mean, how bad could they be? Well. She toasted one for each of us, buttered them, then slathered some bright, glossy, ruby-colored stuff on each round. “What’s THAT?” I asked. Susie looked at me incredulously. Neither one of us said anything for a few seconds. She quietly answered with the slightest hint of disdain for me, “It’s strawberry jam. Haven’t you ever had that before?” I had read in one of my many books that strawberries were sweet and tasted good. Feeling fearless and, let me remind you, hungry, I took a bite. The warm muffin with the melted butter in all the little nooks and crannies was like nothing I had ever had, all salty and creamy. How could something be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside all at the same time? But the jam…oh, the jam! I was swept away by the feel in my mouth, sweet and clean, at the same time tart. I imagined that was what perfume should taste like if you drank it. I just about swooned over this ordinary snack and I’m pretty much certain Susie lost a little respect for me judging from the “you loser” look she gave me. I’ve got to say, though, it was worth it. Today bread is still my Achilles heal. Garlic rolls, pizza, croutons, I love it all. But as I’ve gotten older and my waistline has expanded I’ve had to cut back drastically on my bread intake and, now that there is always food in my house, I’m super picky when it comes to the quality and nutritional value. Since figuring out this recipe we no longer buy bread, quite a savings for us as we were paying upwards of $10.00 at Whole Foods and Fresh Market for a high fiber organic loaf. I now bake bread at least once a week, sometimes twice, and have a thin, toasted slice every morning as part of my breakfast. Whether I have an egg white omelette prepared by my husband and delivered to our bed or avocado toast with tomato slices and red pepper flakes, breakfast keeps me energized until 2:00 in the afternoon. Not only is this bread a nutritional powerhouse but it’s life-changing for your insides, if you catch my drift. It calls for only one rising so you’re not chained to the kitchen for what seems to be a lifetime. I urge you to try it. Really. A weekend day when the weather begs you to stay indoors is the golden opportunity. And won’t you just be the happy camper when, say, some morning, you’re running more than a few minutes late and you grab a slice of this gorgeous, whole grain bread, baked by your capable hands, topped with a generous slather of peanut or almond butter to munch on while you drive into work? Aren’t you the cleverkins!
This bread is dark and heavy as many European breads are. It can be made by hand, which turns out to be a great upper body workout, or with a stand-up mixer, which makes the kneading process supremely easy. I’ve done both and I have to say I lean towards the stand-up mixer. The dough requires only one rising (yay!) and the recipe is forgiving enough that you can substitute the sunflower and flax seeds for any seeds you like. I use Bob’s Red Mill 8 Grain Hot Cereal and 5 Grain Hot Cereal as well as Quaker Multigrain hot cereals interchangeably depending on what’s in my cabinet. This recipe doubles beautifully however, as it calls for a large amount of flour, check first prior to doubling to make sure your mixing bowl is big enough to hold and mix the dough. I have a standard KitchenAid mixer, which I hate and everyday I pray it dies, and it barely holds one recipe. If you’d like really tall loaves shape three loaves instead of four. It’s great with breakfast, toasted plain or with butter, jam and almond or peanut butter. Because of its denseness it doesn’t hold up well as sandwich bread but since I’ve sworn off sandwiches that’s okay by me. Well-wrapped it freezes beautifully. I bake this bread for my family, my father and my girl, Andrea, so we only have two loaves at the most in my house. Therefore, I can’t tell you how long it keeps in the freezer but tightly wrapped it should be fine for at least two weeks.
4 cups water, divided
1 cup multigrain hot cereal
1/2 cup canola, vegetable or olive oil
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup flax seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
9 cups whole wheat flour, preferably organic
Spray 3 or 4 1.5 quarts loaf pans with non stick cooking spray and set aside.
In a small bowl, pour one cup boiling water over hot cereal and set aside for 30 minutes.
When hot cereal has cooled, heat remaining 3 cups of water to 120°-130° and pour into standup mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment.
To the mixer bowl add 2 cups flour, cooled cereal, oil, honey, molasses, yeast, salt, flax seeds and sunflower seeds.
Mix until incorporated.
Slowly add remaining flour adding just one cup at a time to avoid the flour from flying all over.
When flour has mixed in, change the attachment from paddle to dough hook and knead dough for 5 minutes.
Depending on the number of loaves you wish to bake, divide dough into 3 or 4 equal parts and place in prepared pans making certain the dough covers the bottom and all corners of the pans.
Cover pans with a clean dish towel or loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise in pans for 1 1/2 hours or until double in size.
Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or bottom, sides and tops are golden brown.
Cool pans on racks for 10 minutes.
Remove bread from pans and return to racks until completely cool.
Do not slice or store bread until completely cooled.
I just returned from an idyllic week in Puerto Rico where I met my older sister, Cynthia, for a much-needed visit with our two elderly aunts. Our aunts, one 93 years old and the other maybe 85, welcomed us with soft and gentle open arms, sweet kisses and many, MANY blessings. The younger of the two worked for many years in the Chemistry Department of the University of Puerto Rico, her husband was the head of the department and together had done cancer research at Fordham University back in the ’50’s. We affectionately named her “Maita” years ago, an informal name for godmother. An analytical academician, her intellectual brilliance is surpassed by her goodness, her tender-heartedness and charity. I’ve always said, “Maita, when I die I’m going to grab onto your ankles and sneak into heaven right behind you!” As she has always had this saint-like, beatific stature I, on the other hand, started to gain the reputation of a some what naughty little girl from a young age.
I was constantly being compared to Cynthia and one my better-behaved cousins in Puerto Rico who is close to my age. I’ll just refer to her as “M”. The three of us, Cynthia, “M” and I played constantly. Fairies, dollies, coloring, tea parties or in her playhouse, the envy of my childhood. But as we grew older our tastes changed and we moved away from dollies and tea sets and were more intrigued with tween fashion and, of course, boys…but only from afar. Decades before even portable phones, this was a time of letter writing. Long distance was hideously expensive so those calls were arranged for twice a month at best. Cynthia, naturally, was an excellent, well-disciplined writer. I was lazy, had messy, illegible penmanship and would do anything to get out of writing…including lie. My mother insisted that each and every letter we received be answer immediately and well-written. None of this 3-line nonsense. Oh, no, ma’am. Not my mama. She proof read every letter we wrote until we came of a certain age, maybe pre-teen. And that’s when the trouble started. She felt we were old enough to write informative, loving letters, all grammatically and punctually correct. We had eight aunts and uncles, their children plus a complete set of grandparents in Puerto Rico all more than happy to write to the one family which was stateside, namely us. Regrettably, by the time I reached 11 or 12 years old I could not sit make the effort to do homework, practice my music lessons, clean my room or return letters. I loved receiving them, especially when a pale blue check came fluttering out, but I did not have the thoughtfulness or moral fibre to sit down and pen not even a “thank you”. It all came to a head one summer when I had received numerous letters from cousin “M”, the final one imploring me to please, please write back. I loved her, I did! But did I write her back? No. No, I did not. I probably shoved that letter under my bed where I threw everything including dirty cups and sandwich plates, napkins and trash. At length my grandmother called and though she only spoke with my mother I knew I was in trouble when I saw the fire coming out of Mama’s eyes. She was incensed, “Oh, yes!”, she castigated me, “You can go swim and play at “M’s” country club, play tennis and go out to dinner but you can’t write her a simple letter? Hmmm???” She was boiling; I had embarrassed and shamed her, she was disappointed in me. I remember Mama taking me by the arm, unceremoniously sitting me down at the dinner table set with paper and pen and informing me in no uncertain terms, “You are NOT to get up from this table until you write your cousin! Is that understood?” Well! If she was fuming, I was enraged. How dare my cousin rat on me? How dare she? You want a letter? I’ll give you a letter! All afternoon I wrote, every few minutes Mama would glance at me pleased that I was responding, putting out the fire of family scandal and enriching our cousinhood. I sealed the letter, addressed it and tossed it on the dining room table to be stamped and mailed while I snapped at my mother, “There! There’s your letter. Hope your happy!” and off I went, free as a bird, never giving it another thought. Weeks, maybe months, went by and off we went on summer vacation. We spent two or three weeks in Jamaica as a family then split up as Dad had to return home to work and we flew on to Puerto Rico to spend the rest of summer. I was excited and looked forward to the time at our grandparent’s house. We were positively smothered with love, sugary treats, outings and adventures and oodles of quarters pulled out from the bottom of our uncles pockets then singles as we grew older. We counted our loot often. “I have $12.00! How much do you have?” “Aww. I only have $9.75”. Well, one of those hot mornings, nothing different about it, Mama came to me and said, “How would you like to walk to Maita’s house? Just you and me.”, I was incredulous. “Nobody else?”, I asked, “I don’t have to share you?”. “No, cielo, change your clothes, brush your hair and we’ll go.” And so we did. I was too old and sophisticated to skip but my heart was bursting with happiness that I had my mother’s undivided time and attentions. It was a short walk to my aunt’s condominium plus a great ride in the elevator as it was an incredibly tall building. The doors to the elevator opened, we walked down the hall and knocked on her door. I thought of the hard, spicy sausage she often served with thick, crunchy Goya crackers and hoped I would be seeing them brought out that day. The door swung open and my aunt swept me up with hugs and kisses. There was a flurry of greetings between her and my mother when suddenly I found myself in her living room alone. I turned and there, legs crossed and sitting in an enormous, dark-wood monster of a club chair sat my uncle…the father of “M”. Terror set in. It gripped my 11-year old heart. I knew what was coming; I knew what I had done and now so did he. I had been summoned, tricked, fooled and now I was going to get it. It would seem that the letter I had written my cousin, “M”, had hurt her deeply. It had evoked a flood of tears, especially the part where I called her an “ass”, so he said. I hastily back pedaled and reassured him, “I didn’t call her an “ass”. I said ‘Don’t BE an ass.’ I didn’t call her an “ass”!” Let me remind you, Gentle Reader, this was over 45 years ago. A true lady would never, EVER use that kind of language. And he was heartbroken, crestfallen…desolate. This darling, generous, loving man who gave me, and my brother and sisters, everything. Treats, adventures, nickles and quarters. I felt horrible. I felt cheap and horrible. He forgave me; of course he forgave me. I was a still child. But it caused a huge divide between my cousin and me. It was never the same between the two of us…even to this day. Maybe I called her a dirty word but she did worse. She told on me. Tattletale. She knew what she was doing when she ran to her father, our grandmother and our aunts. She knew full well that the entire family on the island would learn what I had done and that I would be judged accordingly. I had sullied our name. At all of 11 years old. Oh, the shame of it all! So foolish and wasteful is the loss of a tender friendship. We adored “M’s” father as one of our favorite uncles.
My uncle would, time and again, bring us sweet indulgences, one of them being Pan de Mallorca; a smooth, ambrosial yeast bread heavily dusted with an abundant and generous dusting of confectioner’s sugar.
To gild the lily, take it over the top, it can be split and stuffed with thin slices of sweet ham and extra sharp cheddar cheese.
The bread is then buttered on the outside and grilled with a weight on top. When the cheese has melted and is hot and gooey the sandwich is again dusted with confectioner’s sugar, sliced and served.
Sweet and salty has never been better! Just like life.
This bread is truly special. Soft and fluffy due to slow risings, Pan de Mallorca begs for time and patience. This isn’t the recipe you want to start at 3:00 in the afternoon. But if you wake up early one dark morning in the mood to rattle around in the kitchen all the day then this is the bread for you. You just can’t rush the risings. It keeps well for a little less than a week, well wrapped in the refrigerator as do the sandwiches. It’s the best with a hot cup of cafe con leche.
Every once in a while I find wild blueberries in the market during berry season and when I do I become the baking fool. Typically the berries are tiny but I’m here to tell you they are packed with flavor. Years ago we were in Maine for a family vacation when I tasted fresh blueberry juice for the first time. Cool, rich and gorgeous in color I savored every drop each and every morning. We were staying at a cushy lodge in Bar Harbor and they served pitchers of the freshly made juice at breakfast. I was delighted to find the berries growing wild everywhere. We saw little, scrubby bushes while hiking through Acadia National Park all loaded with the ubiquitous blue-black fruit. The same scraggly bushes dotted the sides of roads, front lawns and street corners. It was great! Unfortunately I rarely find wild Maine blueberries in South Florida but they are available every now and again and that’s when I make, among other things, this bread. Which is more like tea cake; it’s not heavily sweetened and the fresh fruit also gives the bread a welcome tartness. It’s perfect for a breakfast on the run by itself or toasted and slathered with peanut or almond butter. Later in the day it will be gladly received with a steamy cup of tea or coffee to resist that 3:00 p.m. crash. This is one of those easy, roll with it recipes in that just about all berries work well. I particularly like the blueberry and raspberry combination but you can add cut strawberries or use strictly one kind of berry. I usually use 12 ounces of blueberries and 6 ounces of raspberries. I’m not a fan of blackberries, (way too many seeds), but I made a quick sauce to trickle over the slices. The bread doesn’t need it, I just wanted another splash of color. It’s a gorgeous sauce and takes two seconds to strain out the seeds. Just google “blackberry sauce” and it’ll pop up. Another plus of this recipe is that it yields 2 loaves so you can surprise and delight a friend who maybe gave you an unexpected helping hand with a project you were working on and, hey, there’s one left for your family. You can give one to your 93-year old father who never gets freshly baked treats and you still have one for your family. Or you can just not say anything, tuck them in the freezer and take both of them to Hawk’s Cay for Girl’s Weekend so y’all have something to munch on at three in the morning when you’re ripped and singing “Drunk On A Plane” on top of the coffee table. It’s just a suggestion. I’m a huge fan of lemon juice and zest so I included it in the recipe but I’m pretty sure you can leave it out if you like. I do have one very important piece of advice that being once you add the dry ingredients to the wet don’t overwork the batter. The batter is thick and heavy so gently mix by hand and I find a large spoon helps to incorporate the wet with the dry with the least number of over/under strokes.
Grease and flour or spray with nonstick cooking spray 2-8.5X4.5 loaf pans (1.5 quarts) and set aside. I like to use Pyrex.
In a medium bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently incorporate berries so they’re all covered with the flour mixture. Set aside.
In a large bowl cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
Add sugar and beat well.
Add eggs, lemon zest and juice and vanilla. Beat well until eggs are completely mixed in.
Stir in buttermilk.
Add flour mixture to the butter/cream cheese bowl and with a large spoon gently fold together until just blended taking care not to break berries apart. I find an overhand/underhand motion keeps the blending down to a minimum.
Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 45-50 minutes. Using Pyrex or glass loaf pans allows you to see how done the sides and bottoms are.
Set pans on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before removing breads from pans.
Of course everyone loves flatbread, that little triangle of flavor, a pretty tidbit to savor while sipping on that weekend glass of champagne. Well, how about homemade flatbread for dinner? Now stay with me. Don’t run away scared at the idea of making dough. The last two weeks I’ve had major computer problems. I had to get a new computer and people, let me tell you I loved my desktop. If I can go from an enormous, gorgeous screen to a tiny 13″ laptop you can pull on your big-girl panties and rustle up a little dough. It’s easy, forgiving and a great way to relax and unwind. So pour yourself a nice glass of wine and let’s talk. Here are some things you’ll appreciate about making your own dough. The most obvious is you know exactly what’s going in AND what’s not. Have you ever looked closely at the list of ingredients in a loaf of bread at your grocery store’s bakery? What’s fumeric acid? Do we really need sodium stearoyl lactylate? Or azodicarbonamide coating? I think not. And don’t kid yourself into thinking anything is baked there. It’s all brought in baked and frozen then warmed up in their ovens to look and smell good. Even the frostings for their cakes are trucked in. The frosting comes packaged in big, plastic buckets. With a laundry list of chemicals, preservatives and artificial colors that you don’t even think about when you pick up little Taylor’s “Elsa” birthday cake from the movie “Frozen”. How do I know all this? Well, I did a little poking around on the computer and Chiquita in the bakery told me the rest. No lie. I’m hoping that homemade is looking a tad more attractive to you now. Many of us don’t have the need anymore to order birthday cakes at the grocery store; I’m just advocating awareness regarding what you’re eating and what you’re giving your precious family. Shall we move on to taste?
There is nothing…NOTHING that can hold a candle to the flavor of “made at home”. You know exactly what went into your baked good and how much. Plus, many bread recipes, this one included, can be played with. Different flours, the addition of herbs and spices plus the variety of toppings make planning dinner a breeze and, if I may say so, a pleasure. Let me point out as well that YOU dictate the thickness of the flatbread so if you enjoy thin and crispy you can have it. Thick and chewy is right at your fingertips…literally! With meat or without it is your choice. Here are some combinations we enjoy.
Fresh mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in olive oil, spinach, cooked, drained and chopped, roasted garlic, fresh marjoram and mint leaves and Gruyère cheese.
Caramelized shallots, roasted peppers, crumbled Feta cheese, orange zest, fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
Fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, Italian sausage (turkey or pork), hot chile peppers.
Ground lamb, a little tomato, some sautéed eggplant and onions, toasted pine nuts, raisins and a pinch of cinnamon.
With a choice of seafood, meat, vegetables and cheeses the combinations are endless. Keep in mind that the flatbreads can be baked with nothing on them but a faint spritz of olive oil and maybe a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper. From there they can be cut into triangles and used to dip into hummous, eggplant dip or, my favorite, the salty, creamy taramosalata. Store the cooled flatbreads in a zip top bag with the air squeezed out. In the following days you can crisp them back up again by placing them in a 300° oven for a few minutes. If they’re not eaten in a day or two keep them either in the refrigerator or freezer as they don’t contain any preservatives so their shelf life on a counter is pretty short. Here’s the recipe for your basic flatbread. Feel free to play with it. After you’ve tried it out or now if you feel like it, mix up your flours. I don’t recommend using all whole wheat because the bread will come out kind of hard and incredibly heavy. The more whole grain flour used, the more toothsome the final product will be. Therefore, if soft and fluffy is what you’re after then stick with the all-purpose. My family and I prefer a crisper, nuttier bread so I typically use 3 cups all-purpose mixed with 2 cups white whole wheat. When you’re ready to bake them off have your family or friends top their own flatbreads from the topping bar you so generously put together for them. So have fun with it. And have another glass of wine!
5 cups all-purpose flour plus more to spread or your combination of flours totaling 5 cups
1 tablespoon salt
olive oil to oil resting bowl and later to spread
Combine yeast, sugar and warm water in a large mixing bowl or stand-up mixer bowl. Gently mix and set aside for 10 minutes or until foamy.
Add yoghurt to yeast mixture and mix to break up yoghurt. If using a stand-up mixer use the paddle to mix.
In a separate bowl mix flour and salt together. Add to the yeast/yoghurt mixture and continue mixing with the paddle if using the stand-up mixer. If mixing by hand, it will be very wet and sticky but the more you mix the drier the dough will become.
If making by hand continue kneading vigorously until smooth. If using a stand-up mixer, change from paddle to dough hook and continue kneading for 5 minutes until smooth.
Lightly coat a large bowl with a bit of olive oil, place dough in bowl and turn dough over so both top and bottom are lightly covered with olive oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for 1 1/2 hours of until at least double in size.
After dough has risen, punch down and divide into 10-12 equal pieces. Using your hands, and you can oil them if dough is still a little sticky, roll into smooth balls and set aside, covered, for 20 minutes to rest.
Lightly cover work surface with some flour and roll out dough to desired shape and thickness. Place on baking sheets covered with parchment paper.
Add toppings, or if baking plain flatbreads, drizzle with a bit of good olive oil and a quick scattering of sea salt.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until barely golden around the edges. Keep an eye on them if your baking sheets are dark. They cook WAY faster.