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Super Seed Bread

20 Sep

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I always assumed that there were approximately zero things I enjoyed about the end of summer—goodbye sunshine, warm weather, long sunlit days, eating dinner outside, picnicking, ice cream in the afternoon…need I go on?—but this morning, the first morning so far this school year that I have worn a scarf while taking my son to school, it occurred to me that there is, in fact one thing I enjoy about summer’s end. I get to start baking bread again.

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There are many people, of course, who take kindly to baking bread year round, and I wholeheartedly salute those people. But it remains a fact that I am simply not one of those people. During the summer, I prefer to not turn on my oven, and instead make a concerted effort to concoct all of our meals via the magic of a cutting board, a salad bowl, a grill, and/or a single burner on the stove. Eventually, come autumn, when the weather takes on its inevitable chill, and keeps that chill for the better part of eight months, the oven will come on, and stay on, producing breads and baked goods aplenty.

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I baked this particular loaf of bread before summer officially began in Portland. The weather was still rather chilly, and I was craving the comfort of a freshly baked loaf of hearty bread to keep me company. Packed with every type of seed I could find in the house, this is a bread for the ages. It is great for sandwiches, perfect as toast, and it will fast become your best friend if swiped with a touch of salted butter and drizzled with a wisp of honey. Best of all, however, is the fact that this bread seems to beckon people, particularly children, with its heavenly aroma and nutty bite, so, really, you won’t ever find yourself with simply the bread alone to keep you company.

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Last Year: Perfect Oven Fries with Truffle Salt and Lemon Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

Super Seed Bread

Scant ½ cup warm water

2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast

2 tablespoons honey-divided

¾ cup warm milk

1 tablespoon unsalted melted butter

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds

¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoons poppy seeds

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

plus more pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds for top

vegetable oil, for brushing over the top

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the warm water with the yeast and one tablespoon of the honey. Stir to dissolve, then allow to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes, until nice and foamy.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the warm milk, the remaining tablespoon of honey, the butter, and the yeast mixture. Stir to combine, then add 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, all of the whole wheat flour, salt, and the sunflower, pumpkin, poppy, and sesame seeds. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes (3 minutes with a stand mixer, 5 if mixing by hand), until a smooth dough forms. Lower speed to medium low, and continue to beat the mixture while adding the remaining 1 cup of flour, 1/3 of a cup at a time, until the dough becomes shaggy.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface or, if mixing the dough in a stand mixer, replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and silky, adding just a teaspoon or so of flour if the dough is too sticky to knead. If kneading by hand, you’ll work with the dough for 5 to 6 minutes. If kneading with a stand mixer set on a lower speed, your kneading should be complete in 3 or 4 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, then place in a greased bowl to rise. Make sure that every part of the dough gets greased at least a little bit, lest it stick to the bowl as it rises. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, a large lid, or a moist towel, and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour to 1.5 hours.

Carefully deflate the dough, then turn out onto a well floured surface. Grease a 9” by 5” loaf pan. Form the dough into a rectangle that is approximately 9” wide and 6” tall. Roll the dough into a tight loaf, pinching the seam closed at the end. Lightly brush or spray the loaf with just a bit of vegetable oil. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon each of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds on your work surface, then roll the greased loaf in the seeds, covering as much of the loaf as possible.

Place the loaf in the greased 9” by 5” pan, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until the dough has reached at least 1 inch above the rim of the pan, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the bread in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the bread has an internal temperature of about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn loaf out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 1 loaf.

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Aloo Gobi Parathas

13 Jun

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As I may have mentioned before, my son does not like Indian food. Because of this, every Indian item I make tends to be focused on an effort to get my kid to at least taste it, and, in hope, want to eat more. Futile? Perhaps. But, believe it or not, when it comes to introducing my kid to the food of my ancestors, Indian food is the safer road to travel, being as though I am half Indian and half Scottish, and it seems much kinder to introduce parathas to an innocent child rather than force upon him the culinary horror that is haggis. Sheep’s lungs and liver boiled inside its own stomach, or flatbreads filled with potatoes and cauliflower? Parathas it is!

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The interesting conundrum about making Indian food for a child lies in the fact that Indian food is generally rich with spices and very particular flavors, and many children are instinctively put off by this. While it is not as though my kid will only eat pasta and baby carrots, he is definitely hesitant when it comes to the fragrant spices of an Indian dish. My only course of action in this situation is to tone down the spice quotient in recipes while also testing out ways to make them more appealing to the eating desires of a first grader. Because naan is always such a hit with children, it seemed only natural that parathas were next in line to be tested.

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The dough for these parathas could not be simpler. A mixture of whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, and water, the dough requires little more than mixing, kneading, and resting, which leaves you a nice window of time to cook up the potato and cauliflower filling. I may be alone in feeling this way, but the next step—the rolling, folding, and rolling again—is one of my favorites.

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The rhythm of constructing each paratha while one simultaneously cooks on the stove is almost soothing to me, and there is nothing quite so satisfying as fortifying the work with a snack of fresh, hot paratha, working in bites in between rolling, turning, and cooking. Gently spiced cauliflower and potatoes folded into crisp flatbread is almost impossible not to love. Almost. Unless you are my son, in which case you will take a single bite of a paratha then turn away briskly, robotically intoning, “Don’t like it.” Alas, what one rejects, another embraces. None for him, but more for me. It’s not an entirely bad situation in which to be.

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Last Year: Multigrain Sandwich Bread and Chocolate Coconut Marble Cake

So many more Indian dishes can be found in the archives!

Aloo Gobi Parathas (Indian Flatbreads Stuffed with Potatoes and Cauliflower)

Dough:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough

1 teaspoon salt

¾ to 1 cup water

Filling:

1 medium potato (about 8 ounces)

½ a head of medium-sized cauliflower, cut into florets (about 8 ounces)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for cooking parathas

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 small jalapeno or other chile, finely minced (remove seeds and ribs before mincing to tone down the heat)

½ teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flours with salt. Stir the flour mixture while slowly pouring in the water. The dough should need not quite the full cup of water in order to come together as a cohesive dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for around five minutes, until smooth and supple. If you are using a stand mixer, mix the dough together with the dough hook, then, when the dough comes together, knead for an additional 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is quite smooth. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 1 hour.

While the dough is resting, make the filling.

Boil the potato, still in its jacket, until it can be easily pierced through with the tip of a knife. Set aside to cool. Steam the cauliflower florets until soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large skillet or wok set over high heat, add the vegetable oil and swirl it around until it covers the pan. Add the mustard seeds and cook for about 20 seconds, until they begin to pop and sputter. Lower the heat a tad, add the turmeric and garlic, and stir until the garlic is fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and just beginning to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While the onion is cooking, peel the skin off of the boiled potato, and add it, along with the slightly cooled cauliflower, to a large bowl. Mash the cauliflower and potato together using a potato masher or, if you have strong forearms, a fork.

When the onions have become soft and slightly browned, add the chile and stir to combine. Add the mashed potato and cauliflower mixture, sprinkle with salt, and continue to stir and cook until the mixture is completely combined. The filling should be quite soft, and only slightly tinged with brown in places. Remove the filling to the bowl in which you mashed the potato and cauliflower. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

While the filling is cooling, prepare the paratha dough. Cut the dough in half, then into 8 pieces. Use your hands to flatten each piece into a disc. Coat each disc with a light dusting of flour. On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to gently roll each disc into a rough 8-inch round, setting aside and covering each circle as you roll it out. Do not turn dough over while rolling.

Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling over one half of a dough round. Fold the bare half of the dough round over the filling, then fold in half to make a quarter-round wedge shape. Lightly pat the wedge flat, then gently roll it into a rough 8-inch round. Do not turn rounds over while rolling. Some filling will most likely sneak out the sides, but that is all right. Repeat with remaining dough rounds.

To cook the parathas, have ready a small bowl of vegetable oil of melted ghee. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet over high heat. When the skillet is hot, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil or ghee, and tip the skillet to coat it as much as possible. Lower the heat under the pan to medium-high, and place a paratha, top down, in the skillet. Cook for almost a minute, then turn the paratha over. Brush the surface of the paratha with a bit of vegetable oil of melted ghee, and cook for another minute and a half. Turn paratha over once more, and continue to cook for an additional 30 seconds, until the paratha is well spotted with brown patches on both sides. Remove to a plate, and cover to keep warm. Cook the remaining parathas in the same manner, adding another tablespoon or so of oil or ghee to the skillet in between each paratha.

Makes 8 parathas.

Strawberry Pecan Bread

31 May

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In some parts of the country, it’s strawberry season. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it is almost strawberry season, which is sort of like saying it is almost Christmas or almost baseball season, meaning that we’re in that odd limbo period wherein one can start to feel sort of excited about what is to come, but there is still a rather hazy period of waiting that needs to pass before the real excitement kicks in. At least, this is how one feels if strawberries are the type of thing that qualify as excitement-worthy. As you can probably ascertain, this is how I feel.

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While the strawberries in my own garden still require a week or so of warm weather before they are properly ripened (in other news: it needs to stop raining and being 60 degrees, because 1) I loathe that weather, and 2) the strawberries, they need to ripen), there are local berries (grown in greenhouses, I can only assume) popping up at various markets around the city. When the local strawberries begin to appear, you know that summer is not far behind.

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While I’ll never tire of simply eating strawberries as they are, deeply crimson and perfectly sweet, it’s pretty much impossible for me to eat something while not thinking about the various ways I could incorporate or transform it into something different. Strawberry desserts, not surprisingly, are always top on my list of strawberry favorites, but a light strawberry snack should never be ignored. This bread falls somewhere in between a dessert and a snack, although, with only ¼ cup of added sugar to sweeten the whole loaf, I would argue that the scale tips more towards the latter. With hints of cinnamon and lemon zest, little bits of crunchy pecans, and mellow pockets of juicy strawberries, this welcoming bread would make a great picnic staple, but it’s also a welcome companion to a hot cup of coffee in the morning or afternoon. If you’re looking for a way to dress this fellow up, top a slice with a scoop of ice cream and call it dessert. Thus far, I’ve found no inappropriate way to enjoy this almost-summertime treat.

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Last Year: Ginger Cardamom Cake with Lemon Glaze, Stuffed Picnic Sandwich with Olive Tapenade, and Strawberry Lemon Cream Puffs

Strawberry Pecan Bread

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup vegetable oil

¼ cup light brown sugar

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

1 ½ cups sliced fresh strawberries

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease and flour the inside of a 9”x5” loaf pan.

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, brown sugar, and applesauce. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir lightly until just combined. Add the strawberries and pecans, and gently stir and fold to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Smooth the top of the batter, then bake in the center of the oven for 75 to 90 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle of the loaf emerges mostly clean, with just a crumb or two attached.

Allow bread to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Turn loaf right side up, then allow to cool almost completely before slicing and eating.

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