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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Bread, Crackers, Muffins, Sandwiches

TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches For Dessert

bananafostergrilledcheese-grilledcheesesocial-230

Bananas Foster on French toast. Photo
courtesy Heidi Larsen | Foodie Crush.

 

April is National Grilled Cheese Month. Wisconsin, American’s premier cheese-producing state (California is runner-up), even has a chef-spokesperson for the occasion.

She is MacKenzie Smith of the blog Grilled Cheese Social, where she creates recipe after recipe for innovative grilled cheese sandwiches. She’s also the sandwich expert for About.com.

Mackenzie developed five new grilled cheese sandwiches for National Grilled Cheese Month—made with delicious Wisconsin cheese of course. The first is what we’d call “dessert grilled cheese,” although you can certainly have it as your main for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

It takes the idea of Bananas Foster—bananas sautéed in butter with brown sugar, banana liqueur and rum. Mackenzie combines these ingredients with sweet, creamy mascarpone and cream cheese on a sandwich of French toast.

It’s a smash, and our tip of the day is dessert grilled cheese.

 
RECIPE: BANANAS FOSTER GRILLED CHEESE

Ingredients For 1 Sandwich

  • 1 ounce (about 1/8 cup) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 ounce cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon banana liqueur or brandy
  • 1/2 small banana, thickly sliced
  • 2 slices brioche bread
  • Sea salt flakes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT the mascarpone and cream cheese in bowl. Set aside.

    2. PREPARE the French toast batter: In bowl, beat egg, milk and vanilla and set aside in a shallow bowl wide enough to hold sandwich for dipping.

    3. MELT 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until it dissolves. Add the liqueur and bring to a simmer. Once the mixture begins to thicken, add the banana, stirring constantly to evenly coat bananas. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the bananas are well coated in sauce. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

    4. PREPARE the sandwich: Spread the mascarpone mixture evenly on one side of each bread slice. Top one mascarpone-covered slice with the banana mixture, a sprinkle of sea salt and the remaining bread slice, mascarpone-covered slice down.

    5. SOAK (gently!) each side of sandwich in the French toast batter for a 1 minute. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwich in the skillet and grill 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and allow to rest 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

     

    RECIPE: DULCE DE LECHE GRILLED CHEESE

    Dulce de leche fans will enjoy this dessert grilled cheese sandwich, made with mascarpone and the addictive Argentinian dessert (made by caramelizing sugar in milk).

    The recipe is courtesy of the Grilled Cheese Academy.

    Ingredients For 4 Sandwiches

  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dulce de leche
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 8 slices cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry preserves or 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
     
    Preparation

  •  

    mascarpone-dulce-raspberry-grilledcheeseacademy-230

    Mascarpone and dulce de leche on cinnamon raisin bread. Photo courtesy Grilled Cheese Academy.

    1. COMBINE the mascarpone, dulce de leche and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

    2. BUTTER one side of each slice of bread. Spread the mascarpone mixture on the non-buttered side of 4 of the bread slices. Spread raspberry preserves on the non-buttered side of the remaining 4 slices of bread.

    3. PLACE one slice of bread with raspberries or preserves on each mascarpone-topped bread slice, buttered sides out. Place the sandwiches on an electric griddle heated to 350°F, or in a preheated skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until bread is lightly toasted.

    4. REMOVE and serve immediately, unsliced, since cheese is very soft.
     

    WANT MORE?

    Here’s another dessert recipe: Mascarpone Grilled Cheese With Chocolate “Soup.”

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cinnamon Crescent Rolls

    cinnamon-crescent-tasteofhome-230-ps

    Make warm and fragrant cinnamon crescents
    for breakfast or brunch. Photo courtesy Taste
    Of Home.

     

    Today is National Cinnamon Crescent Day.

    Crescent is the English word for croissant, the buttery, crescent-shaped laminated dough breakfast roll (there’s more about croissants below). Make your own with this recipe from Taste Of Home.

    RECIPE: CINNAMON CRESCENTS (CROISSANTS)

    Ingredients For 4 Dozen Small Rolls

  • 6-1/2 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 egg yolks
  •  
    For The Filling

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened, divided
  •  
    For The Glaze

  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

    2. HEAT the butter, milk, shortening and water to 120°-130° in a large saucepan. Add to the dry ingredients and beat just until moistened. Add the egg yolks and beat until smooth. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough (the dough will be sticky).

    3. TURN the dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

    4. COMBINE the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

    5. PUNCH the risen dough down. Turn it onto a lightly floured surface; knead about six times.

    6. DIVIDE the dough into four portions. Roll out one portion into a 12-inch circle; spread with 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar. Cut into 12 wedges.

    7. ROLL up each wedge from the wide end and place it point side down, three inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Curve the ends to form crescents. Repeat with remaining dough, butter and cinnamon-sugar. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven.

     

    cinnamon-BenFink-SuvirSaran-230

    One of the three different types of cinnamon. Photo by Ben Fink from Indian Home Cooking
    by Suvir Saran.

     

    8. BAKE at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks. Make the glaze: Combine the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla; drizzle over warm rolls. Combine the sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the rolls.

     
    WHAT IS A CROISSANT?

    Meaning “crescent” and pronounced kwah-SAWN in French, this rich, buttery, crescent-shaped roll is made of puff pastry that layers yeast dough with butter—a technique known as laminating.

    Traditionally a breakfast bread served with jam and butter, two classic variations include the almond croissant, filled with frangipane (almond paste) and topped with sliced almonds, and the “chocolate croissant,” correctly called pain au chocolat, baked with a piece of dark chocolate in the center.

    In the early 1970s, croissants became sandwich substitutes as they evolved from their two traditional fillings, chocolate and almond paste, into many savory variations, from broccoli to ham and cheese, as well as additional sweet varieties.

    There’s also the Bavarian croissant or pretzel croissant, made of a pretzel-like dough that combines bread flour and whole wheat flour with salt sprinkled on the top, like a pretzel. Some are made of puff pastry, others of a soft pretzel-type dough in a triangle wrap, like a croissant.

     
    The Real History Of Croissants

    Stories of the croissant being made in the shape of the crescent of the Turkish flag, after the defeat of the Turks in the Siege of Vienna in 1683, are a perpetuated myth. Recipes for croissants do not appear in recipe books until the early 1900s, according to the Oxford Companion To Food. The earliest French reference is in 1853.

    The croissant is descendant of the Austrian kipfel, a yeast roll usually filled with chopped walnuts, dried or candied fruit, or other filling, and shaped like a crescent. It arrived in Paris in 1938 or 1939 with August Zang, an Austrian military officer. He opened a bakery, Boulangerie Viennoise, and introduced Viennese techniques which would one day lead to the baguette and the croissant. The crescent-shaped kipfel was ultimately made with puff pastry by French bakers.

    You can read this history in Jim Chevallier’s book, August Zang and the French Croissant: How Viennoisserie* Came To France (Kindle edition).
     
    *Viennoiserie are buttery, flaky breakfast breads and pastries made with laminated dough, a technique of layering and folding a yeast dough to create brioche, croissants, danish, pain au chocolat and other so-called “Viennoiserie.” It is a marriage between traditional bread baking and sweet pastry baking. The technique of lamination produces many buttery layers that can be pulled apart to reveal thin leaves within. You can see the striations, or layers, of pastry when you look at the top of the Viennoiserie or when you cut into them. This technique is time-consuming and expensive (because of the amount of butter needed).

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Sourdough Bread Day

    April 1st is National Sourdough Bread Day. Sourdough is an ancient bread made by a long fermentation of dough, using naturally occurring lactobacilli bacteria and wild yeasts (other types of breads use cultivated yeasts, which became available only in the 19th century).

    In comparison with breads made with cultivated yeast, sourdough usually has a mildly sour taste and aroma, the result of the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli.

    The preparation of sourdough begins with pre-fermenting, using a “starter” made from flour and water (the starter is also known as levain, the chief, chef or head). It can be a fluid batter or a stiff dough, as the ratio of water to flour varies by baker.

    The starter helps to develop the uniquely tart flavor of sourdough bread. Starters are maintained for years, even generations. The colony of bacteria and yeast inside the dough is kept alive by the baker, who needs only a piece of it to bake a new batch of bread.

    If you bake bread in a bread machine, note that the rise time of most sourdough starters is longer than that of breads made with baker’s yeasts. Thus, sourdough typically doesn’t work in a bread machine; you need to use conventional baking techniques.

       

    sourdough-basket-lafayetteNY-230

    Sourdough bread baked at Lafayette Restaurant | NYC.

    ANCIENT BREAD

    One of the oldest sourdough breads was found in a Swiss excavation; the site dates to 3700 B.C.E. But the origin of sourdough fermentation is likely thousands of years older than that, originating in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia.

    Bread production has relied on the use of sourdough as a leavening agent for most of human history (the alternative to leavened bread was flatbread, such as lavosch and tortillas). The development and use of [cultivated] baker’s yeast as a leavening agent dates back only 150 years.

    Sourdough starter from a prior batch is used to create the new batch. Sourdough remained the usual form of leavening in European into the Middle Ages. Then, it was replaced by barm, the yeast-laden foam that forms in the process of brewing alcohol (for bread, the barm typically came from beer brewing). Centuries later, scientists learned to culture yeast, so bakers no longer had to rely on barm.

     

    sourdough-starter-foodformyfamily-230

    Sourdough starter. You can also purchase ready-made starter. Photo courtesy FoodForMyFamily.com.

     

    SOURDOUGH COMES TO AMERICA

    French bakers brought sourdough techniques to Northern California during the Gold Rush (1848–1855), and the bread remains part of the culture of San Francisco, where it has been in continuous production there since 1849. Some bakeries can trace their starters back to those days!

    In English-speaking countries, where wheat-based breads predominate, sourdough is no longer the standard method for bread leavening. It was gradually replaced, first by the use of barm from beer making and then by cultured yeasts.

    Thanks to the artisan food movement in the late 20th century in the U.S., it has undergone a revival [Source]. Now, most of us can enjoy it whenever we like—for toast, sandwiches and in the bread basket.

    If you haven’t had sourdough bread recently, today’s the day!

     

    Check out the different types of breads in our Bread Glossary.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Grilled Cheese Benedict

    grilled-cheese-benedict-230

    A yummy mash-up of Eggs Benedict and grilled cheese. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.

     

    April is National Grilled Cheese Month. There are got lots of grilled cheese recipes on TheNibble.com, but here’s something new: a mash-up of a grilled cheese sandwich with Eggs Benedict.

    The recipe is from the Grilled Cheese Academy, which has dozens of amazing grilled cheese sandwich recipes made with Wisconsin cheese.

    RECIPE: GRILLED CHEESE BENEDICT

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slices Canadian bacon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 English muffins, split
  • 4 tablespoons Sharp Cheddar cheese spread, at room
    temperature
  • 4 slices Gouda cheese
  • 4 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Optional garnish: minced chives
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT 3-4 quarts water to just below the boiling point. Add the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Gently stir the water and lower the heat so water is simmering.

    2. CRACK the eggs into the water one at a time and poach gently for 4-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and season with salt and pepper to taste. As the eggs cook…

    3. HEAT a griddle or skillet over medium heat and fry the Canadian bacon until lightly browned. Remove from the griddle and set the bacon aside.

    4. ADD 1 tablespoon of butter to skillet. Spread the cut side of each English muffin’s bottom half with 1 tablespoon Sharp Cheddar cheese spread. Place in the heated skillet and top each half with 1 slice Gouda, about 1 ounce spinach, 2 slices Canadian bacon and 1 slice tomato.

    5. COOK over medium heat until the cheese is melted. Remove to a plate and top each with a poached egg. Serve open-faced with remaining muffin halves, toasted and buttered, on the side.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easter Bread

    tsoureki-eggs-artisanbreadinfive-230

    Tsouréki, a braided yeast loaf with red-colored
    hard-boiled eggs. Photo courtesy Artisan Bread
    In Five
    .

     

    Modern bakers make loaves and rolls shaped like rabbits. But from early times in Europe, rich, festive breads were baked as a celebration of the end of winter. Later they became associated with Easter.

    Often they were yeast breads, filled with luxurious ingredients such as almonds, candied citrus peel and other candied and dried fruits, cinnamon, and saffron. Some loaves were decorated with colored eggs or sugar, elaborately braided or shaped into doves. Most are sweet, some are savory.

    Most of the recipes are European, with a few South American specialties. Add one or more of these 21 Easter breads to your celebration. Head to a bakery in your town, or find recipes online.

    BABKA FROM EASTERN EUROPE

    Babka is a rich yeast loaf that is now enjoyed year-round. Made with butter, eggs and raisins, is native to Poland and the Ukraine. A savory version is made with cheese.
     
    CHIPA FROM PARAGUAY

    This cheese bread has a dense, chewy texture, similar to a bagel or bialy.

     
    CHOEREG FROM ARMENIA

    This rich, sweet dough, topped with sliced almonds, is sweetened with the mahleb, a spice ground from wild cherry pits that’s also used in the tsouréki yeast bread from Greece (below).
     
    COLOMBA DI PASQUA FROM ITALY
    The dough for is similar to panettone, with flour, eggs, sugar, yeast and butter. Unlike panettone, it usually contains candied peel but no raisins. The dough is then fashioned into a dove shape (colomba in Italian) and topped with pearl sugar and almonds. Some modern versions use a chocolate topping.
     
    FOLAR DE PÁSCOA FROM PORTUGAL

    Also called Five-Egg Easter Bread, this round yeast loaf is sectioned into five triangles, each with a hard boiled egg nestled on top.
     
    GUBANA FROM ITALY

    From the Friuli region, this strudel-like bread is made from a cocoa dough and filled with pine nuts, raisins and walnuts.
     
    HORNAZO FROM SPAIN

    This savory yeast loaf is stuffed with hard boiled egg and sausage—typically chorizo.
     
    HOT CROSS BUNS FROM ENGLAND

    Commonly found in the U.S. as well, raisin-filled yeast buns are marked with a cross of white icing.
     
    KOULOURAKIA FROM GREECE

    These crisp breakfast biscuits, originating on the Aegean island of Ikaria, are sweetened with honey.
     
    KOUZNAK FROM BULGARIA

    An eggy dough is mixed with lemon zest, nuts and raisins. It can be oblong or round, or braided and studded with eggs, like Greek tsouréeki.

     

    KULICH FROM RUSSIA

    This dome-shaped yeast bread is brushed with an egg wash or white glaze, and typically garnished with brightly colored sugar, candied orange peel, chopped almonds and currants. The dough can be mixed with candied citrus, cardamom, nuts, raisins and saffron (photo at right).

    PANE DI PASQUA FROM ITALY

    This means “Easter bread,” a generic term that can take many forms. One popular shape is a braided ring with a red-tinted hard boiled egg in the center—a riff on Greek tsouréki. Also see torta pasqualina, below.

     
    PAO DOCE FROM PORTUGUAL

    This lightly sweet, golden loaf is scented with saffron.
     
    PAASBROOD FROM HOLLAND

    Almond paste is the signature filling of this sweet loaf, along with golden raisins (sultanas) and candied lemon peel.
     
    PAASSTOL FROM HOLLAND

     

    kulich-russianmomcooks-230

    Kulich, Russian Easter bread. The baker used her decorating skills to create chocolate scrollwork instead of a simple garnish of dried fruits. Photo courtesy Russian Mom Cooks.

     
    This yeast bread is filled with currants, glacé fruits and raisins are first soaked in brandy. It can also include almond paste.
     
    PINCA FROM CROATIA

    Also known as sirnica, this sweet, eggy, buttery bread especially popular in Dalmatia and Istria. Pinca is similar to a briche and is traditionally shaped into a round loaf with a cross cut into the surface, like hot cross buns. Flavorings citrus zest, raisins and rum. Similar to hot cross buns, it is eaten on Good Friday to celebrate the end of Lent.

     
    PULLA FROM FINLAND

    This braided loaf is infused with cardamom.
     
    TORTA PASQUALINA FROM ITALY

    In Liguria, the special Easter bread is savory, consisting of thin layers of unleavened dough alternating with a stuffing made of sautéed chard, spinach and/or artichokes plus eggs and cheese, accented with nutmeg. Arugula, asparagus, chicory and radicchio can also be used.
     
    TSOURÉKI FROM GREECE

    This classic Greek Easter bread dates back to Byzantine times. By the Christian era, red-colored boiled eggs, symbolizing the blood and rebirth of Christ, were tucked into the braids. The rich yeast dough is flavored with orange peel and a charming spice called mahleb (mahlepi, makhlépi), ground from the pits of wild cherries. Other traditional spices include anise seeds and mastic (photo at top).
     
    VELIKONOCNI KRUHKI FROM SLOVENIS

    These sweet buns are flavored with candied citron, cardamom, ground almonds, lemon zest and raisins, vanilla and brushed with an egg wash.
     
    VELKYOS PYRAGAS FROM LITHUANIA

    This sweet yeast bread is studded with golden raisins (sultanas).

     
    If we haven’t included your favorite Easter bread, let us know!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Hot Cross Buns For Easter

    hot-cross-buns-6-hotbreadkitchen-230r

    Homemade hot cross buns. Photo courtesy
    Hot Bread Kitchen.

     

    With Easter a week away, you can start baking the seasonal treat, hot cross buns.

    The first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” appears in 1733. A sweet yeast bun made with raisins or currants, the cross on top was originally made with knife cuts in the dough. Over time, icing was piped over the cuts.

    The cross symbolizes the crucifixion, and the buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Actually, they are believed to predate Christianity: Similar buns were eaten by Saxons in to honor Eostre, the goddess of spring.

    In their ancient pagan culture, the cross is believed to have symbolized the four quarters of the moon. Eostre is probably the origin of “Easter.” Many pagan holidays were ported into Christianity in its early days, to encourage pagans to convert to the new faith.

    You don’t have to wait for Good Friday to enjoy hot cross buns. They’re too delicious to save for one day of the year. While Good Friday—this year, April 3rd—is National Hot Cross Bun Day, we’re giving you the heads up.

    If you don’t celebrate Easter, go back to the roots of this recipe and celebrate spring!

    This recipe, from the California Raisin Marketing Board, adds a twist to the traditional recipe: The icing is flavored with lemon, adding a tart counterpoint to the straight sweetness.

    RECIPE: HOT CROSS BUNS

    Ingredients For 18 Buns

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110°F to 115°F)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins or Zante currants
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten and diluted with 1 teaspoon water
  • Lemon icing (recipe below)
  •  
    For The Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon water
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SCALD the milk, stir in the butter and cool the mixture to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in warm water.

    2. SIFT together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in the raisins until well coated. Stir in the eggs and the cooled milk and yeast; blend well.

    3. TURN the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.

    4. PUNCH down the dough, pinch off pieces and form smooth, round balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Place the balls of dough on a greased baking sheet about 2-inches apart. Brush each bun with the diluted egg yolk. Cut a 1/2-inch deep cross in the center of each bun with a greased scissors. Let the buns rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes. While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

    5. BAKE for 8 to 10 minutes or until the buns look lightly browned. Cool on wire racks, about 5 minutes.

    6. MAKE the icing: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. Pipe the icing to make a cross on each bun.

     

    Hot Cross Buns

    If you want to enjoy the hot cross buns as toast, leave off the icing. Photo © Woodsy | Fotolia.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Bake Irish Soda Bread

    Having published a recipe for Irish soda muffins for St. Patrick’s Day, we hadn’t planned to feature Irish soda bread this year.

    Then, we received this recipe from The Baker Chick and realized how much we wanted to tear into a warm loaf of soda bread and slather it with Kerrygold butter from Ireland.

    So we bumped our previously scheduled Tip Of The Day for this suggestion: Bake a loaf of Irish soda bread. If you’re already at work, bake it when you get home. It’s delicious with dinner—or in our case, instead of dinner. (We can make a joyous meal of great bread and butter.)

    Traditional Irish soda bread, the recipe below, has just four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. Other recipes add butter, caraway seeds, chocolate, eggs, orange peel or zest, raisins and/or sugar.

    The style of soda bread we enjoy in the U.S. is American-style, developed by Irish immigrants with butter, sugar and raisins.

    We adapted the recipe to meet in the middle: no butter or egg, but a bit of raisins and caraway.

    RECIPE: TRADITIONAL IRISH SODA BREAD

    Ingredients For 1 Loaf

       

    irish-soda-bread-thebakerchick-230

    Traditional Irish soda bread has no raisins or caraway. Photo courtesy The Baker Chick.

  • 1 pound (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups buttermilk
  •  
    We couldn’t help ourselves: We added these optional, non-traditional ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raisins, sultanas or dried cherries, currants or cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  •  
    But in the name of tradition, we held back on the butter, egg and sugar.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F.

    2. STIR together the flour, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk. Use a wooden spoon or your hand to combine the ingredients. You want the dough to be soft, so don’t over-mix it. Add more buttermilk if needed to get the dough to come together.

    3. TURN the dough onto a floured surface and give it just a few kneads (more will result in a tougher crumb). Shape it into a 6-inch diameter disk, about 2 inches high. Use a sharp knife to score a shallow X on the top of the loaf. Transfer to a cookie sheet or pizza stone and bake for 15 minutes.

    4. REDUCE the heat to 400°F and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden, and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it.

     

    kerrygold-brick-230

    For St. Patrick’s Day, spring for Kerrygold butter, made with milk from cows who graze
    on the green grass of the Emerald Isle. Photo
    courtesy Kerrygold.

     

    THE HISTORY OF IRISH SODA BREAD

    Baking soda, called bread soda in Ireland, was invented in the early 1800s. In those days most people didn’t have an oven—they cooked in a fireplace over coals or a peat fire (called turf fire in Ireland). They placed the dough in a lidded cast-iron pot which went right on top of the fire.

    In County Donegal and County Leitrim, there was a tradition of adding caraway seeds to bread. Immigrants brought that recipe to the U.S. In America, the recipe evolved to include butter, eggs, raisins and sugar—ingredients which frugal housewives in Ireland wouldn’t have thought to add to the dough.

    Today, the soda bread recipe options include:

  • White soda bread: all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, buttermilk and optional caraway seeds.
  • Brown soda bread, also a traditional recipe that substitutes whole wheat flour for part or all or all of the white flour.
  • Irish soda bread with raisins and caraway, the classic Irish-American version also made with sugar, butter, and eggs.
  • Numerous modern recipes, from healthier variations of whole grains, flax and sunflower seeds to walnut soda bread to oat soda bread with browned butter, rosemary and black pepper.
  •  
    Check out these and other recipes here.

    FOOD TRIVIA: The cross cut into the top of the loaf before baking allows the heat to penetrate into the thickest part of the bread. As a bonus, in a Catholic country it adds the symbolic note of giving thanks.

      

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    PRODUCT: Marilyn’s Gluten Free Gourmet

    The gluten-free life can be a bit of a culinary safari. No sooner do you have the shy creature in sight, then it slips into the brush and you are left wistfully holding your binoculars, waiting for something else to emerge.

    This was the story of my favorite cheese crackers: They simply vanished for no good reason. I even went to the bakery’s Facebook page and tried to cajole them into bringing them back (to no avail).

    Then, in pursuit of some g-free graham crackers for Magic Bars, I stumbled across Marilyn’s Gluten Free Gourmet products in the natural foods section of an out-of-the-way Publix outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

    I grabbed the graham crackers and a pack of their cheese straws as well, ever hopeful that I might find a replacement for my late, lamented cheese crackers.

    After thanking the manager for stocking such a good variety of gluten-free products, I made haste to the car and opened the package of cheese straws. Out wafted a pungent Cheddar-y aroma that was the first hint of the Total Cheese Satisfaction that lay in store.

       

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    Marilyn’s Cheese Straws. Photo courtesy Agrafrutti.

     
    Beyond Delicious

    Can I say that they are even better than a wedge of Cheddar cheese? Because these cheese straws combine the sharp, sophisticated flavor of a fine Cheddar cheese with the crunch and texture of a delicious gluten-free cracker.

    Now, this is not a diet product. Marilyn’s is based in Georgia, so it is a rich and celebratory treat in the Southern tradition. The great part is that they are so satisfying, you don’t have to eat a whole package in one sitting—although some may choose to do so (ahem).

    But one to two straws can hold you down very well between meals. They would also make a great party snack, though one that would quickly disappear, so plan accordingly.

    As a bonus, Marilyn’s cheese straws come in several varieties: Traditional Cheddar, Jalapeño Cheddar, and a White Cheddar & Chive. Of these varieties I have to confess that the Jalapeño is my favorite; the spice of the pepper enlivens and cuts the richness of the cracker.

     

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    Marilyn’s Graham Crackers. Photo courtesy Agrafrutti.

     

    Marilyn’s also makes a great graham cracker, with a hint of cinnamon, and a line of bread mixes that I am eager to try, particularly their Rosemary Sea Salt.

    All products are safe for those with gluten intolerance and Celiac disease and contain no trans fats, preservatives, artificial flavors or artificial colors. Some products do contain dairy, so please read the label; and they are produced in a facility that also uses tree and ground nuts.

    Marilyn’s products are available at Agrafrutti.com and in some Whole Foods Markets.

  • Five-ounce boxes of each variety are $5.99.
  • Eight-ounce gift boxes are $12.95.
  •  
    The brand also offers Artisan Flatbread Crackers and Cheese Buttons, not yet tried by us (but we look forward to them).
     
    — Georgi Page

     

    ABOUT MARILYN’S GLUTEN FREE GOURMET

    After many years of passionate baking at home, Marilyn Santulli was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. To continue enjoying gourmet baked goods and share them with other GF consumers, she decided to open a gluten-free bakery.

    Her American Gra-Frutti Bakehouse & Shop in Roswell, Georgia is open weekdays from 9 to 5 (fresh breads need to be ordered in advance). In addition to breads, muffins and cakes, the shop carries all varieties of the Marilyn’s Gluten Free Gourmet packaged line.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Dave’s Killer Bread

    Milwaukie, Oregon, founded in 1847 on the banks of the Willamette River and now a suburb of Portland, is also known as the the birthplace of the Bing cherry. But soon, it may be known as the birthplace of Dave’s Killer Bread.

    Dave’s Killer Bread is “the best bread in the universe,” according to the company website.

    While we might add other favorite breads in the tie for “best,” Dave’s Killer Bread is up there. It’s the #1, best-selling organic bread in the U.S.

    And it is, indeed, killer: all natural, whole grain breads packed with protein, fiber, omega 3 fatty acids and great flavor. Whole grain bread has never tasted better.

    The line of organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, vegan whole grain breads began 10 years ago with Blues Bread (with blue cornmeal). You can tell how much the locals love “DKB”: That original loaf has expanded to 14 different killer breads ranging in flavor and texture, plus dinner rolls and a whole grain cinnamon roll. The line now sold nationwide.

    We tried samples of two varieties and are converts. This is the best seeded, whole grain bread we can imagine. We wouldn’t use anything else for sandwiches and toast.

       

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    Photo courtesy Yvonne | TriedAndTasty.com.

     

     

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    PowerSeed has 6g protein, 6g fiber and 500 mg omega 3 per slice. And it’s delicious! Photo courtesy Dave’s Killer Bread.

     

    A Cornucopia Of Delicious, Better-For-You Breads

  • Blues Bread, rolled in organic blue cornmeal, giving it a crunchy crust and sweet flavor. 5g protein, 4g fiber, 340mg omega 3, 130 calories per slice.
  • Good Seed, with the boldest texture and sweetest flavor of the breads. 6g protein, 4g fiber, 670mg omega 3, 130 calories per slice.
  • 100% Whole Wheat, with a smooth texture and a touch of sweetness (try it as French toast). 4g protein, 3g fiber, 90mg omega 3, 110 calories per slice.
  • Powerseed, sweetened with organic fruit juices instead of sugar, 6g protein, 6g fiber, 500 mg omega 3, 110 calories per slice.
  • Rockin’ Rye, with a seedless crust and soft texture. 6g protein, 4g fiber, 130mg omega 3, 120 calories per slice.
  • Seeded Honey Wheat, with nearly 4 tablespoons of pure organic honey packed into each loaf, the sweet taste and crunchy texture make Seeded Honey Wheat an instant favorite. 5g protein, 5g fiber, 100mg omega 3, 110 calories per slice.
  • Spelt, with a smooth texture and an earthy, nutty flavor. 5g protein, 4g fiber, 410mg omega 3, 130 calories per slice.
  • Sprouted Wheat, with bold flavor and crunchy texture. 6g protein, 4g fiber, 840mg omega 3, 110 calories per slice.
  • 21 Whole Grains and Seeds, with a hearty texture, subtle sweetness, and a seed-coated crust. 6 protein, 5g fiber, 220mg omega 3, 110 calories per slice.
  • It that’s not enough, there are:

  • Thin Slice Breads, five versions of the most popular loaves, with calories from 60-90 slice (compared to 110-130 for the regular breads).
  • Buns, dinner rolls and hamburger buns.
  • Cinnamon Roll, called Sin Dawg, a whole grain, baguette-shape treat.
  •  
    What’s in those breads? Depending on the loaf, you’ll get:

  • Whole grains: barley, blue cornmeal, brown rice, buckwheat, cracked rye, cracked whole wheat, Kamut khorasan wheat, millet, quinoa, rolled oats, rye, spelt, sorghum, triticale, whole wheat flour, yellow cornmeal
  • Seeds: amaranth, black sesame seeds, brown sesame seeds, flaxseeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, unhulled sesame seeds
  •  
    Bread lovers: Get up, go out and get some! Here’s a store locator.

    Or, order online.

    Thanks, Dave, for each delicious bite.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Grilled Cheese

    grated-cheddar-dreamstime_19387653-230

    Shred the cheese first. Daryl Brooks |
    Dreamstime.

     

    Grilled cheese sandwiches, one of America’s favorites, are pretty easy to make,. Yet they’re not problem free.

    Sometimes, the cheese does not melt evenly or quickly. This is especially true when you hand-slice quality cheese from a block, as opposed to using thin, easy-melting plastic-wrapped singles.

    So here’s an easy, fast and foolproof tip for grilled cheese success: Shred the cheese first. It takes only a minute, and cooks so much better.

    The other key to grilled cheese success (as we define it) is superior cheese and bread. To many people, American cheese singles on white bread does the trick.

    Here, that trick doesn’t even get cursory consideration! We demand great cheese and bread (personal preference: a rustic, chewy loaf).

     
    RECIPE: FOOLPROOF GRILLED CHEESE

    Ingredients Per Sandwich

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 slices bread
  • 2-3 ounces cheese
  • Optional ingredients: bacon, chutney, pickles, tomato, etc.
  • Preparation

    1. BRING the butter to room temperature. If you’re making more than one sandwich, preheat the oven to 350°F so you can keep the first sandwich(es) warm.

     

    2. SHRED the cheese roughly, like pizza cheese. We used a vegetable peeler.

    3. PREHEAT a heavy skillet over medium heat. Slice the bread.

    4. SPREAD one side of both slices of bread with the softened butter. Be sure the butter is spread generously and evenly over the surface.

    5. PLACE one piece of bread, butter-side down, into the hot pan. The butter will sizzle when it hits the heat. Top the bread with the shredded cheese. Add any other ingredients. Top with the second piece of bread, butter side up. Lightly press with a spatula.

    6. CHECK the bottom slice after a minute. If the underside is golden brown, flip the sandwich and cook until the second slice is equally golden.

    7. STASH in the oven to keep the sandwich warm while you’re making the next sandwich. If the cheese is not completely melted before, it will finish melting in the oven.

     

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    Making grilled cheese sandwiches in a nonstick Calpahlon grill pan. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    TRADER JOE’S TRUFFLED CHEDDAR CHEESE

    We picked up Trader Joe’s Farmhouse English Cheddar Cheese with Italian Truffles yesterday. At $9.99 a pound, it’s twice the price of the Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar Cheese we also purchased. But it’s an affordable luxury, and has good truffle flavor.

    Paired with some sliced rustic sourdough bread from Le Pain Quotidien, it made a most satisfying grilled cheese sandwich. The truffle flavor is a big flavor boost; but for our second sandwich we added some caramelized onions that we had in the fridge. Equally good!

    The folks at Sam Adams recently sent us some Rebel IPA, an India Pale Ale made in the West Coast style. It was a perfect complement to our grilled cheese sandwiches.

    What’s a West Coast IPA?

    East Coast IPAs have a stronger malt presence to balance the intensity of the hops. West Coast IPAs showcase the hops more.

    According to Wikipedia, East Coast breweries rely more on spicier European hops and specialty malts than West Coast. According to us: Both are delicious.

      

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