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Staff of Life {CtBF}

I love making bread.  Over the past few years, it has gradually become part of my weekly kitchen routine.  My bread strategy is firmly in the “no knead” territory, making it long on rising time but super short on effort.  Initially, I was hooked by the Jim Lahey recipe made popular by Mark Bittman. Last summer, on a trip to Vermont, I couldn’t resist a detour to the King Arthur Store, where I bought a sourdough starter.  That sparked a new avenue of bread experiments.

This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is David Lebovitz’s Multigrain Bread, which resembles the loaves he buys in Paris.  This loaf is neither no-knead nor slow-rising, but I always like learning new things, so gave it a try.

This loaf has several good things going for it:

#1 It’s relatively fast. I mixed up the starter right before bedtime.  Initially it looked unpromising, but overnight the starter rose into a bubbly brew.



#2 The combination of seeds mixed into the dough was delicious. Flaxseed, millet, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and chopped pumpkin seeds.  Yum!

#3 As with my usual routine, this loaf is baked in a Dutch oven (I used a stoneware bread dome) which produces a perfect artisan-like crust.

#4 The technique for scoring the top of the loaf with a pair of scissors was easy, attractive, and effective. I’ll be reusing this new trick on future loaves.

On the other hand, I question the recipe’s name.  Multigrain?  It’s made with mostly bread flour with a small amount of whole wheat.  That’s two grains, but in my book, that’s hardly multigrain.  Maybe he meant to call it Multiseed Bread?

This plain bread dough was easy enough to knead because I let the stand mixer do the work.  After I added the seeds, the dough wasn’t quite sticky enough to absorb them.  I ended up adding a few tablespoons of water which helped.  I would recommend adding the seeds when the other ingredients are added to the starter and knead it all in one go.

I typically bake a loaf this size at 500F for one hour (in a preheated bread dome).  I questioned the directions for 30 minutes at 450F.  In previously recipes from My Paris Kitchen, I’ve noticed that extra baking time is often required.  My oven must run cooler than David’s.  I opted to set the oven temp to 500F.  After 30 minutes, it was not done.  I let it go another 15 minutes.  The internal temperature said it was done, though I might have liked a darker crust.

In the end, I liked this bread.  It had a nice crumb and toasts well.  Would I make it again?  Perhaps if I didn’t have the time to make my usual favorites.  I really enjoyed the seed mixture so I’ll try adding that combo to a no-knead or sourdough loaf in the future.  Lots of lessons learned with this recipe.

To see what other members of Cook the Book Fridays thought of this recipe, check out their links here.  You can find the recipe here at Fine Cooking or on page 241 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.


You Can Teach a Dog New Tricks {CtBF}



It’s summer!  I know we haven’t hit the summer solstice yet, but Memorial Day is the informal start date to summer in my mental calendar.  Summer means lots of fresh vegetables and salads, salads, salads.  I love salads. When I look at my recipe box, the Salad section is nearly as thick as Sweets.  Certainly, it’s the most heavily used.

Panzanella, or simply “Bread Salad” as it’s known at my house, is always a favorite.  Croutons of rustic bread tossed with lots of savory ingredients and a tangy dressing make regular appearances.  I also make Fattoush, which uses crumbled toasted pita for the bread and has a Middle Eastern flavor profile.

Even when I already have a favorite recipe for something, I’m always open to a new twist.  This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays offers just that.  David Lebovitz’s version is similar to yet different from mine.

Similar are the chopped vegetables (cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and scallions) and the herbs (parsley and mint).  Different: he uses sliced radishes instead of the chopped red pepper in mine.  I like the radishes better.  Different: he adds a healthy dose of hearty lettuce, making his fattoush more like a green salad.  I tried it, but definitely prefer this salad without the lettuce.  We both use a lemony dressing and a tangy sprinkle of sumac.  David’s dressing with the additions of garlic and mustard has more zing than my simple lemon vinaigrette and is the clear winner.

Lettuce Plus Parsley and 3 kinds of garden-fresh mint!

Lettuce Plus Parsley and 3 kinds of garden-fresh mint!

Fattoush is in the First Courses chapter of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  The first night I made it, I was home alone.  I made the dressing in a jar instead of the salad bowl so I could use it for several smaller batches of this salad.  Dressed salads especially those made with crisp bread are not good keepers.  I cut up vegetables to make a quarter of the recipe, even though it serves 6.  With a little bit of cheese and crackers on the side, I found that the salad was substantial enough to count as dinner.  I made half the recipe another night which Howard and I shared along with a beet salad for our meal.

Colorful Vegetables!

This recipe was worth trying.  It was good, but it won’t displace my own favorite recipe.  However, I definitely plan to incorporate parts of his recipe (radishes, dressing) into mine as we move ahead into summer.

The highlight of my Memorial Day weekend was a short hike in nearby Concord Massachusetts to check out a blue heron rookery.  I occasionally catch one wading in the pond Bella and I walk around every morning.  And I love the prehistoric look of herons flying overhead.  They remind me of pterodactyls.  When my neighbor (hi, Cass!) told me where to find the rookery, I channeled my inner Mary (Hirsch), had Howard find the binoculars, and we went for a ride.

Heron Rookery

Observing their high nests on top of dead or dying trees in a marsh, I was surprised to see both parents tending one or two babies in each nest.  There were 6-8 nests in all.  The babies seemed to be getting ready to fly.  We saw a couple of them perched on the edge of the nest where it looked like they were working up the courage to step off and test their wings.  This week, I expect they have already flown off.  I wish them safe travels.

Back to the food, if you want to try fattoush for yourself, you can find the recipe on page 116 of My Paris Kitchen.  To see what my friends thought of their salads, check their links here.

Cook the Book Fridays was formed by bloggers who met through French Fridays with Dorie, have remained friends, and enjoy cooking together (virtually anyway).  Others have joined us in this new adventure cooking through another French cookbook, David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  You can too!