Thursday, June 26, 2008

Culinary Adventures

I've been doing some experimenting in the kitchen. I'm on a mission: I'm trying to duplicate a bread that some monks make in the Keweenaw Peninsula in the U.P. I've been a fan of it for years and introduced it to my family on our recent vacation and they all raved about it too.

It's a sourdough spice bread. As I ate it last week, I really tried to decipher what the main flavors were. It has a unique taste for a spice bread, and I attributed that to nutmeg being the primary flavor. My second batch confirmed that when I used at least two teaspoons of nutmeg. So far, I think a close take on the spices for a batch that uses two or three cups of flour is 1/8 teaspoon of cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 or 2 1/2 tsp of nutmeg and 1/2 tsp of allspice, though I'm suspicious that cloves don't make an appearance. Beyond that, it has a dark texture, so I gathered that for a sweetener they used dark brown sugar, and based on my prototypes I believe I'm correct in that assumption.

It's a sourdough spice bread and there's a "sour" quality to it that's part of the flavor. This isn't a typical type of sourdough used in savory breads, but rather the Amish friendship bread variety. I don't want to mess around with that, so I simply added a 1/2 tsp of vinegar and it did bring a bit of a sour flavor. Where I'm still needing to tweak it is in the amount of eggs and oil. The second batch used a cup, and I think I need to go with the first batch which only used 3/4. Actually, I'll try 2/3 cup next time. I used 2 cups of flour and three eggs, and the first time used just baking powder, I think 2 tsp, and the second time used a mixture of baking powder and baking soda, though I used too much baking soda. I think just an 1/8 tsp of baking soda, which will help the bread brown a little more nicely.

I'm going to keep working on it, over time, and when I come up with the right recipe, you've got to try it! It's really very tasty, if I can reverse engineer it.
The other thing I did today is make my Irish Guinness Cake for my friend Ali, who sent me some prayer beads and a book on suffering that was greatly appreciated. She's a terrific artist, and you should check out her work. I've decided to commission something from her, and we'll be talking more about it in the fall.

Beyond that, I've got a cake in the oven right now that I think could really be a decadent entry for the Bundt competition. I won't say anything more about it until after I enter the competition though.

I love doing this stuff.

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