November 02, 2005

Bread - that's almost a meal

I have a lot to live up to, in the bread-making department.

When I first started making bread, it was my mother's brown bread that I made. Dense with whole wheat and added wheat germ and bran, dark with molasses, enriched with eggs and baked in six-loaf batches, her bread was a hearty, filling loaf that rounded out a bowl of soup or stew into a dinner quite handily. The recipe, for which - alas! - I do not have a written copy, was tricksy. She gave it over and over to friends and community members who admired her bread, but they almost universally reported failure of their attempts to replicate her bread.

For some reason, her recipe just didn't work well for others, but I was one of the few who could even come close - although mine never rose quite as high as hers and therefore was a little denser and a little crumblier. That was the bread that I grew up with as sandwich bread; a sandwich made from two of these slices would sit with you for a while.

We did occasionally have other, lighter breads in the house, when I was growing up, usually in the form of soft French loaves - batards - that were our favourite base for garlic bread on spaghetti dinner nights. I was enamoured of their airy texture, which was foreign and exotic seeming to me, but didn't have the sugary squidge of the white sandwich bread my schoolmates had in their lunches. In my late teens I discovered sourdough rye breads, and cheese breads. Despite my affection for "regular" bread, what a delightful discovery these new breads were! My eyes were opened to the possibilities.

When I began experimenting with bread baking in my twenties, I quickly came up with a heartier type of white bread of my own: The Cornmeal Cheddar Onion loaf. I played with the proportion of cornmeal to wheat flour, and experimented with using raw minced onion or sauteed. I adjusted the level of cheese, and since I was at the time shifting towards sharp or aged cheeses, that simple change afforded a whole new level of cheese flavours.

It's a tasty bread, but it does have limited applications. It makes excellent toast, for example, and a shockingly good toasted cheese sandwich, but sweet applications and peanut butter are pretty much out of the question. It was originally designed as a breakfast bread - something heartier than your average loaf, to stay with you in the morning, but it translates to other meals pretty well. The cornmeal does reduce the amount of glutinous spring in the bread, so untoasted sandwiches can be a touch crumbly, but with a little capicolla and fresh mozzarella...maybe a little can be a delicious lunch. At mid-day or in the evening, next to a steaming bowl of soup, it holds its own. You can find the recipe here.


Dianka said...

This bread looks rich and delicious. Your serving suggestions make me want to have it for lunch today! Definitely will have to try it out.

Dawna said...

Thanks, Dianka. It's not really all that rich, though, despite the cheese. Soaking it in butter though... heavenly.

Ana said...

This bread looks beautiful Dawna. Where is the recipe?

Dawna said...

Hi Ana,

The recipe for this is going up on my main site in the November 16 update (next week). I'll post a direct link to it when it goes up, but the main site is located here.

Randi said...

That looks so good. I think I'll try it soon.

lisaSD said...

Dawna--I'm so impressed and inspired by your breadmaking tales! I'm going to try to some whole wheat dinner rolls next week.

Dawna said...

Thanks, Randi!

Lisa, let me know how your rolls turn out. I love freshly made rolls with dinner. Or with breakfast, for that matter.