Proofed.

There was a time when I made bread often. My daughter was a mere tot, and I found myself spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Initially, I’d started with simple doughs, such as pizza or focaccia, then graduated to more dense, hearty sandwich breads and rolls. My trusted Kitchen Aid mixer would start to fatigue from several minutes of hard labor, however I enjoyed its convenience and reduction of hands-on time. At some point, I transitioned to kneading by hand, and developed a love for the tactile communion with flour, yeast and water . I had a physical sense of when the dough was properly kneaded. I’d become lost in the activity as the minutes sped past with little awareness other than what I was feeling beneath and between my fingers.
photo 1
The elements of bread making are finding their way back into my life, and not without coincidence. Most mornings, I spend time reflecting and meditating to gain a bit of ground before getting captured by the day’s activities. There is a book I refer to frequently, Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine, by Saki Santorelli. A passage I read recently spoke to the Author’s love of baking, and how baking can be both humbling and liberating. It made me think of the contrasting simplicity and attention that bread making requires. He likens the bakery to a crucible, “hot, containing, pressurized outwardly; hot, containing, pressurized inwardly”. A timely piece, as I find myself moving with elements that are somewhat beyond my control. Shortly thereafter, I was sifting through the NYT and discovered Martha Rose Schulman’s recipe for a yeasted loaf with apples.
You can find the link, here.
Honeyed Pear and Walnut Bread

Evolution: Honeyed Pear and Walnut Bread

And so,I found myself with a yearning to make bread. The sweetness of whole grain loaf, heady, yeast-y and studded with apples was the catalyst, however I wanted to provide influence in my own creative way. I dreamt up crunchy bosc pears, contrasted with bitter walnut and sweet honey. I gave the dough plenty of time to develop flavor by starting with a pre-ferment, or sponge.
And I waited.
And I shaped.
And I coaxed.
And I waited a bit longer.
Until finally the dough emerged a golden crown of pure heaven.
Honeyed Pear and Walnut Bread
This bread is delicious simply toasted and spread with fresh cheese and honey. It can also pair nicely with prosciutto and fontina or gorgonzola.
Enjoy, and much love.
J
 
Honeyed Pear and Walnut Bread
Ingredients:
1 c rye four
1.5-2 c whole wheat flour
1.5 c white flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 c honey
1 1/4 c warm water
1 packet (2.5 tsp) yeast
2 tbsp butter; room temp
1 c walnuts
1 1/4-1/2 c bosc pear, chopped
Method:
  1. Make a sponge: combine water, yeast honey and white flour in a large bowl. stir to combine, then cover with a damp towel and let rest for ~1 hour or so.
  2. Add rye flour, walnuts, butter, salt and 1 cup of the whole wheat flour to sponge; stir and/or knead down, adding additional flour as necessary until the mixture is no longer sticky. Turn onto a flat surface and knead for several minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
  3. Set in an oiled bowl, cover with damp towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for about ~1-1.5 hours. I like to pop it in the oven with the pilot light; it sets a nice ambient temperature for coaxing the fermentation into gear.
  4. Deflate dough by punching down; fold in chopped pears. Knead into a round and then return to a neutral spot to rest again until doubled in size; ~2 hours.
  5. Deflate dough again and shape into a neat round and set on parchment or floured kitchen towel for another 1.5-2 hours until dough redoubles in size.
  6. As dough is entering the final rise, adjust oven rack and set a pizza stone or cast iron skillet in the center. Turn heat to 450 degrees and allow stone or skillet heat for ~40 minutes.
  7. Turn dough onto skillet/stone; slash decoratively, brush with milk and place in oven. Spritz oven with a bit of water to create a steam environment.
  8. In 15 minutes, spritz again and turn heat to 400 degrees.
  9. Bake for a further 25 minutes, until deep golden brown. Remove from oven and tap bottom of round; it’ll sound hollow if it is done.
  10. Wait (patiently!) for a good 30 minutes as dough cools on rack before slicing.
  11. Store, wrapped in cloth or a paper bag on counter for 1-2 days. To preserve some of the bread for later, simply bundle in layers of plastic wrap and store in the freezer.

Not for the faint of heart.

The stream of life is carrying me along, pulling me into uncertainty, as it ebbs and flows and eventually takes form. It’s happening both in life and in the food I create. My need for security is being replaced by Patience. Presence. Time. These are things that I fight with resilience on a cellular level. I think we all do, to some degree. However sometimes, we get the opportunity to slow down, to savor, to relax into the current and be surprised by the result.
I write this as I sit patiently, waiting for onions caramelize. As my well-intentioned plan is being whisked away by the undertow and evolving into something else, entirely. If this sounds a bit esoteric, I apologize. It just happens to be where I’m at, in this moment.
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later on…
I encountered one minor barrier after another. However, what evolved is only redolent of French onion soup. Rather, it is a hop-infused, sweet, aureus onion soup. The onions were cooked down to nearly a jam, and used as a base for the broth, which was then topped with artisan bread, and possibly the best aged goat cheese I’ve ever had good fortune to sample.
Clementine - Aged Goat Cheese from Yarmuth Farms

Clementine – Aged Goat Cheese from Yarmuth Farms

I’ll offer a template of the recipe, however there wasn’t really one to follow. I started with general encouragement and inspiration from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for onion soup, then transformed it with a bit of what was available to me in the pantry. I hope you enjoy it.
Much Love,
J
Onion Soup

Onion Soup

Onion Soup
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large yellow onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, center removed, minced
salt
6 cups chicken broth (or vegetarian chicken-flavored broth
1 cup beer
4 slices good thick country bread, or french bread
1 cup grated cheese (cave-aged Gruyère, or if you can find it, Yarmuth Farms Clementine)
Method:
Set a 4-quart stockpot, enameled cast iron, if you have one, on low. Warm butter and olive oil over low heat; add onion and garlic. Keep heat on low, and give a stir every 10-15 minutes, until the onions are golden and sticky. Be mindful of the heat, as burnt onion is not ideal. Once the onions have caramelized (this will take a good hour or so), add a tablespoon of flour. Stir for ~1 minute, then add 1/2 of the beer to deglaze the pan. Add broth and remaining 1/2 cup of beer. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and let it bubble away for ~30 minutes. Taste for salt, then give it a few grinds of pepper.
Meanwhile, cut bread to the size of large ramekins, or other oven-safe bowls. toast bread on either side under broiler. When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls, then top with bread and cheese. Place under broiler until bubbly and browning. Serve hot.