Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Hot weather, summertime, tomatoes, and panzanella is just a natural.  It’s worth looking for heirloom tomatoes to make this salad. There are so many different flavors–it’s not just “tomato”.

This post from Savory Simple brings up an issue that we should all be aware of: we are moving toward homogeneous taste as we give up the heirloom varieties.  Check out Save the Flavors and Seeds of Change.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella.

Gluten-free breads

For those of you who might be interested in gluten-free breads, I wanted to share this link.  I’ve not tried any of the gluten free recipes, since I don’t have an issue with gluten.  I’ve tried breads from both the other five-minutes-a-day breads, and had good results with every recipe I’ve tried.

Available in hardcover, and digital format. Based on my experience with these books, If I needed gluten-free I would certainly give this a try–at least check it out of the library for a trial.

Oat flour bread

While we’re experiencing some really serious winter weather for this part of the country, I couldn’t think of anything I would like better than the aroma and taste of some warm bread.

loaf of bread

oat-flour bread

I got out the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and made bread.  Because we’re having the possibility of power outages and wanted something that would be easy for sandwiches so I made the “Oat Flour Bread” from that book. (I’ve modified that recipe for a more artisan-like bread using barley or oat flour, too).

Here is the recipe for the sandwich-style oat flour bread (summarized from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day).  See the links above for summary of basic method.

Oat Four Bread (pp.104-105)


  • 3-1/4 cups of lukewarm water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons salt (kosher)
  • 1 cup oat (or barley) flour
  • 5-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I always use King Arthur)
  • Neutral tasting fat for oiling pan. P


This makes three 1-1/2-pound loaves.

  1. Mix liquid, yeast, and salt in bowl.
  2. Add flours.
  3. Cover (but not airtight) and let rise to double volume.
  4. The dough can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days (actually up to 14 days) just pulling off what you want to bake right then.
  5. Lightly oil a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
  6. Take a cantaloupe-size piece of dough and lightly flour surface and shape it into a ball or oval and drop into the pan.
  7. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. Let rest/rise for about 1 hour 40 minutes for refrigerated dough, or about 40 minutes for freshly made dough, until it has about doubled in size.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes or until nicely browned.
  10. If possible, let cool before cutting–that very seldom happens in my house unless I bake an extra loaf.
  11. If you want it really crusty then follow the procedure with a pan of water in the oven (links above).


If you like bread but the time for baking doesn’t seem to fit into your schedule, then this technique is worth exploring. Since there is no kneading, and it takes 15 minutes to mix (and clean up) it makes it possible.  I like it for cooking for one since I can easily make a small loaf more often.

I’ve made the pumpernickel (with and without seeds), rye, basic white, brioche, olive oil, and have been pleased with all of them.  I don’t think that the flavor is quite as yeasty as a bread that goes through the traditional method of kneading and several proofings, but it’s as good or better (and much cheaper) than the usual grocery store bread–anything you’ll get short of going to a real artisan bakery.  Once you get started with it, you can modify to your taste, too.  The same authors also have a similar book for healthy and whole grain breads (bibliography).

Cake is in the oven…

…and I’m waiting, none too patiently for it to be done–it smells heavenly: buttery, coffee-y, nutty, with a little caramel-molasses-like overtone from the brown sugar.

(It’s a very easy cake to put together–you don’t even really need to use a mixer–but since it was sitting there on the counter, I did use it.)

The recipe from Promenade Plantings called for walnuts.  I have to confess to not liking English walnuts–even when good and fresh they have a bitter overtone that I don’t like, so I substituted pecans in the recipe since I really like them.

The house is smelling SO good–it smells like it needs some good dark chocolate–hmmmm, coffee, chocolate, and nuts.  If it tastes like my nose tells me it will, I may try it with some chocolate bits in it too. I can already tell that waiting for it too cool is going to be some sort of ordeal!


Finally, it’s cool enough–just couldn’t stand it any longer. All the time I’ve been smelling it, I’ve resisted making some ganache–so far successfully, but the longer I smell that cake….

OMG, is that every good! Tastes every bit as good as I though it would–and as it smelled. It doesn’t scream coffee at you either–I suspect that even non-coffee drinkers would like this.

I’m enjoying it with a big glass of cold milk right now, but I definitely want to try it with coffee–probably with my breakfast coffee in the morning. This could be habit-forming!

Homemade pita

Freshly made pita is wonderful–and easy and quick once you get the rolling-out part down. I use the doughs from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” and “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” to make pita as well as loaves of bread; here’s an alternative recipe.

Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

To be honest it is probably easier to buy pre-made pitas. Of course these taste much better once you perfect how to roll them.

Make the starter the night before. In a large bowl mix 1 1/4 tsp yeast with 2 1/2 cups warm water. Let yeast dissolve and begin to bubble. Add 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour and mix well. The starter will be the consistency of thick batter. Cover with a wet towel and let ferment over night, or at least 5 hours.

Mix 3 cups flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt into starter and form a rough dough. Knead for 10 minutes adding more flour slowly until dough is smooth and still slightly tacky to the touch.

Heavily oil a bowl with olive oil and place dough in. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough and…

View original post 85 more words

Barley flour….

I’ve got barley flour now, so I can try the oat bread with barley instead. I like barley as well as oats, so this should be fun (and maybe healthy).  I think I can just substitute barley flour for oat flour, but I guess I should do a little research on the two before I do, though.

Panzanella (Bread Salad)

lots of tomatoes laid out on table

tomatoes, tomatoes…

Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes! So many ways to eat tomatoes…caprese salad, good old-fashioned tomato sandwiches–good white bread, mayonnaise, and juicy tomatoes; a sandwich that has to be eaten over the kitchen sink.   Then there is the BLT!  All good, but what else can you do with the summer abundance of tomatoes? Obviously  you can freeze some, or make sauce to freeze for winter use,  but one of my summer favorites is panzanella, or bread salad.  Since stale bread is a fact of life, even when you bake your own pretty much “on demand”, here is one of my favorite ways to use it up and to enjoy summer tomatoes.

This is a summary and adaptation of  my “go-to” recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (pp. 554-555):


  • 1/2 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2-3 flat anchovy fillets, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon capers, soaked and rinsed
  • 1/4 yellow bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon good red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups firm bread (cut into 1/2-inch squared), trimmed of crust and toasted
  • 3 fresh, ripe, firm tomatoes
  • 1 cup cucumber cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
  • fresh-ground black pepper and salt to taste


  • Mash the garlic, anchovies, and capers to a paste.
  • Toss  the pepper, garlic, anchovy, olive oil, and vinegar together in a bowl.
  • Put the toasted bread (and any crumbs) in a small bowl.
  • Purée one tomato in food mill; add to bread an allow it to steep for 15 minutes or longer.
  • Skin and seed the other 2 tomatoes and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (picking out some of the seeds if there are too many).
  • Add the cut tomatoes and the bread squares to the bowl with pepper, garlic, anchovy, oil and vinegar mix, and  add the cucumber and the onion; toss thoroughly.

While the recipe calls for peeling the tomatoes, I don’t usually do this unless the skins are very tough–I’ve no objection to the extra fiber, and some objection to the extra work that peeling them takes.  I don’t pick out seeds either–I think that the “jelly” surrounding the seeds adds extra flavor and an acidity that is lost by removing them–however, if you want a more refined version, by all means peel and remove seeds. (If you keep the “jelly” and seeds, it increases the tartness of the tomatoes, so you might want to decrease the wine vinegar–just taste it and season accordingly.) You can add fresh herbs of your choice–basil, marjoram, oregano, Syrian oregano (zaatar)–whatever strikes your fancy!

If this cookbook is not in your library, there is also a recipe for a simpler version of panzanella at Epicurious.com.

If you’d like to make this a meal in itself, add some good quality canned tuna or your homemade tuna confit to it. Cucumbers and onions are certainly optional.  Some fresh mozzarella would work here too.

The basic recipe above makes four to six servings, but it’s very easy to cut this down to make a single-serving quantity–just eyeball it!

I decided that this had potential for a bacon, lettuce and tomato salad so I did some modification: omitted the anchovies, capers, and the pepper.  I prepared the bread and the tomatoes as for the panzanella, and substituted balsamic (or rice wine) vinegar.  I kept the cucumber for it’s crunch and freshness and the sweet onion, even though they are not part of the BLT.  I added crumbled crisp bacon, and had this over romaine lettuce.

Since I did this improvisation  (it just wasn’t something that I needed a recipe for), I’ve googled “BLT salad” and found lots of variations on that theme, especially with the dressing.  Since I’m one who does like mayonnaise with my BLT, I’ve looked for dressings using it, but haven’t found anything I like better than the basic oil and vinegar, though I may be adventurous and try a creamy dressing with mayonnaise, thinned with buttermilk in the future.

A son goût!  

Pumpernickel with seeds

sunrising through trees

morning through the kitchen window

I’m sitting here this evening, writing and waiting for the first loaves of the pumpernickel from the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (p. 115) to come out of the oven.  I’ve peeked in and they look good and smell wonderful!

(Why does it seem that it takes so much longer for bread to bake once it smells so good that your practically drooling on the keyboard? I just know that one of these loaves is not going to get to cool as it should even though I know cutting it immediately will not help–that’s one of the reasons I like baking two smaller loaves–I can treat myself, and still have good bread for sandwiches.)

Waiting, and not very patiently….

Just because of the way that I use bread, I’ve baked these in the perforated Italian bread pan.  The crust is probably not quite what it would be directly on the baking stone, but it quite good and I have the longer, slightly skinnier loaf, and it’s easier if I want to bake a second loaf to share with friends.

This healthy bread has whole wheat flour, rye flour, and flaxseed meal in it…and I did put in the caraway seeds this time too.  I did tamper with the recipe that was given in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I really do make an effort NOT to play with the recipe until after I’ve made it as given once, but I did not make it this time.

Since I had white whole wheat flour which gives a milder flavor instead of regular whole wheat, my dough wasn’t very dark, and it just lacked something in the kind of “bitter” smell that I’ve liked about that last batch of pumpernickel.  The “missing ingredient was the unsweetened cocoa powder, so I got carried away and put in cocoa powder.

One loaf of pumpernickel bread on cutting board with butter-bellIt’s out of the oven now, and cooled just enough so I can ravage one of the loaves–I’m cutting the one that didn’t rise quite as well, but it’s a keeper.  As you would expect with more whole grain flour, it’s more dense than the first batch, but a good crumb–which I’m sure would have been better had I not cut it so soon.  The flavor is great–the cocoa powder did the trick to take up for the white whole wheat flour, and I think that the flaxseed meal is really undetectable.  The amount of caraway seed called for in this recipe was only 2 tablespoon for four loaves–so it stays as a kind of “dark” background flavor.

This will get made again–with the modifications.  I think that I can work with this (without caraway) to try to get the Russian black bread recipe (the Smitten Kitchen) adapted for the no-knead technique. (It’s not just that it’s no-knead–I have a KitchenAid® mixer.  The real attraction is that I can have this dough in the fridge for a long time–10 to 14 days–and have freshly baked bread quickly and often, too.)

I’m now enjoying my warm (actually, hot) freshly baked bread with some unsalted butter and a light sprinkle of sea salt since the butter has no salt.  I do have some radishes in the fridge to have a radish sandwich tomorrow after the bread has really cooled!  That will be time to break out the bubbly!

one whole loaf and one cut loaf with slice of bread with butter.

…A son goût!  

Oops–Pumpernickel bread without the caraway seeds

What better to do while we had our brief taste (so far) of winter than to bake some bread–the oven adding warmth to the kitchen and the smell of rising and baking bread adding some warmth for the soul as well.

My encounters with pumpernickel bread have been with deli sandwiches–and I cannot recall ever having had pumpernickel without the caraway seeds.  Rationally, I knew that a large part of what I tasted as “pumpernickel” was the caraway which, although I like it, is a pretty strong, defining flavor.

Loaves of pumpernickel

freshly baked

I’ve never had freshly baked pumpernickel bread so that seemed like a good thing to do.  I have always associated pumpernickel and rye breads with caraway seeds, so I wasn’t surprised to see caraway seeds in the list of ingredients.  Since I’ve been so pleased with the results of the “no knead” technique, I went to the recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (p. 67) for my pumpernickel bread. I knew that I had all the unusual ingredients necessary for the recipe since I’ve been planning to try it for some time now and just hadn’t gotten around to it.  I had the unsweetened cocoa powder, caramel coloring, espresso powder, molasses, and caraway seeds.

After my bread had risen nicely I slashed the top, popped it into the oven and generated some steam by spraying water into the oven several times for the first couple minutes, and sat back to await the aroma of baking bread.  Wonderful!  About the time that I really began to smell it was when I realized that I had not sprinkled it with the caraway seeds–but, too late now.

It’s a very happy “oops” from my point of view.  When I tasted the warm bread  with some unsalted butter and a sprinkling of sea salt, it was an absolutely wonderful surprise–without the caraway seeds I was tasting this wonderful dark, slightly sweetish, slightly bitter (pleasantly, mind you) bread.  I loved it.  I’ve been making sandwiches with it for the last several days.  I’ll be making more of it without adding the seeds.

But I couldn’t get away from the fact that I’d never tasted it without caraway seeds before.  I started looking at recipes for pumpernickel bread in all my cookbooks, and online as well.  I wasn’t really surprised when I found that almost all of them included caraway seeds as part of the recipe.  I looked at the recipe for pumpernickel bread in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (“Bavarian-Style Whole Grain Pumpernickel Bread”, p. 115) and found that caraway seeds were called for in that recipe too.

Further searching lead me to a recipe for the “traditional” Westphalian pumpernickel–the unleavened version, and to other dark/black breads like peasant  black bread, Russian black bread.  Some had caraway seeds, some had fennel or anise seeds, and some had none.  While I used supermarket medium  rye flour rather than darker rye or pumpernickel flour (rye with bran left in), this sample has left me wanting to sample other “black” breads for which I found recipes while browsing through Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads–like onion rye, sour cream rye, Russian black bread….

My online browsing lead me to the Smitten Kitchen for a recipe for black bread that sounds so intriguing–reading the list of ingredients trying to imagine the overall taste of this bread.  I’m so “addicted” to the no-knead technique, but I may have to give this one a try just to get a gestalt for the taste–and then maybe I can have a no-knead version.  This recipe calls for seeds–caraway, and fennel, as well as shallots, cider vinegar,  molasses and the chocolate/cocoa of the recipe that I just made.

I think that my next attempt at pumpernickel will be the recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day since that is a whole-grain bread, quite possibly without the seeds!  That may well be one to try to modify it to approximate the Russian black bread recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.

Though I want to try other recipes with other ingredients, I will certainly make pumpernickel again, both with and without the seeds.  I have visions of a wonderful hors d’oeuvre of crispy French radishes, unsalted butter, a sprinkle of sea salt, on unseeded pumpernickel or black bread of some sort, with a glass of champagne!

It’s good that I’ve remedied my cultural deprivation and discovered black breads to bake at home…Still have enough dough for 2 more loaves in the fridge.

Oat flour bread

Freshly baked oat flour bread

oat flour bread fresh from the oven

Bread is one of my favorite things–from the yeasty smell while it’s doing that last rise before going into the oven, while it’s baking, or just out of the oven while I’m waiting for it to cool a bit–to the crusty crunch of biting into a slice  fresh from the oven.

I’m addicted to having fresh bread when I want it, using the no-knead approach from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.   I’ve had great luck with every recipe that I’ve tried from this book–from the basic white bread to the brioche, including pita bread, rye bread, and now the oat flour sandwich loaf.

The stated intent of the oat flour recipe was to sneak more fiber and whole grain into the kids diet.  Since I don’t have to worry about the kid’s diet, only my own, I decided that I wanted more oat flavor and a different consistency–more like free-form boule or a loaf baked in an Italian pan.

I started with the “Oat Flour Bread” (pp.104-105) recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” ,  then added the information gleaned from reading Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day on gluten requirements and characteristics of flours, I’ve been working on modifying the recipe to meet my particular desires:  first, more oat flavor, and second, a dough that can be baked free-form, or in an Italian perforated pan rather than a loaf pan.

Oat flour bread dough for free-form loaf

Ingredients (3 one-pound loaves)

  • 3-1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 2-1/2 cups oat flour (275 grams)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons vital gluten (about 1-2 teaspoons per cup of whole grain flour)
  • 4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (King Arthur is my preference)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon granulated yeast


  • Measure out and whisk together the dry ingredients (except for salt and yeast). When you’re adding vital gluten you need to be sure it’s well mixed with the flour before you add liquid or it can form lumps.
  • Combine lukewarm water, salt and yeast in the mixing bowl and gradually add the dry ingredients.  If you’re using a stand mixer, use the paddle instead of the dough hook.
  • Place in a covered, but not air-tight container, and allow to rise until doubled in volume; then refrigerate.
  • Pull of the amount of dough needed and shape as directed, and bake in an oven preheated to 400 ° F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
perforated italian loaf pan

Italian loaf pan (perforated

I like to bake my bread in an Italian loaf  pan (bigger than a baguette pan), since it’s just the right diameter to slice the bread on a diagonal and have a good size for a small sandwich. For me this is an effort at mindful eating and  portion control–rather than “dieting”.   This would do well in a baguette pan for good crusty bread if you don’t want to use it for sandwiches.  The Italian pan gives with some of the good parts of a baguette when it’s fresh out of the oven, but the flexibility to have sandwiches later as well.

loaves fresh from the oven, one cut, one whole