The past week has been a whirl of activity. I spent three wonderful days with women from the quilt guild that I belong to, working on projects and sharing tips and techniques for making piecing easier. I learned how to make fabric stars for simple ornaments, how to cut perfect half-triangle squares, and a ton of other neat tips. Coming away from the retreat, I had a gorgeous pile of pinwheel blocks that will be make my next twin bed sized quilt. The fabrics are all inspired by Civil War era cotton muslin and shirting fabric prints. Pretty, huh?
When I got home from my little junket, I was still thinking about 1/4 inch cuts and so I made Silent Bob a loaf of this wonderful savory cheese and nut bread. I haven't baked much of late, so a treat for him and a piece of toast for me was appealing. There is something very comforting about mixing one's own bread dough.
It eased the time, as I was waiting to hear how my poor old Dad was doing. He'd taken a bad fall and was operated on for a hip fracture. UGH ... of course this was traumatic for the old bear. Pop failed spectacularly, pushing off nurses, ripping at heart monitors and IV's and finally making it very clear that he was fed up with life and was ready to go out on his own terms. And so, after a few days of wrangling, medical complications, and soul-searching phone texts, we arranged for him to be made as comfortable as possible, gathered to reminisce with him one last time and ease him on his way into the mystic. Dad passed away yesterday morning. An era has passed- one more of the greatest generation lost. He was such a good man, a stellar father, and a good solid citizen and I love him dearly. Sigh ...
Last evening, I came home to lick the wounds and grieve and today, I made toast and coffee and looked at photo albums and listened to some of Dad's favorite big band music and country greats. I feel better already. My Dad's nickname was 'Bing' because he resembled Bing Crosby and could croon like him too. He could whistle incredibly well and always warbled a tune or mimicked the bird calls around the yard. He was a cheerful guy who was the life of the party and the check-out line at the store, a fixer-upper around the house, and always ready to help his kids if they had a household issue or car problems. He loved his outdoor sports and life and was an involved Dad when it came to skiing, archery, fishing, boating, camping, back yard gardening and family get-away vacations. All five of us kids have incredibly fond memories of our family jaunts, vegetable gardening and picnics. Golly, what WILL we do without him? He sure does leave a glaring hole in the fabric of our family life! Sigh ...
Strange post, I know ... bread and a eulogy. Dad would probably laugh and tell me to make him a ham and cheese sandwich with this bread ... " and slap a good dose of Medford's mustard on too!" Ha! The old bear liked his groceries!
Rest in peace, Pop! I hope there's good eats wherever you've thrown down your anchor!
Gruyère and Walnut Bread
Makes 1 – 9 inch round loaf
3 ¼ c. bread flour
1 ½ tsp. sugar plus a pinch
1 ¼ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. butter, cut into four chunks
1 c. milk, scalded
A scant cup of warm water (109 ° F)
1 ½ tsp. active dry yeast granules
1 c. cubed Gruyère cheese
1 c. chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
1 tsp. black pepper
Making the Bread:
- Scald the milk and then add the butter cubes to it, letting the butter melt and the milk cool to a tepid temperature (109° F).
- While the milk and butter cools, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt measure in a mixing bowl and set aside.
- Mix the warm water, yeast measure, and pinch of sugar. Let the yeast proof for ten minutes.
- When the liquids are at the right temperature and the yeast has bubbled, combin with the flour mix, mixing to make a sticky dough. Using a dough hook, mix/knead the dough ball for 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl’s sides and bring any loose flour under the dough ball up onto the dough.
- Add the prepared cheese cubes, the black pepper, and the walnuts and continue mix/knead for another 2 minutes.
- Grease/oil a deep bread bowl, turn the kneaded dough ball into the bowl and turn it to coat with oil.
- Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for a little over an hour.
- Gently deflate the dough and form a dough ball.
- Place in a greased round cake pan or casserole that is at least 1 ½ inches deep.
- Cover and let rise until doubled.
- While the dough rises, place a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 ° F
- When the dough has double, use a razor blade or very sharp knife to score an ‘x’ in the top of the loaf. Sprinkle with flour and place in the preheated oven on the pizza stone.
- Immediately lower the oven temperature to 400° F and bake the bread for about 45 minutes.
- Cover the bread during the second half of the bake time, if the bread browns too much for your taste.
- When the bread sounds hollow when rapped, remove it from the oven, turn it out of its pan and onto a cooling rack.
- Let the bread cool before slicing.
Note: A nice savory bread that is excellent for toasting or for sandwich or bruschetta type snacking.