Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Giving thanks for Thanksgiving - Thanksgiving Stuffing Bread

"The Y2K problem is the electronic equivalent of the El Niño and there will be nasty surprises around the globe." — John Hamre, United States Deputy Secretary of Defense[5]
Hmmm ... well, that certainly explains how the year 2000 played out for my family.  Not that it started badly; on the contrary.  First, as New Year's Eve rolled along, I got a phone call from my childhood friend, Bethe.  We had only recently found each other after a 30 year lapse.  She had already celebrated the New Year - in Romania! - and called to send her love and good wishes.  I was looking forward to seeing her in about a month, at my son's bar mitzvah.

The next day, the sun rose, the sky was blue, the World Wide Web neither crashed nor burned, and my husband became a godfather when our dear friends Laura and Jay were blessed by the birth of their second child.  Eight days later, I sighed with relief as my husband carried his godson to his grandmother's arms on his way to the bris.  He neither dropped the baby nor passed out during the actual circumcision, and that was a good thing.

The year moved along with happy occasions and family celebrations.  My son's bar mitzvah was everything I had hoped it would be.  My Number One Niece graduated high school.  My Number Two Niece celebrated her bat mitzvah.  2000 was tricking us into thinking that everything was going to be alright.

Our First Cruise - Thanksgiving 2001

But there was a problem brewing that year which unfortunately upset a lot of apple carts, and made us want to be somewhere else for family gatherings.  Thanks to our friends Jay and Laura (Jay had to stage an intervention, as I had not been on a vacation in 10 years) we traveled with their family to St. Croix over Thanksgiving, and then with Bethe and her family, continued to travel at Thanksgiving for a few years afterwards.  That first Thanksgiving, though, went out with the Year 2000 slide into hell.  The trip to St. Croix was glorious, but we spent a lot of time watching hanging chads, and then on November 27, our last evening on the island, we got a call that my grandmother had passed away in her sleep.

Ah, Venice - Thanksgiving 2004

In addition to St. Croix, we traveled to Mexico and the Caribbean, and even twice to Europe.  Oh, those trips were wonderful, and I will treasure the memories, but I never did get over a weird feeling at eating something other than turkey and stuffing at Thanksgiving.  My son, on the other hand, had no problems eating warm water lobster and squid ink risotto on that most American holiday.

At the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, Thanksgiving 2005

The trips stopped after a while - work schedules and competing financial obligations, and the original problem had sort of resolved itself - and although Bethe and I talked about possibly starting up again for Thanksgiving 2012, we were not able to make it happen.  So I've gotten back into the habit of wrestling a turkey and making too many side dishes, and I'm okay with that. Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday for cooking and eating.  I love the planning stages and I love the execution. 

Cory eating spiny lobster for dinner in St. Croix, Thanksgiving, 2000

Now, the question remains - what about baking a bread with certain herbs and spices, specifically for the purpose of preparing the stuffing (or dressing, I'm not fussy) for the turkey?  It so happens I came across such a recipe while looking through one of my bread machine cookbooks, and the bread machine was out on the counter anyway from the Hungarian onion bread, and I still had yeast available, and you know what happened - I tried the recipe.  Maybe I made a few minor changes - added a couple of herbs, doubled the amount of one or two spices, that sort of thing - and then there was that small stalk of celery - well, we will just have to wait and see.  It just seems to me that most American recipes are woefully under-seasoned, which is why you should taste, re-season, and taste again when cooking.  But you can't do that when baking, so I am taking a chance upfront.  If it works, I will happily share the recipe with you, and if not, we'll pretend this conversation never took place.

A little later ... 

Better than expected.  I was concerned when the top inexplicably sank, but it did not affect the flavor or texture.  This is definitely a great bread for stuffing (and for eating, I keep picking at it.  Tasty.)  The flavor of the spices and herbs is very pronounced, but not obnoxiously so.  Cut into cubes, dried out a bit, and mixed with cooked sausage and maybe some apple, celery and onion sauteed in a little butter, an egg to bind it - I look forward to experimenting.  

Thanksgiving Stuffing Bread

This is a recipe for a bread machine, so add the ingredients to the bread pan in the order given, unless your manufacturer suggests otherwise.

1 1/3 cups water
1 extra large egg
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1 small stalk of celery, chopped
4 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 cup precooked cornmeal (masarepa, masa de harina)
3 1/3 cups bread flour
1 packet of Rapid Rise (Highly Active) Yeast

Set your machine for White or Basic Cycle.  Let the bread bake according to the machine manufacturer's directions.  Cool, slice, and store for Thanksgiving.

November 3, 2014

I was not totally satisfied with the recipe, so I re-ran it tonight, with a couple of important adjustments.  I really think part of the problem with the first bread was that I misjudged the amount of liquid by using a sweet onion, uncalled-for-chopped celery, and an extra-large egg.  

Here are all of the changes I made:

Make sure that you are using a regular yellow onion, and measure exactly 1/2 cup
Use 1 large egg instead of an extra-large
Eliminate the celery
Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Use coarse yellow cornmeal instead of the masarepa
Use just 2 teaspoons of yeast, instead of the entire packet

Now I'm just waiting for the baking to be over.

Isn't that perfect?

Apparently not.

The last time I saw a sinkhole like that was on the 5 o'clock news.

(It still tastes good.)

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