Tag Archives: Irish Brown Bread

Bread Illustrated or Bread Porn from America’s Test Kitchen


Japanese Milk Bread that came out a little wonky. My bad!

Nothing beckons like the aroma of bread. Remember the aroma fingers in cartoons? I spent the past week filling the apartment with enticing bread aroma fingers as I began to cook my way through Bread Illustrated, a must-have from the ATK Empire. Subtitled, “A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results at Home,” Bread Illustrated is the perfect book for the beginner as well as a great reference book for the advanced home bread-baker.  I have been a bit leery of ATK publications since the departure of Christopher Kimball, but this is a winner.  All the recipes I tried work, but are they bakery quality.”?  Well, no. But they work beautifully in a home kitchen with no special equipment.


Whole-wheat quinoa bread.

Furthermore, in every case, the recipe from Bread Illustrated produced a better loaf than I’ve ever made in the past.  Japanese Milk Bread (Hokkaido), for example, which appears at the top of the page, misshapen, is a great favorite of mine. (Think Challah without the braid.) The fact that it doesn’t have its usual baby-bottom shape here is not a failure of the recipe, but of my having been distracted. The taste and texture are marvelous.


Japanese Milk (Hokkaido) Bread

Bread Illustrated is a volume in the very best of the ATK tradition:  sober and no-nonsense, and chock full of essential information presented in a straightforward manner with lots and lots of food science background.  And, of course, “Why this recipe works,” is the introduction to each and every recipe.

I began with breads in the chapter entitled,“Starting from scratch: 12 foolproof breads that teach the basics.”  I was impressed by the approach, and found the recipes are interesting, useful, and, in every case, very easy to make successfully.  If you are just starting to bake bread, you will encounter no discouragement, no brick loaf that will send you back to the store never to touch salt, flour and yeast again.


Brown Soda Bread

Brown Soda Bread was a revelation. This is a bread that I have rarely ever cared for, at least not without mounds of butter and jam. It is normally dry and grainy and lacking any inherent interest. NOT! This one is absolutely delicious.


Quick Cheese Bread lasted a single afternoon with Mr. Darcy!

I deliberately tried another bread that has never particularly called to me: Quick Cheese Bread. “Quick” and “cheese” as applied to bread will normally turn me off, because quick breads (breads without yeast) are usually too much like cake, and because I like cheese on top of bread, not in it. But this was a very good loaf, and Mr. Darcy loved it. So that’s that!


New sandwich bread recipes are always welcome, and I tried four of them:

EasySandwich Bread


Easy Sandwich Bread


Easy sandwich bread

American Sandwich Bread


American Sandwich Bread

Whole-Wheat Quinoa Bread


Whole-Wheat Quinoa Bread

and my personal favorite, Pain de Mie.  “Mie” means “crumb” in French, so Pain de Mie is literally “crumb bread,” and means “soft bread” or “sandwich loaf.” It is named for its soft crumb, and baked in a lidded Pain de Mie or Pullman pan, which creates the shape and all-over crust. Pain de Mie is Wonder Bread perfected. It has both flavor and texture; it doesn’t tear when you spread peanut butter on it. It can be sliced thin or thick, and eaten toasted or un-.  It is one of the most tasty and versatile loaves on the plant, and did I mention easy?


Pain de Mie, cooling.


Pain de Mie, so perfect for sandwiches.

And for those of you who have been waiting for Christopher Kimball to reappear in his new incarnation, here he is at last and it was worth the wait:


From Christopher Kimball, the inaugural issue of Milk Street Magazine.

I’m happy to report that the magazine is exactly what you’d expect from Christopher Kimball, and even carries his signature bow-tie on the cover. There is no advertising, of course. But don’t give up your ATK subscription; there is no danger of overlap.  Milk Street’s mission is to reach around the world for foods, spices, cooking techniques, and culinary traditions that we have always associated with “ethnic” restaurants, not our own homes, and to make them accessible for us in our own homes, using our existing batterie de cuisine.  In fact, I was amused by the article in this charter issue revealing something that I learned in Spain many years ago — that scrambled eggs (and I would add fried eggs as well) taste better cooked in olive oil than in butter.  So there you go! For those of us who don’t live near Boston and can’t go to the brick and mortar Milk Street Kitchen, Milk Street Magazine is about to change all of our home cooking preconceptions:  fasten your seat belts!

How do I love thee, Lékué? Let me count the ways!

I am a sucker for kitchen gadgets.  I know it and now you know it.
And I suspect that you and I have at least  this much in common.

I saw these funny-looking Lékué Steam Cases, and I thought they looked suspiciously like the jellies we used to wear on our feet in summer.  I also thought that it’s time I stopped wasting money on kitchen equipment that promises to change my life and ends up in the giveaway basket.  I came, I went, I walked by, I succumbed.  Did I buy one? NO!  I bought two:  the smaller one for 1 to 2 servings, and the larger one for 3 to 4.  Well, that part was an accident, but I ended up with two and just try to pry them out of my hands—I dare you.

Let’s get the silliness out of the way:  the colors, the name, the so-called “platinum silicone” material.  No contest.  It’s all very silly, and very much a turn-off.  But here’s what’s not silly:  it works; it provides delicious meals in minutes; and there is no cleanup to speak of.

For all of you out there who have ever had to be on a diet or who may ever have to be on a diet, take note.  Nothing screams deprivation like food steamed in the microwave, right?  Well, this little gizmo lets you steam food in the microwave in a matter of minutes—food that is delicious, satisfying, and even without a drop of fat or salt.  I was amazed.  I still can’t believe I am using  terms  like “steamed” and “delicious,” and applying them to food.  Diets are miserable, discouraging and lonely affairs.  No longer!  Even the skinny among you will be happy with these meals.  Here are a few of the things that I tried.


Butternut squash cooked perfectly in four minutes, and, without any fat, salt or other seasonings, it was absolutely scrumptious.  I cooked broccoli for about three minutes and added salmon for another three.

In six minutes, I had a meal that tasted buttery, flavorful and was even hearty enough for Mr. Darcy. IMG_1149 IMG_1150

Another time I tried using both of the cases for one meal to make black sea bass and broccoli rabe.

IMG_1192 First, I placed the fish in a marinade of garlic, ginger, chicken stock, scallions and a touch of low-sodium soy sauce.  While the fish was marinating, I placed an entire bunch of broccoli rabe in the larger steam case and put it in the microwave for 4 minutes.

IMG_1191While the broccoli rabe was working I sautéed a couple of minced garlic cloves in a few tablespoons of low-sodium chicken broth.  When the vegetable was finished cooking, I poured the chicken broth and garlic over it, and put the fish in the microwave (in the smaller steam case) for 2 ½ minutes. The result?  A delicious meal in less than 10 minutes, and virtually no cleanup.


Chicken and broccoli was a lunch I prepared in minutes. IMG_1175 All of a sudden, dieting is not at all loathsome.  Any gadget that can do that is an object of worship as far as I am concerned.

But the Lékué is not just for dieters.  It’s wonderful for anyone who has to get dinner on the table at the end of the day when all you want to do is put up your feet and order out. How annoying are the recipes for 30-minute dinners?  It always irks me that Rachel Ray and her ilk try to make you feel as though you shouldn’t be too exhausted to start an elaborate dinner when you get home from work, as if you can even wait 30 minutes to eat!  That 30 minutes does not take into account the prep time, the cooking time, AND the cleanup time.  Thirty minutes?  Oh I don’t think so.  But, with the Lékué, you can eat in 10 minutes, including prep and cleanup time, because elaborate prep time is unnecessary, cooking time is de minimis, and cleanup is a dream.  Just swish in regular dish washing liquid and it’s clean.  Let air dry.

Green vegetables are cooked to perfection without the big pots of boiling salted water and the ice bath to maintain their beautiful green color.  Fish is cooked so quickly that it has no time to smell up the place—and for those of you who live in apartments, you know that’s huge.

Just so you know, I have not tried to use the steam case in the conventional oven, so I have no idea if it works as well—although it is designed to work in both.  And speaking of design, the cases are beautifully designed with a food tray that allows the steam to reach the food evenly; the flaps are easy to close securely so that nothing spills when you carry between microwave and the counter.

And just in case you think I went too far off the beaten path this week, let me assure you that bread made it to the table.  Because of a 20 plus-year bout of insomnia, I watch a great deal of television throughout the night.  Mr. Darcy is often the beneficiary of recipes that I’ve picked up watching Food Network at 3 a.m., and this week was no different.  Thanks to Darina Allen, I made the best Irish brown bread of my entire life. It was incredibly quick and easy. You mix the ingredients, which are very loose and liquidy, with your hands and pour them  into a loaf pan to bake. IMG_1182

Darina Allen is one of Ireland’s best-known chefs and the owner of Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork (of Blarney Stone fame).  The school is located on a 100-acre organic farm and the students learn every aspect of food production first-hand.  “The greenest land I never saw” is high on my list of places I want to visit.  In the meantime, there is Darina Allen’s bread. IMG_1187

And from “The Best Thing I Ever . . .” series, a recipe for something called Grandma’s Chicken.  Is it a sacrilege to make an Asian dish in a tagine?  It worked perfectly, even though I omitted the sake and the chiles.  I had no fresh ginger, so I substituted some ginger syrup for the ginger and the sugar; I used yuzu vinegar instead of mirin.  I used a combination of chicken wings and legs instead of just chicken wings. IMG_1190

Last week I mentioned The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, which was, as it turned out, something of a disappointment with the exception of their incredible Caramel Cake. IMG_1166

Mr. Darcy liked it so much, it never made it to the freezer! IMG_1167