Fresh Mozzarella and Prosciutto Filled Focaccia

There are always some plans for weekends, and cooking is seldom the first priority unless we are having people over. So, having pizza or filled focaccia on our weekend menu is a good choice since most of work – making the dough – is done in advance. All I need to do the following day is to fix a quick salad while this thing is baking.

This focaccia is doubled-baked. First, it’s baked in a pan, then split horizontally, generously brushed with extra-virgin olive oil, filled, and baked again until the cheese is melted. If you are a happy owner of a panini grill, I definitely recommend to use it here. Unfortunately, I had to follow a more conventional way of cooking.

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Sun-dried Tomato and Red Onion Bread with Tamari-roasted Sunflower Seeds and Book Review

Recently, a publisher sent me a copy of Andrew Whitley “Bread Matters” book and asked for a review if I find the book interesting enough. Now, let me jump right to the conclusion (I know, it would be more logical to do this in the end, but I’m too excited and therefore impatient). The book is wonderful!

If you are planning to dive into a warmth and comfort of home bread-baking, if you are thinking about buying a serious book to begin, trying to choose the best among dozens, let this book to be the one. You won’t be disappointed. Not only the author possesses amazingly deep knowledge and understanding of the subject, he also writes so clearly and explains so thoroughly. Sourdough and leaven breads finally don’t look scary at all. He offers a different approach to the care of the starter, which doesn’t resemble an infant-care. Health-conscious people will find the book very valuable as the author emphasizes the importance of organic and natural ingredients, and long-fermented, low-yeast breads.

The book is wisely structured and easy to use. First chapters cover equipment, ingredients, applied methods, and troubleshooting. Then, the recipes follow. There are breads, rolls, pastries, and much more, from simple to more complex but still perfectly understandable and doable. How pleasantly surprised I was to find among these recipes traditional and very familiar Russian breads – Borodinsky, Russian Rye, Caraway Rye, as well as kulich and famous pirozhki. These are truly authentic, without any coffee or cocoa powder in the rye bread. Andrew Whitley does know what he is writing about; he lived in Russia himself and wrote warm and kindly about his experience. I personally was very touched reading it.

There’s an interesting “gluten-free baking” chapter where he describes in details and nutritionally analyses flours used in gluten-free baking. The recipes are intriguing – a brown rice sourdough starter is what I’m thinking to try in the near future.

The final chapter “Growing Old Gracefully” is devoted to the utilization of stale bread. I can’t help myself but repeat an old Russian proverb which is an epigraph of this chapter: “When you die, all the bread you ever wasted is weighed. If it is heavier than you, hell is your destination”. My Russian readers would, probably, understand my joy to find here a recipe of kvas which doesn’t call for any commercial yeast but for rye sourdough starter and Borodinsky bread.

I’ve just baked Andrew Whitley’s the Tomato and Red Onion Bread, and its deliciousness certainly proves the author’s geniality. I’m off to start my rye sourdough – I’ll keep you posted.

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Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites with Honey Jalapeño Mustard

As soon as I read the tantalizing description of these bites in the “Gourmet” I rushed into the kitchen to make them. And I am glad I did!

The recipe is adapted from Edward Lee

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Cornmeal Walnut Focaccia with Concord Grapes and Gorgonzola

I have a weakness (one of many…) – Concord grapes. With their season so short, I tend to overeat them while they last until my tongue is numb and the throat is itchy. And when these symptoms of the overindulgence aggravate, I stop eating them raw and start to bake.

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Herb and Parmesan Bread Twists

Haven’t we all tried tasteless extra-chewy bread sticks in restaurants and at parties? I’ve had my share. Without false modesty, I can assure you these twists are better. And the difference is called forth by a generous amount (and I mean GENEROUS) of fresh herbs, garlic, parmesan, and good quality extra-virgin olive oil.

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Porcini Apricot and Fig Soda Bread

It took me a lot of willpower to stop eating this bread. It was so good freshly baked, still a bit warm, eaten with fresh goat cheese, especially with the peppery one. The apricots I used were unattractive unsulfured organic fruits, which differ significantly in both price and flavor from the regular supermarket variety. But, in my opinion, their super-sweet deliciousness is well-worthy the extra money spent.

Adapted from the Bon Appetit

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