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Entries in Bread (34)


Elana's Food Journal - Braided (and Painted) Bread

I've been putting off posting this, waiting until it was perfect. Perfect for whom? Me? You? I've posted about imperfect food before, but this is something different. This is ME waiting for me to be ready to show you my work. I'm waiting for it to be good enough. For the timer to *DING* and say, "Ah-HA! Perfect soufflé."

Sigh. I hate it when I do this.

The whole dang POINT of this food journal is sharing and spontaneity. It's about process...knowing that my work — whatever you want to call this odd blended smoothie of art and food — is always progressing and moving toward something. Without the process of showing what I'm working on, testing the "recipes" if you will, it's pretty pointless.

With this piece, recipe, whatever, I was waiting to do MORE with it. More sketches, more painting, more more more more more.


You know how pasta tastes really awesome with just olive oil and parmesan cheese? Simple is better.

I was going to wait until I had worked out the whole layout, recipe and all. But this is about playing with my food. And doing all that would be WORK. And I have a job (or three). So I'm putting it up here in its current state: unfinished.

Well, sort of. It's finished for now. Tomorrow I might decide to change it, rebake it, throw it out the window (watch out, pigeons on my AC unit!), but today it's finished.

If you would really, really like to make this multi-colored bread, you can figure it out from what I've posted in these images, and this recipe. And if you can't figure it out, you can post in the comments, and I'll try and help you out. K? 

And here is a fancy flip-through version:





A Post About Toast

I have many food and memory associations, but I'd like to talk specifically about toast.

Yes, toast.

John and I have been very lucky to have spent every summer since our respective births at the Iaciofano shore house in Beach Haven, New Jersey. Consequently, as the days turns very slowly warmer, I start to think about my food memories that my summers there have given me.

The Shore House (as we Iaciofano's call it) used to be turquoise, have outrageously ugly 1970's furniture, a creak in the wood-panelled staircase, an odd musty-humid smell that was strangely comforting, a white stone yard and a breakfast table nestled up to two, large windows that overlooked the bay.

At this table, my grandmother would have her breakfast while the sailboats drifted lazily (or purposefully, depending on the wind) outside the window like an animated painting.

You may be thinking, "Oh, we are about to learn a Iaciofano family, fancy breakfast recipe!"

But you'd be wrong.

My grandmother always had toast for breakfast. Burnt toast with butter.

I would sit across from her at the table and watch her spackle butter onto her blackened bread, the knife scraaaaape, scrape, scraping across the surface, sending ash-like flakes onto the tabletop.

Even though there was nothing special about this meal, I wanted it. I thought there was something unmistakably grown-up and therefore sophisticated about toast and coffee, even though I couldn't understand why my grandma ate it so charred.

Did she like it that way?

Had she just not mastered the family toaster?

I never asked and it is unfortunately too late to do so.

However, even now, I think there is something somewhat magical about toast. It's the caterpillar to butterfly transformation of a piece of bread taking on a new texture, color, smell and even flavor by spending just a few minutes in its heated cocoon.

These days, I have very specific ideas about what I consider to be a perfectly toasted piece of bread. I don't like mine burned. I like it a nice caramel color – just cripsy enough to allow for some residual chewyness and the absorption of butter or other condiments (should you use them). Too much time in the toaster and you essentially produce bread jerky – a veritable shingle of stiffness in consistency. 

Consider the following shade diagram:

Once you have determined your desired level of toasted-ness, you can dress it up. Toast is the perfect blank slate to apply edible accessories and make a....well...a "grown up" dish.

Let's use the above Country White slice as an example. Perfectly bronzed with a light, buttery make-up application, a frilly arugula skirt, topped with a poached egg and a glittering of salt and pepper.

Once cut, the gooey yolk runs into the porous toast, creating a crispy-oozing mess of rich deliciousness. And there's nothing more grown-up than arugula. The bitter smell released by the heat of the cooked egg is like that rare childhood aroma of my mom's perfume when she was getting ready for a night out with dad.

We can make toast more sophisticated still by swapping the bread with a baguette or Italian loaf. Sliced on the bias, lightly toasted and drizzled with olive oil, it becomes the vehicle for any number of cocktail-napkin treasures.

My personal favorites are the Avocado Bruschetta: tangy and smooth with a hint of hot pepper punch.


Also eloquent are Gorgonzola and Roasted Pepper Bruschetta: a dollop of creamy gorgi with slippery peppers and salty capers.

As with much cooking, it's the foundation that's the key. The base, in this case, being a perfectly toasted piece of bread. So crack open a loaf and make some toast...and memories. Sailboats and shore house are optional.


An Italian Thanksgiving Antipasto - Part 1

Our family antipasto platter typically does not include bread. It is usually a collection of meats, cheeses and marinated or roasted vegetables.

But I'd like to update our traditional Iaciofano antipasto platter to incorporate Italian-focused selections that speak to the season and the Thanksgiving holiday.

A platter like this needs a strong foundation – a foundation on which the other elements must rely...and lay...on top of...

And so, we begin with bread. Bread is what's needed. The foundation of food, this is where we begin.

Baguettes, ciabatta, large rounds...even a focaccia – these are all suitable choices for such a platter. Slice them thinly on a bias (except for focaccia which warrants small poofy squares) and lightly toast them for a little crunch. They will be the perfect foundation on which to place...well, I'll get to that later.

First, let's carb up. Here are some of my NY/NJ metro bakeries where I purchase my bread:

Macedonia Brothers Bakery in the Bronx. Come for a semolina, stay for their prosciutto round.

Callandra's locations in in Fairfield, Newark and Caldwell, New Jersey. I like the thinly sliced round loaves.

Hot Bread Kitchen - Seasonal Focaccia is always a treat, and their semolina has a nice, thick crust.

Eli's Bread at Zabar's (and other locations) - sometimes when you walk in they give away fresh out of the oven samples. Worth it even if you don't come home with a loaf.

Agata and Valentina - new(ish) downtown location!

Amy's Bread - another excuse for me to visit Chelsea Market, or the equally dangerous Bleecker Street...

Citarella has a nice bakery section, and various New York locations.

And let's not forget Balthazar....perhaps you should make a pilgrimage to their Englewood Bakery Extravaganza?

Out in the 'burbs? Our very own Morristown King's has a pretty decent bakery with a wide selection of fresh bread and artisinal crackers.

Sullivan Street Bakery - For a healthier option, I like the whole wheat loaf. Softest inner bread and a tangy crust. 

Perhaps you would like to make your own? Our recipe for focaccia is here.


Madonia Brothers Bakery in the Bronx – Carbing Me Up Since 1918!

If you read Wednesday's post you know that John, Marmo and I had an all-out food fest last Saturday on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. It was nuts. We left the Bronx with the car packed to the rear-view mounted EZ-Pass with pastas, pastries, wines, cheeses and BREAD.

Between John and I, I am probably the one with the carb fixation. We've discussed this. It's a problem that I don't wish to fix.

So when we walked past Madonia Brothers Bakery and I spotted this in the window, I seized up a little bit:

Prosciutto bread? In a fancy ring that I could potentially wear as a floury bangle bracelet and take occasional (ok, constant) nibbles from all day long, like it was one of those candy necklaces you had in the third grade?

Yes, please! I'll take two - one for each wrist.

In reality the prosciutto bread rings are much larger than bracelet sized. But while they are unwieldy as an accessory, they are excellent for actual eating.

The above photo provides a close-up view of the prosciutto chunks nestled between the crispy, bubbled golden brown crust and the soft salty insides. Cracked pepper speckles the ring and provides a little bite and also a nice contrast to the salty prosciutto.

Dip this in some olive oil, melt some provolone on top – you won't be sorry.

But I didn't stop there. Marmo is often like a little blonde food oracle. And when the food oracle speaks, I listen. Or pretend to, anyway. Marmo's advice at Madonia's was to get the Cheese Bread. "You MUST," said she.

And so I did, and dove in immediately after they handed me the freshly sliced loaf. The cheese is integrated so seamlessly into the bread that it feels and tastes like part of the batter. The result is a soft cloud where flour and cheese intermingle with tiny flecks of pepper.... I should have purchased more than one loaf as it didn't last until the next day.

I then spotted a Cranberry Walnut bread staring me down by the cash register. It laughed in my face. It said, "You think you're going to walk out of there without me? Think again, lady."

Now, I've met some Cranberry Walnut breads in my time. They aren't modest. They pack themselves full of berries and nuts and just let it all hang out, unembarrassed and unashamed. They want you to butter them. They like it.

The above photo demonstrates this well-deserved berry and nut conceit. This is another loaf I should have purchased in bulk. I've been toasting it with some currant jam, plopping poached eggs on top and calling it a night. Or a morning. Or a snack... A little cinnamon cream cheese will do the trick too. To say nothing of butter.

While we were there the FDNY Tower Ladder 58 rolled up and invaded the bakery.

The roof was not on fire, literally speaking anyway. The group of firefighters walked in and purchased 1/3 of the inventory of the place. I'm glad I got mine before the hungry firemen.

Not even a week later and I only have a little prosciutto bread left. I stupidly handed over my other prosciutto bangle to The Box. I'll be headed out for a return trip, as should you! Even if it's for the very first time!

Madonia Brothers Bakery
2348 Arthur Ave
Bronx, NY 10458

(718) 295-5573


Mini Brioche with Honey

If you're not aware by now, I have a small obsession with bread. Baking it AND eating it. They say that man cannot live on bread alone, but maybe a woman can. THIS woman. And buttered bread? Well, that holds a special place in my heart. But how about a bread that has the butter already in there? Baked inside! The effect of this butter inclusion is a fluffy, moist, slightly sweet and oh-so-tender roll. And if it's served warm with just a touch of honey....well don't expect me to stop eating them.

Brioche is this bread that combines butter and flour in this satisfying way. It's excellent for breakfast, but it's also a fantastic roll for brisket sliders, in fact. I discovered this usage a few weeks ago when I helped a friend throw a Hanukkah party. Throw a little bit of brisket accented with horseradish-infused creme fraiche in between the buttery top and bottom of a brioche roll and you will be singing the dradle song with enthusiasm!

I happen to think that brisket is good year round...but I have a lot of wacky ideas on food. That's why you come here, yes? Oh let's hope so.

Anyway! You can make this up to a week in advance and freeze them. You can also double this recipe because it only yields about 8 minis (more if you make them smaller). I got about 20-22 by doubling it. I know that's fuzzy math, but hey, it's the truth.

Let's get going:

What You Need:

2 cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1 packet)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons hot milk (125 degrees F)

3 large eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 8 pieces

Butter for greasing the tins

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water (for a nice shiny wash)

What You Do:

In a heavy duty mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 3/4 cup flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt. (NOTE: I actually used my food processor for this whole thing and it turned out great).

Add the hot milk and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Gradually beat in the remaining flour. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is soft but holds its shape, about 2 minutes.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1.5 - 2 hours.

Scatter the butter pieces over the dough. Knead on medium speed for 1 minute. The dough should be very soft and batterlike (almost like a cake mix). Scrape the dough into an oiled, deep bowl. Cover tightly with oiled aluminum foil and refrigerate over night.

Grease 8 mini brioche tins with butter.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and separate it into 8 small, equally-sized balls.

Cut off 1/4 of each of the dough balls for the "top knot" of each mini brioche. Roll the larger portions of each piece of dough into balls and place in the mini molds.

Cut a cross on the top of the dough in the molds with a sharp knife. Push your finger through the middle of the incision to the bottom to make a wider indentation.

Roll the smaller pieces of dough into balls and then pull one end slightly to elongate it into a point (like a tear-drop shape).

Place the pointed end of the top knot into the indentation of the bottom dough ball. Repeat for the 7 remaining molds.

Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 40-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the brioche gently with the egg mixture. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Immediately turn the brioche out onto a rack to cool, and serve them warm With HONEY! And coffee!