Thursday, August 28, 2014

Let's Break Bread together, Part II

In our last post we realized that there is too much to learn about bread to put in one installment. So we are back with more bread news. Today we are talking about two words: Unleavened and leavened.

Unleavened bread contains many of the same ingredients as leavened bread, with one big difference. That is, no leavening agent. Unleavened bread can be crispy like crackers, or they can be soft and pliable like tortillas. Other examples of unleavened bread are:
  1. Piadina, a specialty bread from the Romagna region of Italy, typically made from flour, water and olive il.
  2. Lefse, a Norwegian flatbread made with potatoes as the essential ingredient.  Potatoes make for a wetter and softer dough.  Works well rolled up with either savory or sweet additions.
  3. Roti and Chapati are synonymous and are from India.  Both are thin and round and depending on where in India they are being made, they are grilled or baked in various ways.
  4. Gorditas are like tortillas but are thicker and more sturdy.  They are made on a griddle.
  5. Lavash, also known as cracker bread. great for dips and spreads, but can also be soft and pliable to be used as a bread for roll-ups.
Leavened Bread is bread that contains a leavening agent. The most common leavening agent for bread is yeast. But there are others, like beer, baking powder and baking soda. Leavening simple means that the agent allows for air pockets to form which makes the bread rise, giving it a sponge-like texture. There are dozens of examples of leavened bread, such as French bread, sandwich bread. and muffins.  But there are lots and lots of other examples of leavened bread:

  • Anpan is a Japanese sweet bread filled with bean paste.
  • Bagel is a dense, ring-shaped bread originating in Eastern Europe.
  • Bara Brith is also called speckled bread from Wales.
  • Biscuits from the Southern United States are light and fluffy.
  • Borodinsky from Russia, is a dark, rye, sourdough yeast bread.
  • Chick Pea Bread from Albania uses yeast made from chick peas.
  • Marraqueta from Chili is shaped into lobed-shaped buns.
  • Pandesal from the Philippines is a sweet yeast bread.
  • Soda Bread from Ireland has baking soda and buttermilk to create leavening.
  • Vienna Bread from Austria made from cereal pressed yeast.

We certainly have not exhausted all the possibilities of the different kinds of unleavened and leavened breads found all around the world.  That would take some time.  We want to make the point that bread, in whatever form it takes, is a part of human life.  If you want to find out more about other breads, just click here.

Today we offer you an most delicious recipe for leavened bread.  Namely, the Native American Fry Bread.  

Buffalo Chicken and Blue Cheese Cole Slaw Fried Bread
Here is what you need:

*Bread Dough (see below for bread information)
Cooking Oil
Cole Slaw
Buffalo Chicken
Diced Tomatoes
Sour Cream

Here is what you do: 
Cut bread dough into 6 pieces.  Heat oil in frying pan.  About 1/2" of oil in the pan.   Flatten each piece of bread dough to about the size of a small tortilla.   Dough can be springy so you will need to keep reshaping it until you fry it.   Once oil is hot, place as many pieces of dough that will fit.  When the dough is brown on one side flip to brown the other side.  Transfer to paper toweling to remove excess oil.

Once the bread is fried it is time to assemble.  Take one of the fried bread and spread guacamole of the bread.  For this recipe I actually left the avocado plain.   I just smashed the avocado until I could spread it on the bread.  The plain avocado was a nice balance against the Buffalo Chicken and Blue Cheese Cole Slaw.

Next layer is the Blue Cheese Cole Slaw:

Blue Cheese Cole Slaw Recipe:
Shred half a head of cabbage.   I did about 4 cups.
1/2 cup shredded onion
1/2 cup shredded carrots
3 -4 Tablespoons chives

2 Cups Mayonnaise
1/4 Cup Sour Cream
1/4 Cup Blue Cheese
3 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
1 -2 Tablespoons Sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

You want to taste the sauce before you add to the other ingredients about.  This really is a taste preference.  If you like a stronger vinegar taste or you like it a bit sweater you can make your adjustments at this point.

Mix everything together.  Taste again.  I always end up adding more carrots for looks or onions for more taste.

Depending on how many fried breads you are serving will depend on how much of the Cole Slaw you will make into Blue Cheese Cole Slaw.   About a 2 cups of the cole slaw will make between 2 -3 fried bread...depending on how big you make the fried bread.  For 2 cups of cole slaw I used 1/4 cup blue cheese.   Again we have to go back to taste.  If you really like blue cheese you may want to add more.  Though I am not a huge blue cheese fan it is a must for this dish so make sure you can taste the blue cheese in the cole slaw.

Next layer is buffalo chicken.

Next layer is tomatoes.

Next layer is sour cream.

* The bread you use it completely up to you.  Because I am not the baker of the 2 Prickly Pears I cheat and buy frozen.  The dough you need will be equal to one loaf of bread.  Easy to find it in the freezer section of the store or the bakery.   If you make homemade bread then use that.  You can use white, wheat, multi grain... whatever you prefer.

The nice thing about this recipe is you can make it however you want.  Because I can not eat lettuce I use the avocado but you can substitute any of the veggies for ones you like.   I can tell you mine never turn out the same twice.  The key to this recipe is your imagination.  And yes I just made this recipe up this week because I was hungry for something spicy and different...

Now, go out and make something good!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Let's BREAK BREAD together and have a good time. Part I

Pam and Terry, The 2 Prickly Pears
We're back!!! And we are happy to be back. 

The 2 Prickly Pears took a bit of time to gather our thoughts about this new series of blog posts, which we are calling "The International Table." 

Over the past few years we have done research to better understand the foods that we love, as well as the food we know little about but about which we wanted a better understanding.

In all our reading and experimenting we learned so very much. But probably the most important thing we learned is the significant impact that various cultures have on the food we consume. Even the most common place foods have a history and a place of origin that connects us with a culinary past that is extraordinary. Beyond that, we believe this history is what can bring us together. It's commonality brings us together and it's diversity helps us celebrate a vibrant life with variety.  Food is something we all have in common. We all need it in some form or another. Our climate and our culture directly affects how we eat. However, cultures easily break through boundaries and show us that what we have in common far outweighs our differences. So in our minds, food is the great equalizer. 

So today we begin our series on The International Table. What does that mean, you ask? How is our table and yours international? Well, what The 2 Prickly Pears will do over the next few months is look at those foods that are common to most, if not all, cultures. What do we have in common? What items, in one form or another, are similar country to country, culture to culture?

We begin with BREAD, and a quote from James Beard,  

"Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods, and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts."

One would be very hard pressed, indeed, to find a culture, country, city, state, province, county, village, tribe, neighborhood, or land that doesn't have some kind of bread.  And what is bread, anyway?  Here's how the Free Dictionary defines it in it's most basic form:

A staple food made from flour or meal mixed with other dry and liquid ingredients, usually combined with a leavening agent, and kneaded, shaped into loaves, and baked.

We think this definition works, but may be a bit limited.  While it is true that many breads have a leavening agent in them, not all do.  In fact, many don't.  Consider, if you will, the humble tortilla of Mexico, matzah served on Jewish Passover, the lovely pita from the countries of the Mediterranean...the list goes on and on.

Leavened Breads

Chapati, and unleavened bread of India

In fact, unleavened bread is the oldest of the breads.  There is archaeological evidence from 30,000 years ago in Europe showing residue on rocks that were used for pounding plants. This is likely the makings of the first flat bread.  The simple combination of grains and water to create bread is the foundation of cultures around the world.  

It is likely impossible to really know who the first persons were that realized the cultural an culinary advance that simple bread making would be. We applaud them for their ingenuity and are grateful for their contribution.  Because, let's face it, whether leavened or unleavened, wheat based or gluten free, mulitgrain or rye, it is nearly impossible to resist the smell of fresh baked bread in whatever form it comes.  We believe that it cannot be disputed that bread is a staple of life.

Have you ever used or heard the expression, "breaking bread" with someone?  Sure you have.  What does that mean, really?  It's more than just the act of eating.  It really is something that brings us together by sharing from the same loaf.  Sharing of your abundance.  The breaking of bread implies peace and community.  If you offer someone something good to eat, like bread, you are inviting them to be a part of your life and you a part of theirs.

In truth, this post could go on and on for days about bread.  There is so very much to say and know.  Lest you think we overstate, here are just a few words translated in other languages for bread:

French:  pain
Afrikkans:  brood
Bosnian:  hljeb
Danish:  brod
Ethiopian:  Injera
German:  kies
Icelandic:  brauĂ°
Italian:  pane
Polish:  chleb
Native American:  fry bread
Spanish:  el pan
Vietnamese:  banh mi'

But we won't go on and on for days.  We offer you a site that might be of interest in understand the importance of bread in human life. It includes many recipes that will intrigue you.

Now, how about some fun facts about bread?
  • Bakers used to be fined if their loaves of bread were under weight, so they use to add an extra loaf to every dozen.  And so came the expression "baker's dozen."
  • Each American consumes 53 pounds of bread a year. (Pam, Prickly Pear2, consumes more than that... it is a known fact!)
  • In 1930 Wonder Bread introduced the first sliced bread.
  • In 1997, wheat farmers in Kansas produced enough wheat to make 36.5 billion loaves of bread or the equivalent of 6 loaves of bread for each person on earth.
  • Murphy's Law dictates that buttered bread will always land buttered-side down.
  • For a Middle Eastern person, a meal without bread is unthinkable.
  • The word "pumpernickel" literally means Devil's Fart in Bavarian.
  • In Russia, bread and salt mean welcome.
  • 1,500 is the number of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches the average American student will have consumed upon graduations from high school.  Yikes!
As you know, we always leave you each week with a recipe on our topic.  But how to decide which bread recipe to include?  The possibilities are endless!  And they are all so so good!!! However, a decision must be made, and so we offer you today Naan. 

Naan is an Indian leavened bread that is tear-drop in shape and traditionally cooked in a clay oven. 

Now, it is true that we do not have a clay oven.  If you don't either, then naan can be made on the grill or a grill-pan.  It is not baked.  

Here we go, then....the 2 Prickly Pear's adventure in making Indian bread called naan:

What you need:
1 packet active dry yeast
1 Cup warm water
1/4 Cup white sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 Cu bread flour
1/4 cup butter, melted

What you need to do:
In large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Let it stand about 10 minutes.  Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough.  Knead for 6-8 minutes.  (You can use a stand mixer if you like.)  Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover.  Set aside to rise for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.

Punch the dough down (this is where you can knead in stuff like garlic salt or seasoning or herbs, if you wish).  Pinch off small handfuls of dough, just about the size of a golf ball.  Roll into balls and place on a tray.  Cover and let rise again for about 30 minutes.

About 10 minutes before the dough is ready, heat your grill pan to very hot, almost smoking. Roll out dough balls into a thin, tear-drop shape.  Turn heat down to medium.  Place two or three on your grill pan.  Brush top with butter.  Grill for about 1-2 minutes and turn over. Brush with butter and allow to grill for 1-2 minutes.  You are looking for brown almost charred grill marks.  Careful not to burn the naan.  Remove from grill and continue with remaining dough.

Serve with any meal, with hummus, as a sandwich, anyway you like.

Bread is a part of our lives.  It is, indeed, the food of life.  People through the centuries have looked to bread to feed their family and communities.  Celebrate your culinary life and make some bread.  It isn't as hard as it looks.  All you have to do is honor the ingredients and the history of bread making.

Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone.  It has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.....Ursula K. LeGuin

Now, go out and make something good!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A short hiatus, but a chance to reintroduce ourselves!

The 2 Prickly Pears are taking a small hiatus this week to re-organize for our next series.  We promise it will be fun and interesting.

In the meantime, we thought we would introduce and re-introduce ourselves to you.  We are happy to meet new people as we make our way through the design and culinary world.  

Over the past few years writing our blog, we learned a great deal, most importantly how so much of what we create in the kitchen is influence by many other cultures.  We know that food is a common denominator in all our lives.  And our desire is to give information that will make your cooking enjoyable and creative.  

Being a home chef/cook is not that complicated.  Using good ingredients and honoring the history and preparation of food will result in great meals for you, your family and friends.

Today we included our very first blog that introduces us and what we plan to continue to do. Next week we will introduce our new series of blogs.  We can hardly wait!

Pam and Terry
We are two sisters that are a little prickly, a little sweet, and wonderfully creative and talented when it comes to designing home and table. 

We started out in the corporate world, doing all the things that we were supposed to do, including making money, obeying the rules, and working hard.  This ultimately didn't get us where we were meant to be.  We walked away from that life and decided to begin again.  

In our Cactus Garden grows 2 Prickly Pears, they are:

Prickly Pear 1:  Terry, I'm the Capricorn Cactus Flower.  I am solidly earth bound, very focused and detailed oriented, who is often told to take it down a notch.  I embrace the Crone spirit in myself.  I started (along with Nehemiah) an organic/fair trade line of comfort drinks, snacks, and candy called Winter Goddess Foods .  

Prickly Pear 2:  Pam, I'm the Libra Cactus Flower.  I look for balance in the world around me and have been told I am impulsive and have a shoot-from-the-hip approach.  I'm often told to stay FOCUSED!  I am an artist by trade with a line of unique lamp shade called Shades of Light & Design.  I also founded Clairalience, which is a natural skin care line. 

Through our closeness and ingenuity, we started to work together to build many ideas that seemed to revolve around design and food.  After several dinner parties and through teaching classes, we decided that there was more to do.  Looks like we will be writing a cookbook that will help the average cook or foodie find lovely, artful, and delicious ways to make their get-together's fun and stylish.

We believe that we live in a world of abundance.  Sometimes you have to think beyond the familiar and safe, to reach that abundance.  We strongly support local, organic, sustainable businesses and see ourselves as pioneers and adventurers in our own lives.

With a prickly sincere, let's have fun!

Terry and Pam