When we were in Australia last summer, we spent 4 days camping with a group tour in the Australian Outback en route to Uluru, eating well on a menu of camping cuisine. It was on this trip that we were introduced to the iconic Australian Damper. Damper is a type of soda bread, that is typically baked in a camping stove in the coals of a campfire (as below), and has long been associated with outback lore and camping cuisine in Australia. Now that we are in quarantine times, some people are turning to bread-baking as an activity – evidenced by the fact that flour and yeast are nowhere to be found – and this bread couldn’t be any simpler.
The Hook and the Cook has a nice video (below) on how to make damper in a camp oven over coals, which is how we experienced it. Adventure Dining Guide has a hack on how to cook damper in coals in aluminum foil if you don’t have a cast iron pot. You don’t even have to cook the damper over coals, an oven will do, as in this recipe from Taste, though of course it won’t have the same outdoorsy charm. You can add anything into damper as a filling or flavoring, as in the Blueberry Damper from Dirty Drifters.
While we were on our Outback adventure, we also had our first taste of Vegemite, slathered on our damper bread. Vegemite is a salty, savory spread made from brewer’s yeast that is iconic, but quite divisive, even among Australians. Our Australian guides instructed us on the proper way to consume Vegemite, in a very thin layer, mixed with a healthy dose of butter. Tom Hanks recently drew some playful criticism for layering his on too thick. So what did we think? The Eaters were split down the middle, one for an one against. To me (pro Vegemite), the Vegemite had a very strong umami flavor, and kind of smelled like anchovies!
Our ETW Armchair Travel destination today is: Nigeria! We have eaten our share of Nigerian food in the states, but we have never tasted one of the iconic foods of Lagos, Nigeria: Agege Bread! Brought to Nigeria by a Jamaican immigrant, and named after the Lagos suburb of Agege, Agege bread is now a completely ingrained and revered part of Nigerian food culture. This slightly-stretchy and chewy bread is made with few ingredients, and baked into a perfectly rectangular shape in special pans, and then fired in a clay oven. We really enjoyed this short documentary on the history of Agege bread, directed and produced by filmmaker Chika Okoli and featuring culinary historian and researcher Ozoz Sokoh aka Kitchen Butterfly [Instagram]. Ozoz does a great job describing Nigerian Food culture and the winding history of Agege bread. Making your own Agege bread seems to be somewhat difficult, but there are recipes out there, check out these options from K’s Cuisine, My Active Kitchen, and Africaparent. In the US, you can even get Agege bread baked fresh in Brooklyn.
Today is Easter Monday, celebrated in Cleveland as Dyngus Day! We haven’t had much time to post recently, so even though we are a little late to the party, we figure there’s still a little time to share some Easter bread, this time with a local influence. In Cleveland there has historically been a large Czech population, especially in the appropriately-named Slavic Village neighborhood, which also hosted a large Polish population. One of the most traditional Czech Easter foods is Mazanec – an leavened sweet bread with dried fruit and raisins, served primarily at Easter. Mazanec is considered a cousin of the English hot cross bun, and sometimes also has a cross shape on top. You can try making Mazanec for your spring celebrations with a recipe from Honest Cooking.
One of our favorite – but lesser known in the US – food holidays is right around the corner: St. Joseph’s Day. St. Joseph’s Day is widely celebrated in Italy and the among the Italian diaspora in the US and elsewhere on March 19th. We have previously covered some St. Joseph’s Day sweet treats, including the perennial favorite zeppole. However, one of the showstoppers on St. Joseph’s Day is actually St. Joseph’s Bread (Pane di San Giuseppe). You can find recipes for Pane di San Giuseppe at Kitchen Link and Mangia Bene Pasta. It is a bit more of a complicated bread, but it also allows for it to be sculpted into equally complicated shapes, like staffs, carpentry tools, and wheat, which are a must on the St. Joseph’s Day table. This altar below, from Trapani in Sicily is probably as detailed as you can get!
Some of the best Kosher bread and pastries we have ever had have been in an unexpected location – Miami. Surprised? Well Zak the Baker in Wynwood (We visited 405 NW 26th St Miami, FL 33127 – Zak the Baker has since moved) has made a name in Miami for having some amazing breads and pastries, and some of the best avocado toast anywhere. Though we get our fill of Cuban and South American food in Miami, we have also made Zak the Baker part of our Miami food routine. And we aren’t the only ones, since Zak the Baker seems to be constantly bustling! Continue reading
Hot Cross Buns are a sweet treat traditionally associated with Good Friday, the Friday before Easter. These little doughy goodies are sweet rolls with currants and a signature cross made out of icing on top. Their origin is could possibly go as far back as ancient Greece, but they really came to fame in England, when a law was passed prohibiting the sale of spiced breads at any other time but funerals, Christmas and Good Friday. In the intervening centuries, the laws fell, and hot cross buns have spread across the world, even becoming popular year-round. They are now available all over the English speaking world, and 70 million were sold by British supermarket chain Tesco on Easter weekend alone in 2010. The classic recipe is pretty similar all over the world: check out this recipe for Trinidadian hot cross buns, and another classic take from the UK. Though classic is good, why not try a chocolate-orange variety, too?
We are huge fans of Brazilian pão de queijo, and we were excited to try its Colombian cousin the “pan de bono” or pandebono on a recent trip to Miami. No, not BUENO, bono. Hmmm. Like pão de queijo, the dough is made from tapioca flour, however, the addition of corn flour also gives it a more bready texture, and it is a bit sweeter than pão de queijo. Our first stop to try pan de bono was a Colombian bakery, Ricky (several location, we went to 252 Buena Vista Boulevard #108, Miami). We were hooked instantly on the slightly-sweet cheesy bread. There is nothing better than a cafe con leche and a pan de bono for breakfast in Miami, at least for me. I have not tried any pandebono offerings in Chicago yet, though I am intrigued by this recipe from Lucky Peach. Do you know of a good place for pandebono?
Pan de Bono at Ricky Bakery
We absolutely love the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison. It is gigantic, and you can get pretty much any type of produce or baked good there. However, we are creatures of habit, and we make a fairly predictable round of purchases (Hook’s Cheddar, Heirloom Tomatoes, Cilantro, possibly honey, and a few others). One of things we have to get every time we visit is Stella’s hot and spicy cheese bread (which is as awesome as it sounds), and we know many others who feel the same. However, we never really knew the backstory behind the bread. WXOW has the inside scoop, and you may be surprised to learn its origins are actually related to tamale production. You can find the bread in other locations around town, but getting it at the farmer’s market is the best since it is delivered fresh and hot several times throughout the day. If you are far from Madison and craving some cheese bread, Stella’s ships. Or for the more ambitious, Badgerlicious has a DiY recipe.
Filed under Cheese, Links
Our previous attempts at making bread were not terribly successful, but we’d love to give bread making another try. One of the techniques we recently learned about was the Japanese Tangzhong bead-making method, which involves making a roux (called the Tangzhong) and incorporating it into the dough. Apparently this addition results in a very soft, tender loaf of bread. There are countless different breads you can make with the Tangzhong method, and many recipes we found are for various types of Hokkaido Milk Bread (here’s a cinnamon and chocolate chip version and a Nutella version). We had a favorite milk bread back at our local fruteria in Chicago, and we are mourning the fact that they don’t carry it any more. Maybe some of these Japanese milk breads are worth a try to fill our cravings. You can also try your hand at hot cross buns and 10 grain milk bread made with the Tangzhong method.
Image: Afar Magazine
When one thinks of French bread, artistry, tradition and quality probably come to mind. However, we were very surprised to learn that in Post War France, quality bread was hard to come by. Quelle horreur! Afar Magazine has a fascinating article about the fall and rise of bread in France, and how the writer apprentices with one of the current arbiters of the artisanal bread tradition.
In 1987 a cultural critic writing in the French newsmagazine Le Nouvel Observateur proclaimed that the baguette had become “horribly disgusting.” It was “bloated, hollow, dead white,” he said. “Soggy or else stiff. Its crusts come off in sheets like diseased skin.” Renowned French baking professor Raymond Calvel mused that the best baguette might soon be made in Tokyo. What had brought this on? And how was quality bread revived in the 1990s? The answers to these questions lay in Paris, which is what brought me to the door of Boulangerie Arnaud Delmontel at three that morning last February.
The eaters have never made homemade bread. Well, we love to eat it, but it always seems just a little bit too intimidating to be enjoyable. It seemed so fraught with danger! However, we came upon a bread making recipe that seemed easy enough for us to attempt. The recipe for Ciabatta comes from Lifehack – which boasts a mere 4 ingredients (Yeast, flour, water and salt), no kneading and 1 minute of prep time (8-12 hours of rising time, though). After doing some morning errands L threw together the ingredients. After the 8-hour rising we added spicy salt and olive oil to our proto-bread and waited impatiently as it baked.
The results? Not bad! Though we suspect something is wrong with M’s underheating oven – our first attempt was pretty good!
Butter Nan, Tandoori Roti, Onion Kulcha – Photo by Silly Jilly
Indian cuisine, owing to the size and diversity of the country is completely eclectic and varied. We must confess that when we thought of Indian flatbreads the ubiquitous naan came to mind, but we are now diving deeper into the dizzying array of delicious Indian breads, and you can too! We found a brief but informative guide to Indian flatbreads, which lists the leaving agent and ingredients of each. For example, naan is leavened with bread, while kulcha is leavened with yogurt and baking soda. If you want to keep exploring, check out the list of Indian flatbreads on Wikipedia.