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Hide Bread

Thursday, December 10, 2009
Hide Bread

I made up my mind. My next 42 km will be in Big Sur. I write it here because that way I feel somewhat forced to keep the promise and I avoid getting strange ideas, like backing out at the very last minute. Some say it's one of the most beautiful marathons in the U.S., not as popular as New York or Boston, but certainly more spectacular for the course that runs along one of the most gorgeous stretches of the whole Pacific coast.

What does this have to do with the girl in the kitchen, you may ask? It's just that while thinking about Big Sur, I remembered this recipe, that I marked a while back with the usual yellow post-it so that I could try it as soon as possible. I found it in a beautiful book, The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, one of those recommended by The Big Brother Amazon that all of a sudden you feel like you absolutely have to own.
It's sort of a culinary diary of this small restaurant/cafe', hidden behind a gas station along Highway 1. The tale of four friends who decide to leave the glamorous yet impossible scene of Los Angeles in order to pursue their dream in the middle of nature. With all its difficulties, like electricity that can be gone for days when the only power line connecting Big Sur to Carmel decides to break down, the suffocating feeling that hits at times when you live in a community of few hundreds people, or the financial risk of running a business that is largely based on tourism.

As usual, the first recipe that catched my attention is that of a bread, even if in this case it's not a leavening one, but rather a cross between Irish soda bread and English muffins (note to my Italian friends: mind you, English muffins are totally different than muffins, and they are more similar to English scones, which in turn are not to be confused with American scones...how confusing...I should stop here, otherwise this parenthesis will break into a new post).
In short, I warn you, these unusual rolls, quintessence of zen and healthy California, are not for everybody. What I mean is that they are not suited for the classic pane e salame, the crust is hard and crunchy and their crumb very dense and full of seeds that pleasantly creak under your teeth. They absolutely need to be sliced in half and toasted before eating, just like English muffins (which are not like muffins!!), and they are the best at breakfast, spread with jam and paired with a large, bottomless cup of coffee.
Now I know for sure. Next stop, Big Sur.

Hide Bread
for approximately 8 rolls>

all-purpose flour 2 and 1/2 cups (375 gr)
flax seeds 1/4 cup (50 gr.)
sesame seeds 1/4 cup (40 gr.)
oat bran 1 cup (120 gr.)
sunflower seeds 1/8 cup (25 gr.)
millet, amaranth, quinoa or poppy seeds, or a combination of any of these 1/4 cup (50 gr.)
salt 1/4 teaspoon
baking soda 1/2 teaspoon
beer 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (60 ml.)
buttermilk, milk or water 1 and 1/4 cup (350 ml.)

I divided the recipe in half, the original amount is for 15 rolls of approximately 4 inches in diameter.
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and stir well. Make a well in the middle, and add beer and buttermilk (or milk and/or water). Mix with your hand or using a wooden spoon until all ingredients are blended together and form a thick and wet batter. Slightly sprinkle the surface with flour and turn the batter on the work surface. Roll it into a log of approximately 2 inches in diameter, then cut it in slices about 1 1/2 inches thick. Pat them down with your hands and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes, until the surface turns golden brown. Let them cool completely. Before serving, remember to slice the rolls in half and toast them well.