Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Dill Bread of Summer

Bouquet dill is one of the most welcome sights of midsummer.  Its exuberant flowers are cheerful, whether as volunteers in a flower bed or in the vegetable garden.  And it is one of my favorite herbs.

Of course dill is famous for fish, chilled cucumber salad or soup, and in pickles.  But I especially look for it so that I can bake dill bread.

This recipe is a survivor from an era when no-knead batter breads were popular.  It contains cottage cheese, whose protein gives the bread structure without heavy kneading.  But I knead it anyway.

The bread should be made to serve hot, along with a summer meal that might include corn on the cob, a grilled meat, probably a cold salad or grilled summer vegetables and perhaps some sliced tomatoes. Its frank opulence offsets those simple elemental flavors (don't skip the butter for the hot bread). Leftover bread can be toasted the next day and served as a tea bread or snack.

Many market gardeners and supermarkets feature the variety known as dukat dill, which resists flowering and provides a long supply of the fresh dill leaves.  But in my experience these have a milder (duller) flavor than the ferny foliage of the bouquet dill.  You'll need to pick the leaves before seedheads begin to form and the leaves start to yellow.  I like the strong flavor of the bouquet dill and include lots of it in the bread.

Cottage Cheese Dill Bread

Dissolve one measure* of instant dry yeast in 1/4 cup warm water.

Mix 1 t salt, 1/4 t baking soda, 2 T sugar and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour.  Set aside.

In a saucepan (low heat), melt together 1 cup of creamed cottage cheese (not low-fat) and 1 T butter.  Let cool in pan after combined.

Combine the cooled cheese mixture with the yeast, the dry ingredients, and

1 egg
2 T (or more) chopped onion
2 T (or more) chopped fresh dill

Mix in approximately 2 cups more flour.   Turn onto floured board and knead briefly to combine flour and wet mixture, adding flour as necessary.  The objective is not to knead aggressively as for breads that depend on gluten for structure, but to combine flour and produce a dough that can be handled.  Place in a buttered bowl and let rise for 45 minutes.

Butter a casserole or loaf pan.  (An oval casserole can make an attractive loaf for the table.) Punch down the dough and place into the pan to let rise another 30 minutes or until bread has risen above the container.  (Note - it can run over the edge if left to itself, so watch.)

Bake the risen bread for 35 minutes in a preheated 350° F oven.

*Yeast note: A packet of instant dry yeast may be used.  Regular bread bakers often use a bulk dry yeast such as saf-instant (available from King Arthur's catalog or in many groceries), in which case the recommended amount is 2 1/4 t.
The center of the bread is soft, but not wet.

No comments: