Thursday, October 1, 2009

sauteed onion, poppy seed and gruyere bread

baked poppy seed, onion and gruyere bread
our first stop in maine
was portland.
we had plotted out the trip
for months, finally settling
on a bed and breakfast -
i'm a hotel girl, usually -
just outside the port.
at first i was bummed.
i like the idea of car-free
vacations, of walking everywhere
and never worrying about parking.
i also like the idea of hotels.
to me, they provide anonymity
don't coerce you into sharing your life story
with strangers while eating
a (seemingly mandatory)
breakfast that required
you to set your alarm
because meals are served
promptly at 9 am.

(can you tell that we've stayed at
bed and breakfasts before?)

but, for many reasons,
we decided to stay at the
morrill mansion and i must say
that as soon as we were there,
i was happy. on the first day,
it poured. not just poured.
think - a hurricane in the islands
making its way north kind of rain.
it was freezing cold, too.
as we stepped from the plane,
into the cold watery onslaught,
i re-evaluated every piece of
clothing i brought,
kicking myself for
the sundresses and tank tops
and wondering where i
could buy a parka if
this kept up all week.
(i think i forgot where i was...hello.)

we rented a car and as we drove
the short drive, i freaked out
about anything i could possibly
think to freak out about:
this is our vacation and its raining hard
(not unlike our honeymoon),
larry is behind the wheel of a
car he is not familiar with,
does anyone in front of us
actually know how to drive in the rain?
and what was i thinking?
two pairs of flip-flops does not
a well-rounded shoe selection make.

when we finally got to the b&b,
my mind
was ready for a rest.
the innkeeper brought us upstairs,
handing us warm chocolate chip cookies
along the way, settled us into our
room with comfy chairs and a bed
with tons of pillows.
this could work, i thought.
then, i turned around, noticing
the stack of home and food magazines
and thought, scratch that,
this is nice.
they never give you the current
issue of food & wine in a hotel room.

it was still pouring.
we weren't really ready to
take portland by storm
when it was in the midst of one.
so instead, i grabbed the f&w,
and began to chill out,
starting with a story about
that i had never heard of,
located about 30 minutes away
from where we were staying.

and then, i turned to
the recipe for
pull-apart cheesy bread.
i probably would have read
it and continued on if not
for two things:
1) by far the biggest influencer -
they mentioned monkey bread.
my family? we're big fans of
monkey bread.
2) while i'm not so crazy
about poppy seeds, something
about my childhood made me
a sucker for bialys, with which
the poppy seed mixture shared
an obvious resemblance.

so i read the recipe once each day
(even though we woke up sunday,
and every day that followed to
gorgeous weather)
until we left for ogunquit,
willing myself to remember
to look up the bread when we got
home. a teeny tiny part of me toyed
with ripping it out of the magazine,
but then i flashbacked to every single
time that i read an article in a doctor's
office and the one page i've needed to finish
the story is half torn. so i left it there
for the next people visiting the mcguire room.

it took a few weeks and someone
mentioning to me
that they found a place where
poppy seeds are dirt cheap
(to which i thought,
i've never had a reason
to buy poppy seeds) before
the light went off in my head.
poppy seeds
so, i found the recipe,
gathered the ingredients -
purchased my first poppy seeds ever -
and thought, this shouldn't
be too bad.

as the onions sauteed,
i grated the cheese and measured
out the poppy seeds.
when the onion was
and tender,
i stirred in the poppy seeds,
transferred the lot to a plate
and waited patiently for
five minutes until i could
stir the cheese in.
so far, so good.
sauteed sweet onion and poppy seeds
the dough was simple, too.
baking soda and powder
i couldn't go wrong.

but when it was time to
dump the dough out on the counter,
i knew that i couldn't.
yes, the recipe said, soft dough,
but this? this would slide across
the counter, probably too liquidy
to be too sticky.
i added 1/2 cup more flour
to the mixture and it seemed firmer,
so i took a chance.
unfortunately, what was in front of me
was still not very close to dough.
bread dough
i'm not sure how much flour
i kneaded in,
but it was a lot - i'd dare to say
almost a cup more until
i could get it to work with me.

realizing that i would never
be able to roll the dough out,
let alone, cover it with
the poppy seeds and onions,
cut the whole thing into strips
and layer them,
i went to plan B:
praying, pleading and plotting.

i quartered the dough,
pressing the first piece into
the bottom of the loaf pan to
completely cover. i spread
one-third of the onion mixture
over that, and then cobbled together
pieces of dough from the second section
to make a cohesive layer.
each time i worried that i would not have
enough dough to make it, but somehow,
i was cut a break - it worked.
onion and poppy seed layer
i baked the bread,
keeping a close eye, not sure how
the four layers would cook,
opposed to the ten i was supposed
to have (where did i go wrong?)
and was relieved when it was out
of the oven in pretty much
the same amount of time.
however, this version?
not a looker.

for me,
it baked up almost
very tastily dotted with
cheesy sweet onions.
the poppy seeds? i guess
i can understand why
they are there.
slices of onion poppy seed bread
in its original form
and what i turned it into,
the bread is absolutely
an interesting alternative
to a loaf of crusty bread
or even a dinner-appropriate
it is not monkey bread-like, in
my opinion. it is not in ball
form and you still have to cut
the bread - once the slices
are on the diner's plate they
can be pulled apart to
play with and enjoy.
however, this recipe gave
me a great idea and i hope
that you'll see a savory
monkey bread from me
sometime in the future.

but, the inspiration for
something new we can
play with
maybe one day, fall in love with?
looking back, its
probably worth a rainy
afternoon in maine.
our first day in maine
sauteed onion, poppy seed and gruyere bread
adapted from food & wine magazine
i was very torn - should i give you my cobbled together version or the original from the magazine? i think, that as long as i already gave you the wet-dough disclaimer, i should give you a chance to make good on my semi-disaster by posting the recipe as it was intended. just remember that if you have trouble, more flour will help and you can always make a patchwork version. the flavor is worth it, i think.

1 1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, divided
1 large sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
kosher salt and ground pepper
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese (3 ounces)
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

heat the oven to 425˚f. grease 9 x 4 1/2" metal loaf pan (mine is 5 1/2" wide).

cube butter; place one stick back in fridge until ready to make the dough.

in large skillet over medium heat, melt remaining 1/2 stick butter. remove 2 tablespoons of butter to small bowl; cover and set aside. add onions to skillet and cook 8 minutes, or until onions are softened, but not browned. stir in poppy seeds and season with salt and pepper. transfer onion mixture to plate; chill 5 minutes, or until cooled slightly. stir in gruyere; set aside.

meanwhile, in food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. add reserved chilled butter; pulse until butter is the size of peas. add the buttermilk and pulse 5 or 6 times, or until a soft dough forms.

turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times. pat or roll the dough into a 2 x 24 inch rectangle. spread the onion mixture on top. cut the dough crosswise into 10 pieces. stack 9 pieces onion side up. top stack with remaining slice, onion side down. carefully place the stack in the prepared loaf pan. (as i mentioned above, i had to pat the dough into place inside the loaf pan, which worked, but it's clearly not the best method - the first layer is stress-free. the next ones though, you have to worry that you're going to get the onion mixture caught in the dough as you're trying to spread it.) either way, brush top dough layer with remaining butter.

bake on the center rack, 30 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and has risen. let the dough cool for at least 15 minutes, before unmolding and serving.

you can also make it ahead of time - it was just as good the second day. i wrapped it up in foil and reheated in a 350˚f oven.

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