There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill.
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
by Isabel Allende

Starting in November of 2009 Michelle at the Big Black Dog formed a group to bake its way through Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg. I loved Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, so I signed up with the group. Michelle first had us do a couple of warm-up assignments, which were my first attempt at blogging. The first "Official" post was on January 15, 2010, and it was followed by 41 more, on the 1st and 15th of each month. When I signed on I said I would bake the whole book, and like Horton (the elephant) I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I finished baking the book on October 1, 2011. Having completed that challenge, now I am just going to do some stuff, and post about it. As part of that stuff Michelle is posing a new, and different, challenge for us each month.

I am still baking bread, mostly the Five Minutes a Day kind, and if you would like to try the Five Minutes a Day bread method there are some links, with recipes, in the right hand column to get you started. Please give it a try.

But first, a word from my sponsor . . .
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One person, Greg Craven, has suggested changing the question from "which side is right" to "what is the wisest thing to do given the uncertainties and the risks involved?" To me, this seems like a very productive way to refocus the conversation. So, if you are confused about, concerned by, or interested in the issue of global warming please take a few minutes to watch his VIDEO. If you find it interesting or helpful, please pass it on to others.

This day be bread and peace my lot.
Alexander Pope

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?

Julia Child

Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.
Yiddish proverb
(And some are only half baked.)

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw, via Sharon

Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.
George Herbert

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Breads Banana, Berry, and Monkey (12 of 42)

Hemingway wrote that Paris was a moveable feast.  For us, and for this episode of the HB in 5 Bread Braid at least, so is Maine.  For the last several years we have been fortunate enough to be able to spend a little time each summer in a beautiful century cottage on Bailey Island, Maine.  This year our stay coincided with this eposide of the HB in 5 Bread Braid, so Maine is where I baked.
Here is the view from the kitchen window!

And here are some other views around the Island.  

Our trip from the North Coast to the East Coast (we are not "Down East," that does not start until you cross to the eastern side of the Penobscott River) took us (briefly) through New Hampshire.  We stopped at the New Hampshire's Own gift shop on I-95 (for those interested, conveniently located next to the NH (tax free) Liquor Store--we were on vacation).  And there they had this great little Monkey Bread Pot.  Little is the key word, since it has an inside diameter of just under 5".  By comparison, King Arthur has a 10" Monkey Bread Pan, which is lots of monkey bread.  With this small pot I was able to bake a batch of monkey bread good for 2-3 people by filling it about half-way, but I could fill it completely and get maybe 4-5 modest servings out of it.  The pot comes with directions, which I followed, but I used dough from the Whole Wheat Master Recipe.  I rolled balls of dough  in some melted butter, then in a sugar/cinnamon mixture, layered them in the pot and let them rise for about an hour.  I baked it at 375 for 30 minutes, the second half tented with foil as the directions suggested.  It was great.

And since monkeys love bananas, the monkey bread was a nice segue into the first bread of this assignment--Whole Wheat Banana Bread.

Speaking of monkeys and bananas, I read that monkeys do not peel their bananas from the stem end, as most of us human primates do.  Instead they peel from the other end.  It is in fact easier to get the peel started from that end. Need proof?  See The Proper Way to Peel a Banana.  Try it.

Also, speaking of bananas, some scientists think that the bananas we know and love are in danger of extinction.  See, for example, Yes, We Will Have No Bananas.  The bananas we eat, the Cavendish variety, are sterile and seedless. Wild bananas have large hard seeds, making them virtually inedible.  Since our bananas are sterile, all the commercial banana trees are reproduced from cuttings, making them genetically the same, clones.  Lacking genetic diversity these bananas are susceptible to being wiped out by disease.  Sound far fetched?  It has happened before! Everyone used to eat a variety called Gros Michel, a variety considered much more tasty than the Cavendish.  Starting in the early 1900's, however, the Gros Michel banana trees were stricken by a blight called Panama Disease.  By 1960 the Gros Michel variety was virtually wiped out.  The Cavendish, formerly considered a "junk" banana, was resistant to the blight, and so took its place by default.  But over the last decade a new strain of Panama Disease has begun spreading, and  the Cavendish is not immune.  As of now there is no resistant successor strain on the horizon, and it is very time consuming, and expensive, to develop new strains since the fruit is sterile.  So it is a good thing this bread got on the schedule now, and we better enjoy this banana bread while we can.  As a final note on primates and bananas  and baking, 96% of human DNA is the same as Chimp DNA, chimps being our closest living relatives, but we also share 50% of our DNA with the banana and 15% of our DNA with bakers yeast!   

I pretty much followed the recipe for Whole Wheat Banana Bread, perhaps adding a bit more banana than called for.  I also accidentally added more cinnamon and nuts, forgetting for a moment that I was making only a half recipe.  Then again, as Freud noted, "Accidents do not exist. They are created subconsciously.”   Because I wanted to have the bread for breakfast for my saintly wife and our three daughters, Katie, Becca, and Marissa, I formed it the night before, put it in this nice ceramic  baker, covered it, and put it in the fridge overnight to rise--a method suggested in HB in 5.  It did rise, but I am not sure it got as good a rise as if I had done it the normal way.  Some time I may make the same bread both ways to do a proper comparison.  I let the loaf warm up on the counter while the oven pre-heated, then baked it.  Because I used the entire half recipe it took a bit longer to bake.

It baked up nicely, though I thought the banana flavor a bit more subdued than I expected.  My peeps ate it real well, however.

The other assignment for this episode was the Whole Wheat Mixed Berry Bread.  Being in Maine, instead of mixed berries, which I have used before to make this bread and enjoyed very much, I used all wild Maine blueberries. I used frozen berries becasue not only is that what the recipe calls for but also because wild blueberries are not in season here until August.   (Strawberries, on the other hand, were in season, and we ate those like it was our job.)  
I  made a half recipe of the dough, and put the whole thing into the baker to rise, using a normal rise.  Rise it did, too.  In fact, when I baked it it tried to climb right out of the pan.  

We ate it with lobster, of course. 

So that concludes our Destination Bread Braid.  Be sure to check back next time when we go Gluten-free.  


  1. Loved reading this, great place and that many lobsters blows my mind - not sure about having them with Berry bread :)

  2. Loved the pics especially the one with the lobsters. Too bad to hear about the plight of bananas. Thanks for another great post.

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  4. I like how I've been officially replaced. "[O]ur three daughters, Katie, Becca, and Marissa," indeed.

  5. Great post. Loved learning about bananas. Fascinating information. Wish I was in Maine eating lobsters and bread with you.

  6. Monkies and lobsters up in Maine. Great post. All the breads looked very tasty. And what great dining scenery.

  7. WOW, what beautiful scenery. I had heard about the banana problem, but appreciate the details! Hope something changes soon. I love bananas!

    Your breads look just gorgeous! I agree with you--rising overnight in the fridge just doesn't rise the breads as much as a regular rise!!!

  8. loved the video link...who woulda thought? the breads look great. now i want some monkey bread