Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Abby Dodge's Bake Together Peasant Boule and My Italian Inspired Pull Apart Bread Variation

When I first joined in the monthly Bake Together I knew that Abby Dodge’s name rang a bell but I couldn’t put my finger on the exact reason.   I knew that she has contributed to many cookbooks and magazines but it was something more than that.  It gnawed at me and took me awhile to pin point it, but I finally realized that I have been cooking with her for quite some time now without even realizing it.

About 12 years back I was going through a pretty rough time.   We had recently moved back from the UK and were just getting settled back into our lives with my family when my father was diagnosed with cancer.  I was devastated to say the least.  My stepmother, sister and I jumped in and banded together to accompany him to his treatments and doctors’ appointments.  This included many long days driving back and forth to Houston and winding our way through M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

It seemed like I was always on the road which left my husband and children at home keeping things running on their own.  At first I would come home feeling proactive and optimistic about his treatment and their results, and would cheerfully throw something together for supper or bring home something fun from Houston.

Sadly, as the months passed it became obvious that he was going to lose his battle and preparing meals became a chore instead of something I enjoyed doing for my family.   Those were dark, sad days and putting on a happy face, much less being creative in the kitchen, became all but impossible.
As in all good families when one member weakens the others take up the slack, so my husband and children took over cooking for me and began making our meals from a children's cookbook that my daughter and I had purchased a few months earlier.  Even on the saddest of days I couldn’t help but be uplifted by the pride on my children’s faces knowing that they had done something nice for me.  These simple little meals and the delight that preparing them gave my children saved many days for us.

The little cookbook they cooked from was The Kid’s Cookbook written by Abby Dodge for Williams Sonoma.  Even though my husband and children made many recipes from this book, without a doubt our favorites were Abby’s smashed potatoes and couscous salad which we still make to this day.  So, here I find myself all these years later cooking with Abby again.  Thank goodness it is now under much better circumstances. 

This month’s #baketogether features a recipe for a peasant boule.  As usual Abby encourages the participants to put their own twist on her recipe.  I changed this recipe up by adding some herbs and Parmesan and using a method that I have seen many other bloggers use lately and made mine a pull apart bread.  The bread is delicious and the shape turned out fun and easy to eat.  Thanks for another great recipe Abby, and I just have to say that even though I have known your work for years, it is really nice to finally meet you.

For Abby's original recipe, please click here.

My twist on Abby's peasant boule is an Italian style buttery, cheesy, herbed pull apart bread.  To achieve my results, just follow my easy variation as follows:  


Prepare the original recipe as directed up to the point of the first rising.

After the first rising, punch dough down and roll out on a lightly floured surface to an approximate 16" x 16" square.  First I melted 3 tablespoons of salted butter and spread it evenly over the top of the dough.  I then sprinkled mine with about 4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese and 2 - 1/2 teaspoons of my favorite Italian seasoning. Gently press in the cheese and herbs with a quick rolling of the rolling pin.


With a pizza cutter, cut the dough in six equal size strips.  Stack the strips one on top of the other and cut in 6 equal portions in the opposite direction making 36 squares.


Place the squares end to end in a greased loaf pan and let it rise for an additional 20 - 30 minutes.  I used a standard 9" loaf pan shown here.  I do wish my loaf pan would have been a bit bigger or I would have had 2 smaller pans in which to divide the dough.  Even though mine turned out just great, I imagine that it would have been a bit lighter with a bigger pan.


Bake bread in a preheated 375 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes or until it is golden brown. I misted my oven with water once when I put my bread in the oven and again after 5 minutes to make my bread a bit crustier.  I love this but it is totally optional.


This bread turned out soft, fluffy and crusty.  The pull apart (or I should say, peel apart) style of the bread made it something just a bit different and fun for our weeknight spaghetti supper.  




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