Bread and Brittle

My latest news is that my best friend just moved. She was living a quarter mile down the dirt road we live on, which I must say I had grown quite used to. Having just enlarged her family, she needed more room so they upgraded to a beautiful house about five miles away. I know, it’s not far, but when you’ve got little kids, any car ride that isn’t necessary becomes less likely to happen, so I fear alittle for our friendship.

But I digress. My point is that two lovely women moved into my friend’s former house and I decided to make some treats to welcome them to the neighborhood. My first pick was sourdough bread, since it goes with everything and I usually have the ingredients on hand. The recipe I use is from the New York Times and is a no-knead version where you let the dough ferment with very little yeast for up to 18 hours, plus two more once the bread is shaped.

As a chef, it’s hard to believe you can make good bread without kneading it, nor that you can make a sourdough without a hardwon starter, but this recipe really does the trick. I usually make it with whole wheat flour, but this time I used unbleached King Arthur’s. When you first mix it, it’s very wet. In fact, it stays so loosey goosey throughout the rise that when you eventually put it into the hot, cast iron kettle, you can’t really hold it. You more like slide it in.

This recipe takes virtually no effort and though you must plan your time so that you are not asleep in bed while the dough is oozing all over your counter, it’s still the easiest and one of the tasties bread recipes I’ve ever made.

Rather than repeat the whole recipe here, I’ll just include this New York Times link and you can find the real thing.

The second thing I made was a recipe adapted from the December 2010 edition of Martha Stewart magazine. There was a whole slew of bark and brittle recipes. I combined the honey brittle with the sesame ginger version hoping to make a version of those individually wrapped rectangular sesame candies I adore from my childhood. Here’s the recipe I came up with.

Sesame Honey Brittle

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups hulled, toasted sesame seeds

Combine sugar, honey, and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Lower heat to medium high and simmer without stirring till a candy thermometer registers 300 degrees. Turn off heat and add baking soda and sesame seeds, stirring well (it will foam). Pour mixture into a lightly greased cookie sheet and let it cool completely. Break into pieces.

It felt good to deliver the goodies to my new neighbors–the act made a tiny dent in my sadness over losing the proximity of my old friend. Food heals.