Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Sun-Dried Tomato, Goat cheese, and Walnut Monkey Bread

I generally, mostly, when not celebrating a special occasion, try to avoid sugar and stick to more savory fare. Armed with a new book devoted to the non-sweet side of baked goods, I was excited to pull out some pans and get the oven pre-heated. Savory Baking is from Erin Jeanne McDowell, and I received a review copy. This isn’t a gimmicky approach of turning sweet recipes into things that aren’t sweet. This is an informative baking book that teaches great technique through recipes that are savory, although there are also some suggestions for making sweet variations. And, in addition to the baked goods, there are recipes for putting them to use. For instance, there’s Green Chile Sausage Gravy to go with Buttermilk Biscuits, Always Salad to go with Flaky Frico, and Mama’s Salmon Sandwiches for Ciabattina Rolls along with quick pickles, sauces, flavored butters, and more. I knew this book was going to deliver great results when I read the thoughtful explanation about when and why to cut butter into flour at the size of walnut halves versus the size of peas versus the texture of cornmeal. Helpful information is found in every chapter like perfecting crepe-making, methods for cooking flatbreads, and strudel dough handling. I especially appreciated the chart that shows how much focaccia dough to make to fit different pan sizes. There were oodles of things I wanted to try, but first was the Pickly Pepper Bialys. I used to eat bialys on occasion when I was a college student in Illinois, but I’d never made my own. They’re very similar to bagels minus the hole in the middle. I have made tortillas many times, but I usually make corn rather that flour. I suspected the recipe for flour tortillas here would be a winner, and I was correct. I went with the spinach version and was delighted with them. The savory pastries all look delicious, and I have my eye on the Croissant Breakfast Pie. Also, the Roasted Garlic Naan, the Pizza Babka, and the Stuffed Pretzels all look hard to resist. I might have to bake page by page through the Snacks, Bites, and Appetizers chapter with Parmesan Palmiers, Jalapeno Pastry Poppers, and Panfried Mushroom Dumplings to name a few options. Circling back to something I’d never made before, I needed to try the savory monkey bread. 

Monkey bread always looks addictive. I’m not sure why I’d never made it before, but this recipe with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and walnuts was too interesting to skip. The yeasted dough was made with milk, milk powder, one egg, butter, and creme fraiche. While the dough proofed, the filling was made by cooking sun-dried tomatoes with smashed garlic and olive oil. Off the heat, butter was added with herbs and tomato paste. The mixture was pureed, goat cheese was crumbled and blended with creme fraiche, and walnuts were toasted. Working with the dough was fun and a little messy. First, it was rolled into a big square, and the goat cheese mixture was spread over one half. The walnuts and sesame seeds were sprinkled on the goat cheese. The dough was folded over and pinched around the edges to seal. It was rolled out into a big square again before being cut into strips that were cut into little squares. Each little square of dough was dipped into the sun-dried tomato mixture before being placed in a bundt pan. Then, it was left to rise before baking. 

Of course, the garlic and herbs made the bread small amazing as it baked. And, after it cooled a bit, the tender pull-apart pieces were as addictive as I knew they would be. There are other flavor combinations offered including Gooey Cheese Monkey Bread; Caramelized Onion, Balsamic, and Parmesan Monkey Bread; and Roasted Garlic and Herb Monkey Bread as well as other ways to shape the bread like in pull-apart sheets or circles. I want to try all of those and then use this dough for every other thing that comes to mind. I have lots more savory baking to do.

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