Taralli Pugliese

Meet my new favorite snack…

… my new favorite gift food…

… and my new favorite Christmas tree ornament…

… all rolled (literally) into one crunchy little Italian wheel called a tarallo.

These taralli, which are a cross between a bagel and a hard bread stick and which Ilva assigned as the Bread Baking Babes’ December project, are better than the taralli I have made before. I attribute this to the greatly-increased proportion of olive oil, which gives a tender, crumbly interior texture while keeping the outside firm and crunchy. Oh, and there’s a lot more fennel, too, so you’re pretty much guaranteed a superior result right there. And then there’s the wine…

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This month it was my turn to lead the Bread Baking Babes into battle, and  I wanted to do something to celebrate Thanksgiving, the holiday that many Americans consider our most important. I’ve also been wanting to experiment with dough sculpture, so I asked the Babes to make a cornucopia, a symbol of bountiful harvest and giving thanks, from slightly-yeasted decorative dough.

The light and dark dough recipes are adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman’s excellent book, Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. Hamelman also gives instructions for creating a woven version of the cornucopia, but I opted for a simpler rope-winding method. Some of the other Babes chose to weave, and the results are spectacular.

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Broa – Portuguese Yeasted Corn Bread

This month, Elizabeth asked the Bread Baking Babes to make Broa, a Portuguese yeasted corn bread.

In addition to being a terrific, dense, moist bread with a hearty corn flavor, this was a perfect bread for me this month because I was trying, in preparation for my move, not to buy any new ingredients, and I actually had some white cornmeal on hand.

The only significant change I made to Elizabeth’s wonderful recipe was to bake the bread longer. After the designated 30 minutes, the bread was just too pale for me, so I baked it an additional 10 minutes at full heat, and then turned the oven off and left the door ajar for another 10, to take the crust to golden-brown perfection.

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Brunkans Långa (The Wet Version)

I suppose this bread is a study in how it is possible to lose sight of the preponderance of evidence and allow yourself to be led in a different direction by becoming fixated on a single detail.

Although this was a perfectly fine bread, it was surely not what Görel had in mind when she asked the Bread Baking Babes to undertake Brunkans Långa, the “long loaf” from the Brunkebergs Bageri (bakery) in Stockholm.

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Cherry Pit Ice Cream Petits Fours

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.

For the second month in a row, the Daring Bakers were challenged with ice cream and cake, and I am not complaining one bit. (The only drawback is that these things are very tricky to photograph when the weather is hot, as it has been this week. And I’m not altogether facile with my camera. Which means I resort to photographing things like a carved soapstone fish on a plate as a stand-in to figure out the appropriate camera settings, while the sweet and meltable things rest comfortably in the freezer until the last possible moment. This will give the archaeologists something to wonder about when they unearth my photo collection a thousand years hence.)

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Sweet Portuguese Bread

This month, the Bread Baking Babes are smiling even more sweetly than our usual sweet selves, with the Portuguese Sweet Bread (aka Pão Doce) Tanna selected for us. I love crusty hearth loaves, but sometimes you’re in the mood for something softer, richer, and sweeter, and this bread hits that spot nicely.

The recipe allows for a variable amount of sugar, and I opted for the lowest amount, which was just lovely. The result was beautiful for sandwiches as well as morning toast, and would make wonderful dinner rolls as well (maybe without the lemon zest). The inclusion of ground flaxseed and about 25% whole wheat flour might or might not make a healthful difference, but they definitely add flavor and color.

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