Tender flakey herbed bread

Tender-flakey-herbed-bread “What profit a man if he shall gain the whole world but lose his soul?”In the film A Band Called Death, Dannis Hackney tells us that the actions of his brother, David, embodied the meaning of this quote. The documentary tells the story of Death, a proto-punk band formed in Detroit in 1971. The band was comprised of three brothers, David, Dannis, and Bobby, and more than anything, the film is a story about their family, a testament to their warmth and loyalty. It’s a portrait of David, the brother who died in 2000 of lung cancer, and a moving celebration of the way that he lives on in the love of his brothers and in the music that they made together. One of the brothers says the whole story is “…strange. It’s just…strange.” And it is, but in the beautiful way that some stories are so strange they make perfect sense. David is portrayed as something of an eccentric genius, a spiritual philosopher. On the day of his father’s funeral, he took this picture of the clouds:

He saw a triangle in the sky, and this took on the significance of the three elements of life, mental, spiritual, and physical. On the side he saw another shape, the shape of somebody looking after them, their father, maybe, or their heavenly father. This pattern became the band’s logo:
And Death became unequivocally the name of the band. Throughout their short career, this name created nothing but trouble. Nobody wanted to hear music by a band called “Death,” and they were offered a contract if they changed the name. But they refused, because that would have been like losing their soul, and in this context the word “death” is so much more about soul than anything else. It feels oddly perfect that we watched the film now, during the season of all souls, the season that the spirits of the dead can communicate more easily with the living. The Hackney brothers talk about their mother and father, who gave them a love for music, who taught them to always back up their brothers, who encouraged them to play even at their noisiest. We mourn with them when their mother dies, but we’re glad to see them so full of love and hope. When Death is finally discovered after 35 years, and achieves a bewildering popularity, we feel the confusion of Bobby and Dannis, happy that David’s prediction has come true, happy to share the music that he loved, but sorry that he missed this time. They re-form as a band with a new guitarist, three men on stage, and the photograph of David hanging alongside, watching over them. I think for any art to be great it has to have sincerity and soul, and the band Death, and these brothers, Dannis and Bobby, in their cheerfulness, and affection, and lack of pretension, in the energy and the warmth of their music and their lives, have a humbling amount of each. It’s strange, it’s just beautifully strange.

Bread! I love baking bread, particularly when it starts to get colder, as it is rapidly doing these days. I love that it takes all day, that it feels impossible, and, of course I love eating the bread! This bread has eggs, butter and milk, all of which make it tender and flaky. It also has a nice strong crust, and it has some herbs. I used sage, rosemary and thyme, because that’s what I’ve been getting from the farm, but you could use any that you have and like. Or leave out the herbs altogether, which would make this a great loaf for sweet things, like butter and jam, or cinnamon sugar, or french toast.

Here’s the albumDeath For All the World to See.

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Herbed anniversary bread

Herbed bread

This is a lovely time of year at The Ordinary Estate. Each evening after dinner we walk through the balmy flower-scented air, sipping glasses of fine wine. We wend our way down tree-lined lanes, to inspect our fields and vineyards. Ha ha! Our yard isn’t big enough for one tree, let alone an entire boulevard of trees! And we’d be drinking two-buck chuck! And our boys would have dug some kind of small pit in the yard that we would trip in and twist our ankles! We live in an 1850s industrial-style house, attached on one side. Our whole town is like this, and we all have small, connected gardens. Here’s ours…

Our backyard

That’s it! That’s the whole thing. But, we have a beautiful tiny herb garden, and I’m completely smitten with it. Here it is…

Herb garden

And as you know, if you’ve been paying attention, I’m very fond of the idea of making a wild mix of herbs and greens that I combine in a sort of patchwork quilt of surprising flavors in tarts, or soups, or potatoes. Well, yesterday I made a special meal for our anniversary, and I made this bread. I shaped it in a ring to symbolize our marriage (but you could make any shape you like). As I think about it, herbed bread is a nice metaphor for marriage – sustaining, comforting, but full of flavor and surprises. As I ate it I thought the flavors were wonderful, all together, but it’s hard to pick out any one thing that makes it so. The work of growing the herbs, and kneading and shaping the bread is wonderful, fun, fulfilling work, just like a marriage.

This bread has a nice crispy crust and a very dense crumb. (I love saying things like “a very dense crumb”!) I used a combination of dried herbs and herbs from our garden – sage, rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, basil, oregano, thyme. All lovely!!

At our wedding, instead of a band or a DJ, we made mixed tapes (yes, cassette tapes, children) and played them on a boom box out of a window. The dancing was divine!! Here’s one song we had…Parliament I Been Watching You. We cooled it down with a slow number!!
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Spinach raisin spiral bread

Spinach spiral bread

Wouldn’t it be nice to stuff everything you love in a spiral of rich pastry, so you can peel apart the layers and discover it as you go along?

Let’s see…there are several advantages to baking things in spiral rolls/bread/cookies. 1) they’re superlatively fun to eat. 2) the flavors are nicely distributed in lovely layers 3) You generally have a nice contrast of mild taste and texture with more intense fillings, which is really what it’s all about!

This bread pits a rich sort of herbed dough against a tasty filling of spinach, garlic, mozzarella and goat cheese with just a touch of sweetness from the raisins. And everybody’s a winner!

I dreamed this up whilst standing on a slope of snow. My little ones were red-cheeked, hot, and happy, flying down, climbing back up, flying down again. My toes were so cold I thought they’d never move again. Baking this warmed me right up!

Here’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s Two Little Fishes and Five Loaves of Bread. I didn’t actually make 5 loaves, of course, and I’ll certainly never eat 2 little fishes, being a vegetarian, but it’s a killer song!
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Flavored flat breads

flavored flat breads

Once upon a time, I was scared to experiment with yeasted dough. I believed that if you didn’t follow the recipe exactly (resting time, kneading time, temperatures, rising time, oh my!) The whole project would fall flat. Well, it turns out that’s not exactly true. And now I have a lot of fun trying out different sorts of breads and yeasted crusts. It doesn’t always work, of course – it’s all part of the learning process.

One revelation for me, was that you don’t have to use the whole small packet of yeast in every recipe! It’s true! I like yeast to do its magical job in raising my dough, but I don’t want to taste the yeast. So I use less. Which also means that you don’t have to use pounds and pounds of flour.

These flatbreads are crispy on the outside and light and layered on the inside. You can flavor them with anything you like. I did one with herbed butter and green peppercorns. And for the other I used smoked gouda and sage. But you can use any combination of herbs and spices that you like. You could use finely chopped nuts. You could use most cheeses. You could add olives or capers. You don’t want anything too bulky, because you’re going to incorporate the flavoring element between layers, and try to roll it out as thin as you can. (Hence making the flatbread flat!). We had these with a bowl of soup, but they’d be good with pasta, or any sort of stew. Or cut into slices as an appetizer. Like all yeasted things, they took quite a few hours, but they don’t need too much attention.

Here’s Blind Willie McTell with This is Not the Stove to Brown Your Bread. I love this song!
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