The Times' Food staff was taste-testing muffins from a local bakery when wine writer Dan Berger started talking about the great bran muffins he buys near his home in Santa Rosa. A few days later, he showed up with a sack of them to prove his point.
They were devoured posthaste and Berger was issued a friendly ultimatum--bring the muffins south every trip or get the recipe. Fortunately for him, pastry chef Stephanie Marchi of Ristorante Siena came to the rescue with the restaurant's version of the muffins. (Although these muffins contain unprocessed wheat flakes, they are anything but low in calories or cholesterol.)
The preceding story is not out of the ordinary around The Times' Test Kitchen. Many of the recipes we print arrive in rather unusual ways. For example, when popovers seemed a likely candidate for this feature, Food editor Betsy Balsley suggested we make them with Gorgonzola cheese, a variation she tasted in New York City.
Our first two attempts were disasters--one didn't rise, a second lacked adequate cheese flavor. It wasn't until we beat the cheese, still chilled from the refrigerator, in with the eggs that the result was successful. Adding the cheese reduces the volume of these popovers, but the flavor more than compensates. (Please see the Back to Basics column on Page 47 for more thorough instructions on baking these spectacular-looking breads.)
The recipe for Refrigerator Dinner Rolls is a compromise--our answer to a yeast bread with enough flexibility to accommodate today's busy life styles. Mix the dough in advance and it keeps in the refrigerator until you have time to shape and bake the rolls.
Use the same dough to make our version of a loaf of Jalapeno-Cheese Bread which Donna Deane, Test Kitchen home economist, bought for tasting at her local Market Basket supermarket. It was such a hit that Deane queried the baker, then created an adaptation.
Our loaf has a little lighter texture than the original. If you prefer, any standard white bread dough may be substituted.
Batter breads are another time-saving type of yeast bread. The batter needs only one rising and there is no shaping before the bread is baked. Onions, fresh herbs and walnuts flavor the version we created.
Deane also gets credit for picking up a sack of Ezekiel flour while shopping for other ingredients at a local health foods store. She thought the combination of grains and legumes based on a Scripture passage from the biblical book of Ezekiel would make an interesting bread for this feature.
The package only had recipes for muffins and pancakes, so we called Arrowhead Mills, the manufacturer, to ask their recommendations for using it in bread. The company sent a recipe for Bethel Bread, which we made into mini loaves, just the right size for smaller households.
The bread freezes well, so don't worry that eight loaves will be a problem. It also makes a nice gift.
Incidentally, Arrowhead Mills also alerted us that the name of this product will be changed by the end of the year. A new name has not yet been determined, but they do plan to continue making the flour.
Food Styling by Minnie Bernardino and Donna Deane
MINI BETHEL LOAVES
4 1/2 cups Ezekiel flour
3 packages dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 1/2 cups warm (120 to 130 degrees) water
5 cups whole-wheat flour, about
Combine Ezekiel flour and yeast in large mixing bowl. Combine 2 tablespoons oil, honey, vinegar and warm water in smaller bowl.
Mix liquid mixture with Ezekiel flour and yeast, then beat hard several minutes until thick and smooth. Let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Stir in whole-wheat flour, 1 cup at time, working in thoroughly. Turn onto kneading board when dough is too stiff to mix. Knead in more flour until dough is elastic and only slightly sticky.
Oil inside of large bowl and place dough in bowl. Turn oiled side up and let rise in warm place until doubled.
Punch dough down. Divide into 8 portions and shape each into 5x2 1/2-inch mini loaf. Place in oiled mini pans and let rise until doubled.
Bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. Makes 8 (5x2 1/2-inch) loaves.
Note: Electric mixer may be used for both mixing steps. Change to dough hook when dough becomes too stiff to mix. Ezekiel flour is available at health food stores.
2 packages dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (105 to 115 degrees) water
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups flour
Combine yeast, warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar in small bowl. Set aside.
Melt shortening in boiling water in large mixing bowl. Add cold water, eggs, remaining sugar, salt and yeast mixture.
Add enough flour to form stiff dough. Knead on floured board until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.