Spoonbread

February: Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)

The fifth U.S. president, James Monroe (April 28, 1758-July 4, 1831), was a Virginian who loved southern home cooking. But his American tastes were probably influenced by the French when he played an integral part in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 19th century.

One of Monroe’s favorite foods was spoonbread, which is like a cross between a simple southern cornbread and a fancy French soufflé. This bread has a somewhat creamy consistency so is eaten with a spoon, instead of handheld like a firmer roll or bun.

In honor of President James Monroe, try spoonbread as a side dish on Presidents’ Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 ½ cups milk, divided
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus extra for greasing the ramekins

Directions

Grease four half-cup ramekins with butter. Set aside on a baking tray. Crack the eggs and separate the whites from the yolks. Beat the egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, stir together the cornmeal with ½ cup of milk. In a saucepan, scald the other one cup of milk. Add the cornmeal mixture, salt and sugar. Keep stirring over medium heat until thickened (about 5-10 minutes).

Remove from heat and mix in the butter and egg yolks. Fold in the egg whites. Divide batter between the prepared ramekins.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes to an hour or until the spoonbread is puffy with a golden brown crust. Serve hot out of the oven with a spoon and an extra pat of butter on top (optional).

Notes

  •  We halved the original recipe to feed just the two of us.
  • Avoid overbaking or microwaving the leftovers as the spoonbread will harden when cooled. It is best to eat this hot right out of the oven.
  • When Islander was a child, she and her family lived in President James Monroe’s home state for four years when her Daddy was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, and served in the U.S. Navy.
  • Search our blog for other Presidents’ Day and patriotic recipes.

No Knead Bread

April 27: Feast Day of St. Zita

Today’s blog post is dedicated to Islander’s baptismal godmother whose name is Zita. Apparently she was named after her patron saint, Zita of Lucca, Italy (1218-1272), whose feast day is on April 27.

The patroness of domestic servants, poor Zita worked for the Fatinelli family who owned a prosperous wool and silk weaving business in Tuscany. She was sometimes beaten or insulted by them and her jealous co-workers because of her faith. But with patience as a virtue, everyone realized just how valuable she was to the household and eventually her employers changed their attitude and converted to Christianity.

Legend has it that she was late to work on baking day because she stayed a little longer at daily mass or was donating bread to the poor. But there were angels in the kitchen preparing the loaves for Zita to help her catch up with her chores. Today people bake bread in her honor as they celebrate her feast day.

We have done the same by making a no-knead bread. With only four ingredients—and also virtuous patience to let the dough rise—this bread is delicious when dipped in flavored olive oil, toasted and buttered or eaten plain when it is still warm.

Follow the tradition of the Tuscans and bake no-knead bread for the feast day of St. Zita.

Recipe

Adapted from Sol S.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour (plus extra)
  • ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups water (plus 1-2 tablespoons if needed)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the bread flour, yeast and salt. Stir in the water until a sticky dough forms.

Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature or in a dark oven overnight. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface (we use parchment paper for easy cleanup). Use a bench scraper to fold over the dough about 4-5 times.

Pick up the parchment paper and place it all in a large bowl. Cover with a cotton (not terry cloth) towel and let rise at room temperature for two more hours. At least 30 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a Dutch oven, covered with lid, into the oven to heat it up. Use gloves to remove the Dutch oven and carefully open the lid. Pick up the whole parchment paper with the dough and dump it in the Dutch oven. Cover and return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the lid and bake uncovered for another 5-10 minutes to let the top brown. Take the Dutch oven out. Carefully dump the bread onto a wire rack to cool for another 20-30 minutes, discarding the parchment paper. Cool the bread. Slice and serve with butter, jam/jelly or flavored olive oil dipping sauce.

Notes

  • Zita passed away at age 60 at the Fatinelli house where she worked since she was 12 years old (48 years!). Her body lies incorrupt encased in glass where she is venerated at the Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca, Tuscany, Italy.
  • Search our blog for other bread or Italian-inspired recipes.

Smoky Almond Bread

November 17: National Homemade Bread Day

A bread machine was one of the first appliances we bought as newlyweds with our wedding gift money. This favorite kitchen “toy” allowed us to indulge in homemade bread once in a while without too much work. And it made our tiny one-bedroom apartment smell like a bakery! More than two decades—and five homes and moves later (so far)—we still use that bread machine, along with an old cookbook that provided a variety of recipes for us to try over the years. As Highlander had an extra snack pack of smoky almonds, he decided to use them in one of the recipes in the book. Making smoky almond bread in our bread machine is an easy way to celebrate National Homemade Bread Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from More Electric Bread)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup water, lukewarm
  • 2 1/3 cups white bread flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • ½ cup smoked almonds, crushed or chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon yeast (fast rise) OR 1 ¾ teaspoon yeast (active dry)

Directions

In the well of the bread machine, place the water, flour, sugar and salt.

Add the butter, almonds, extract and yeast.

Next add the liquid smoke. Place the well into the bread machine. Set it for regular size loaf and medium crust setting. Press start and allow the machine to knead, rise and bake the bread. When the cycle is done, carefully remove the hot well from the machine. Take the bread out of the well. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve fresh or toasted with butter.