Magazine article Sunset

From Russia, Germany, and France Come Three Hearty (and Unusual) Peasant Breads

Magazine article Sunset

From Russia, Germany, and France Come Three Hearty (and Unusual) Peasant Breads

Article excerpt

From Russia, Germany, and France come three hearty (and unusual) peasant breads

Hearty flavors and textures unite these peasant breads from three different countries. The first, a cheese-filled quick bread from southern Russia, is substantial enough to serve as an entree.

The sour pumpernickel, a German bread that's good with soup and for making sandwiches, gets its crunch from sunflower, flax, and sesame seeds.

The dense French walnut loaf is one version of a bread often served with the cheese course in France.

Both the dense-textured pumpernickel and walnut doughs use yeast, but they are kneaded rather briefly--just until they feel smooth. Longer kneading, required to make wheat-flour doughs springy and elastic, isn't necessary, since both these breads contain a high proportion of rye flour. (Rye-based dough doesn't become as elastic as wheat-based dough.)

Russian Cheese Bread (Khachapuri)

You need a total of 1 1/2 pounds cheese. For boldest, most authentic flavor, use 1 pound goat cheese. Traditional accompaniments include parsley, cilantro, or green onions, and dry, fruity white wine.

1/2 to 1 pound goat cheese, such as bucheron or montrachet

1 to 2 packages (8 oz. each) neufchatel cheese (if using 1 lb. goat cheese, use only 8 oz.)

About 3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 3/4 cups sour cream

1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

In a large bowl, mix goat cheese and neufchatel until well combined; set aside. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups of the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add sour cream and stir until evenly blended. Gather dough into a ball and gently knead on a well-floured board until fairly smooth, 20 to 30 turns.

Divide dough in thirds; set aside 1 portion. On a well-floured board, roll remaining dough into a 14-inch round. Trim edges to make even; add scraps to reserved dough. Fold dough round in quarters; set in a greased 10-inch cast-iron frying pan (or other oven-safe frying pan). Unfold dough to line pan and extend beyond rim. Evenly pat cheese mixture into dough-lined pan. On a floured board, roll remaining dough into a 9-inch round; set on top of the cheese filling. Brush dough top with yolk mixture. Fold extended rim down over dough top, crimp, and brush rim with yolk mixture. Prick top in 12 places with a fork. Bake in a 400| oven until well browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then run a knife between pan and bread. Turn bread out of pan onto a plate, then turn upright onto a rack; cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve in wedges, warm or at room temperature. If made ahead, cool completely; chill air-tight up to 2 days. Makes 9 or 10 servings.

Sour Sunflower Pumpernickel Bread

For sourest flavor, let the beer mixture ferment the maximum time. Cracked rye, flax seed, and sunflower seed are sold in some supermarkets and most health-food stores.

2 packages active dry yeast

3/4 cup warm water (110|)

3/4 cup stout (dark, strong beer) at room temperature

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 cup cracked rye

1 1/2 cups rye flour

3/4 cup unsalted sunflower seed

1/4 cup flax seed

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons salad oil

About 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sesame seed

In a large bowl, let 1 package yeast soften in 1/2 cup of the water. …

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