Whole Grain Sesame Flaxseed Bread

Whole Grain Sesame Flaxseed Bread crust crumb

I previously mentioned the combination of sesame and flax seeds in the form of unleavened honey-glazed crackers. I always keep sacks of sesame and flax on hand to fuel the addiction to the sweet and salty crisps but this hearty leavened version is showing up more frequently in my daily weekly baking schedule.

The baking temperature for this whole grain loaf is much higher than that used for the crackers and it makes a noticeable difference in the finished product. The higher heat is more effective in drawing out flavor from the sesame and flax seeds, allowing the nutty oils to thoroughly flavor and permeate the dough.
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Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé

Pierre Herme Chocolate Eclairs

Making pâte à choux has always been intimidating but now that I’ve tried it once, I can’t wait to use it again. Gazing at the colorful options behind glass display cases in local pastry shops, I’m thinking, “I can’t make any of this.” Now I can proudly cross out éclairs, cream puffs, profiteroles, and Paris-Brest out of The Long List of Things I Can’t Must Make.

The pastry dough is cooked twice, first on the stovetop to create a paste and then finished in the oven after piping the desired shape. Choux is French for “cabbage,” referring to the irregular shape that a round piece of pâte à choux takes. While baking, steam is trapped inside the dough to create a crisp hollow shell. It can serve as the perfect wrapper for fillings such as ice cream for profiteroles and in the case of éclairs, decadent chocolate pastry cream.

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Pan de Higo – Spanish Fig Cake

Pan de Higo - Spanish Fig Cakes and Ground Almonds

Do you twist Oreos apart and eat the filling by itself? Doing the same filling finagling maneuver with Fig Newtons is a lot messier but I can’t help it. The is-it-cake-or-is-it-cookie sawdust exterior merely gets in the way of fig enjoyment by jamming itself in between teeth and up roofs of mouth. It’s nothing more than a bland delivery device for the sweet interior if you ask me.

I only want the fig filling. This classic Spanish method for preserving and spicing figs satisfies that need and soundly beats anything an automatic fig extruder can produce.

Unlike Oreo filling, which is basically shortening creamed with sugar, figs and almonds are the main ingredients in pan de higo so it also has a lot going for it in the nutritional value department. Both are packed with nutrients — figs are rich in fiber and almonds supposedly keep you smart. Compare with the effects of eating massive amounts of sweetened semisolid fat: sugar high, crash, guilt, and depression, most likely in that order.

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Grilled Eggplants, Japanese-Style (Yakinasu)

Grilled Japanese Eggplants with Soy Ginger Dip and Bonito Flakes

This Japanese treatment for eggplants turns the spongy fruit — I thought it was a vegetable — into creamy morsels that lend itself well to the simplest of seasonings. Serving as its own cooking vessel, the purple berries are grilled until charred while steaming from the inside. The whole eggplants will expand and sputter as it releases steam through its pricked skin. It’s done just as it collapses into a wrinkled mass looking black as charcoal on the outside but smooth as custard on the inside.

Slice the peeled eggplants so that it resembles sashimi or eel from 10 feet away to alleviate boredom and ensue hilarity. Depending on who’s around, reactions can range from delight to disgust, culminating in either disappointment or sighs of relief once revealed that it’s just frickin’ eggplant. I know I’d think twice about having raw fish from someone’s apartment kitchen.

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Pan Gallego de Centeno – Galician Rye Bread

Pan Gallego de Centeno - Galician Rye Bread Crust

The shape of a bread is probably the best indicator of its provenance and ingredients, short of having the recipe in hand. Shaped like a stick and scored decoratively? Probably a French baguette with nothing more than flour, salt, water, and yeast. Flat, wide, and heavily floured? Probably an Italian ciabatta, hydrated much more than your standard dough. Looks like a gigantic Hershey’s Kisses? Uh, wheat, rye, and cornmeal sourdough from Galicia?

So Pan Gallego de Centeno is not exactly iconic to most people outside of Galicia. What can I say? I like trying out obscure regional recipes.

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