Dilly Bread / Haters to the Left


You and Josh are really putting me on the defensive about this use of diet ginger ale! In all honesty, it is a convenience factor more than anything. I almost never have ginger on hand, but I usually have diet ginger ale. I will admit that I have had varying results depending on the brand I have used, settling on Canada Dry to have the best flavor. Can I still taste the aspartame? Yes, but I think this isn’t nearly as dominating as regular Canada Dry is when I use it for the cocktail. Of course, this is my word against those of a nutritionist and an ex-bartender, so who am I to say what makes a better drink. As Kenneth says: haters to the left.

I’m sorry to hear about your car troubles. However, it sounds like you aren’t alone judging from Josh’s car battery problems and Jessica’s tire. In fact, I had to get my entire A/C system in my car replaced a few weeks ago. Not cheap. But the 110 degree weather here in Texas demanded it. My car is 10 years old though, coming up on 100k miles so I guess it’s not so bad.

Your Banh Mi looks very appetizing. I did indeed use pork when I made it. What would happen is that I would buy a pork shoulder, cook it, and freeze it in portions for later use. Like French crepes, Bahn Mi is made for putting leftovers to good use. I am picky about my baguette that I use though (are you surprised?). The Spilled Milk episode on the subject calls for a soft baguette, but I prefer one that has a bit of tooth to it. I just cut it in half and scoop out the bread inside the crust and replace it with filling. In fact, I used to get the baguette from Independent Bakery (I’m still going through morning roll withdrawals).  I also like garlic aioli (or garlic mayonnaise, whatever you want to call it!) on mine, similar to what I use for chicken bouillabaisse.

Since we’re on the subject of bread, I thought it might behoove me to write about a recipe which is cherished within my family: dilly bread. Allegedly this bread became mainstream after winning the 1960 Pillsbury Bake-Off contest. A similar recipe to the one my family has recorded appears in James Beard’s Beard on Bread, where he describes this bread as having “a pleasant ‘nose'”. Here’s another fun fact: this was the very first bread I ever made. Dilly bread has a wonderful savory taste and a soft texture. Because it is essentially a  batter bread, it was hard for me to figure out how to keep the bread from collapsing after coming out of the oven. This problem has plagued me for about 3 years, and it still happens on occasion. The tricks which I have found to give consistently good, sturdy rises are: use large-curd cottage cheese, use less yeast, and add the flour incrementally. The yeast and flour adjustments I can understand. Less yeast prevents over fermentation and the formation of unstable air pockets which are likely to burst during the oven spring (the rapid rise that occurs when you place bread in the oven). Incrementally adding flour forms better gluten networks and thus provides better structure. But, I have no idea why using large curd cottage cheese works better than small curd. That I discovered this trick was a product of accident.

Dilly Bread
If using fresh dill weed, use 1 teaspoon in place of the tablespoon of dried dill weed. Also, avoid making this dough in the food processor. The blades end up eviscerating the cottage cheese curds, and I have found that this ruins the texture of the bread. This bread does not keep for more than a few days due to the high dairy content, so be sure to eat it quickly.

Yields 1 loaf

  • 1 t yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110-115F)
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T butter, melted
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T dill seed
  • 1 T dry dill weed
  • 1 cup (1/2 lb) large-curd cottage cheese, room temperature
  • 288g (2 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour


  1. Gently dissolve the yeast in the water in a small bowl. Separately, in a large bowl, combine the onion, sugar, egg, and butter. Add baking soda, salt, dill seed and dill weed. Stir in the yeast and cottage cheese until fully incorporated. In increments of 2 tablespoons, add the flour and mix until no streaks remain. The dough will remain sticky after all of the flour has been added.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a well greased bowl to rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour. Don’t rush this step. If your bread isn’t rising as quickly as you hoped, you can place it in an oven that has been briefly preheated until it reaches 90 degrees (don’t keep your oven on with the bowl inside!).
  3. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350F. Transfer the dough to a well greased loaf pan. Let the dough rise until it has about doubled in size. If you shake the pan gently and you see that your dough has collapsed a bit, then your dough has over risen. To remedy this, just gently stir it, reform it in the pan, and then let rise again. Cook the bread until the crust has browned on top and makes an almost hollow sound when you thump it, about 40-45 min. If the top threatens to burn, tent it with a sheet of aluminum foil. Let cool about 15 min before removing the bread from the loaf pan. Top with melted butter and a sprinkling of kosher salt.

Next time I write to you, I will be in sunny San Diego. Maybe when you have a reprieve from PhD things you and Josh can come visit.

Your friend,


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