Pane al Pomodoro / Don’t Call it a Comeback

Courtney,

You thought your delay in responding was bad? Here I am getting back to you roughly 3 weeks later. We’re PhD students, we have lots to do. Classes are alright; the only course that I’m excited about is a reading course with a professor who does compressed sensing. It’s one of those subjects in math where you just look at some of the results and it looks like black magic in the sense that it’s incredibly powerful. Loosely speaking, it deals with signal compression (read: compressing files) and signal reconstruction.

Your chocolate looks like the real deal. I never tried any South American specialty chocolate when I was in Peru, but I imagine it’s really good. 8 eggs and 4 cups of sugar though? I don’t know if I could handle that. I’m chuckling at your meticulousness in following the recipe. I went to a culinary school while I was in Peru for a month and of course the recipes I got aren’t translated so it’s always a slight headache to read them not only in Spanish but also with weird measurements. For example, there’s this recipe for Ocopa Arequipeña, which is like boiled potatoes with an animal cracker, cilantro, and cheese sauce over it that calls for two “bolsitas”/”little bags” of animal crackers. I know this sounds a little childish, but it’s actually quite good! I won’t list it here because I haven’t made it since returning to the States, but maybe in another post I will.

To be honest, I haven’t been making anything too intricate while I’ve been in San Diego. I usually don’t want to spend the time making lunch so I just have a tomato with some olive oil and salt and pepper on it with a few shavings of Parmesan and maybe a small salad. The produce is good enough here to eat by itself. I already told you via text, but I have a garden space with two tomato plants, a tangerine tree, and miscellaneous herbs. One of the tomato plants has a whopping 12 tomatoes on it right now while the other one is forgoing fruit for pure growth (it’s almost taller than I am!).

But speaking of frying your brownies, I was making some pan seared chicken breasts and I wound up with a significant portion of meat from the chicken tenderloins I got after trimming the breasts. I didn’t want to throw them away and I had some veggie oil leftover from my many failed attempts to try and make mayonnaise (I can do it now) so I decided to make chicken nuggets. Call me a 5 year old, but they came out so good. It’s the first time I’ve ever fried anything, apart from my failed attempt at making doughnuts (pro tip: do NOT do a cold rise for doughnut dough. It’s a warm rise only…).

Before leaving for San Diego, my undergraduate adviser gave me a handful of bread books. One of them is The Italian Baker by Carol Field. There’s one recipe I’ve made a couple of times out of it called Pane al Pomodoro AKA Tomato Bread. It’s one of those old books like Julia’s Mastering where all of the illustrations are hand drawn. This bread is very savory and has, unlike your brownies, no added sugar in it! I made two slight modifications to it where I add chopped rosemary and fresh oregano because it feels right. Here are the deets:

Pane al Pomodoro
Yields 1 loaf

Ingredients

A very unaesthetic picture of tomato bread. Brown backdrops with brownish/red bread ain't the way to go, but that's all I got folks.
A very unaesthetic picture of tomato bread. Brown backdrops with brownish/red bread ain’t the way to go, but that’s all I got folks.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 T oil from sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Leaves from ~5 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
  • Small handful of fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 1/2 t (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup water, warm
  • 3 3/4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 egg white, beaten

Directions

  1. Using a bowl for a stand mixer, stir in yeast and 1/4 cup of the warm water and let sit for 10 min until creamy. Meanwhile, sautée onion and garlic lightly, and cool to room temperature.
  2. With the paddle attachment, stir in remaining 1 cup warm water with the garlic, onion, oil, herbs, and finally the chopped tomatoes. Stir in flour and salt and mix until just combined. Switch to dough hook and knead until soft and elastic, about 3 minutes.
  3. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and gently shape the dough into a tight ball. Place on an oiled baking sheet and wrap with plastic wrap. Let rise again until double in bulk, about 45-55 minutes.
  5. 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 425F. Right before the bread goes in the oven, score the bread with a razor by slashing an X in the loaf. Don’t press down when you do this, just lightly pull the blade tangent to the dough’s surface. Put the bread in the oven for 10 minutes, misting the oven with water 3 times during this interval.
  6. Drop the oven temp to 375F and bake for another 25-30 min, or until the loaf sounds hollow when you thump it in the middle (pro tip: this is a good trick for testing done-ness for many kinds of bread).

My next post should be more interesting. I’m in the process of joining a CSA here, so I should be getting some killer produce weekly. Stay tuned for more.

Best,
Eric

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