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Bread and Jam: Flavors to Savor
The idea for this Sweet Feature was born several years ago, on a day when a flat of strawberries and a few loaves of French bread were left over from a magazine photo shoot. I hauled the leftovers home with the expectation of handing out the strawberries to family, friends and neighbors, but when I got them into the kitchen I had a sudden and unexpected burst of creative energy and decided on the spot to make strawberry jam.
Before too long, I had a pot full of bubbling sugar, fruit and spices, and an incredibly enticing aroma was wafting through the house. As soon as the jam was ready, I ladled out a dishful and put it in the freezer to cool quickly. That night instead of the usual dinner fare, we gorged ourselves on sweet, strawberry-laden jam spread on crusty French bread, and café au lait served in our favorite French morning cups. To this day, Vic and I still talk about not only the unconventional night we ate strawberry jam for dinner, but how incredible and perfect the combination was of that jam with that bread.
Remembering that perfect duo, I enlisted Gerri in a search through our collective recipe files and cookbook collections to see what other bread and jam combinations might be as noteworthy. Our picks are based on tasting all the breads with all the jams (some sweet duty, huh?!), discussing our picks, then taste-paneling for the final decisions.
Also, with Thanksgiving and the start of Hanukkah entwined, the idea of home-baked breads to make and serve, and jams to sweeten the eating (and perhaps the giving), seemed just right for right now. And so, we offer you the tempting results of our days of testing and tasting.
If you’re not up for making bread and/or jam, but love the flavor combinations we’ve conjured up, by all means, trip on over to your favorite gourmet grocer, match a similar bread of equal quality with a jar of their best marmalade, jam or curd, and have a feast.
Should you get carried away and bake or buy more bread than you can consume, remember that leftover bread is the basis for bread stuffing, bread pudding, cheese-y, gooey breakfast or brunch stratas, French toast, paninis, croutons, bread crumbs, bread salad (panzanella)…get the idea?
Knead happily, eat thankfully, and keep on jammin’!
Classic French Baguettes
Makes 2 loaves
Simple and scrumptious: These are the hallmarks of excellent French bread. Flour, water, yeast and salt combine to produce a loaf that begs to be topped with just about anything. A fresh slab of sweet butter gently melting into the warm bread with our Strawberry Port Wine Jam are at the top of our list, bien sur!
About 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (120 to 130º F.)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine-grained salt, preferably sea salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten until foamy
That’s what you’ll get when you bake your baguettes in this perforated French bread pan from Chicago Metallic’s Commercial II™ collection.
Available in 2- and 3-loaf formats, the nonstick pan has perforations, which allow for better air circulation to create a crisper, evenly browned crust. Find it at specialty retailers and department stores.
1. In a large bowl, place 3½ cups of the flour and the yeast. Using a fork, stir to aerate and mix. Add the water and stir with a wooden spoon until the water has been absorbed by the flour mixture and forms large pieces. Cover the bowl with a slightly damp kitchen towel and let stand for 30 minutes.
2. Add some of the remaining flour to a clean, dry work surface. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dough from the bowl onto the work surface and begin to knead until the dough is smooth. While kneading, work in the salt, and a small amount of the remaining flour, a little at a time, as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
3. When the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, turn the dough into a large greased bowl, and turn the dough to grease the top. Cover the bowl with a slightly damp kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm dry place until the dough doubles in size (about 1 hour in a kitchen that’s about 72 degrees).
4. Add a very small amount of flour to a clean, dry work surface. Turn the dough out of the bowl, punch it down and knead it for 2 minutes, then return it to the bowl and let it rise for about 45 minutes it almost doubles volume by about half (not as much as the first rise).
5. Add a small amount of flour to the work surface. Remove the dough from the bowl and gently shape it into a rectangle. Using a pastry scraper or knife, cut the dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rectangle about 12 x 2 inches.
6. Transfer the shaped loaves onto a 2-section perforated French bread pan (see Sweet Success below). Let rise until almost doubled.
7. Preheat oven to 375° F. Using a pastry brush, brush loaves with egg white. With the point of a knife, make 1/2-inch deep cuts across the top of each loaf, about 3 inches apart.
8. Bake 30 minutes or until loaves are golden brown. Remove from oven. Cool in pan on wire rack about 15 minutes or until just warm. Serve warm or cool. If not serving the same day, the wrap loaves in foil and freeze. Let defrost at room temperature to serve. If desired, gently warm in oven.
Strawberry-Port Wine Jam
Yields about 6 half-pint jars
If you’re a strawberry jam fan, you’ll flip for our version that pairs succulent fresh strawberries with deep red ruby red port wine and a touch of orange. Dolloped on fresh warm French bread, it’s a little bit of heaven.
6 cups whole firm, ripe strawberries, hulled
1 cup ruby port wine
6 cups sugar
Half of a 6-ounce package (1 foil pouch) liquid fruit pectin
Juice and grated zest from one medium orange
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Have a can-do attitude? If you haven’t tried making jams, jellies or preserves using a water bath canner, now is a great time to start. Check out Ball Corp’s. website, www.freshpreserving.com for everything you’ve always wanted to know about canning equipment, recipes, and more. They even have information on canning and preserving cooking classes in every U.S. state.
1. In a large non-aluminum saucepot, using a potato masher or a large metal spoon, mash the berries to small even pieces (smaller or larger depending on how chunky you like your jam). Stir in wine and sugar; let stand 15 minutes.
2. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, bring strawberry mixture to a full rolling boil. Quickly stir pectin, orange juice and zest, and lemon juice. Return to a full boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and using a large metal spoon, skim off and discard foam.
3. Ladle mixture into 6 hot, sterilzed half-pint (1 cup) jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe jars and rims with a clean towel. Top with lids and screw bands.
4. Place jars in a prepared water bath canner and process 10 minutes (start timing from when water in the canner returns to a boil).
5. Using canning tongs, remove jars from canner; cool jars on wire rack for 20 minutes, then turn the jars upside down to distribute the fruit evenly through the jam.
6. Store in a cool dry place. Refrigerate after opening.