Last night was one of those perfect winter weeknights. It was freezing rain outside, and I was INSIDE baking, watching 30 Rock, sitting by the fire and sipping wine. What was I baking? Blue Cheese Pecan Bread! I saw this recipe on Leite's Culinaria (an exerpt from this book), and it was like fate since I had blue cheese and pecans already...on the same shelf in the fridge, no less! Plus, it's not a yeast bread, but it's not quite a quick bread. Yeast breads scare me a little, but I want to graduate from quick breads. This required some kneading and shaping, but no rising. rising is the scary part.
Blue Cheese Pecan Bread
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-inch pieces, chilled
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like oatmeal. Add the cheese and nuts, and toss to distribute in the flour.
3. Make a well in the center and add 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk and the egg. Stir with a sturdy spoon until you have a shaggy dough.
4. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently to bring together. Form into a slightly flattened 6-inch round. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with the remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk and sprinkle with pepper. With a serrated knife, cut a shallow X in the top of the loaf.
5. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C) and bake for 35 minutes, or until the loaf is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack
It took almost 15 minutes longer to bake than the recipe said...maybe I didn't flatten it enough or something. Anyway, It turned out good! The crust is very nice...I guess because of all the sugar in it...it was crumbly and sweet. The bread itself is a nice combo of tangy, sweet, salty and nutty. I spread some spun honey on it and had it with a colorful salad.
The salad? Well I was inspired by a salad I had at Pi, a pizza place here in the Lou. The salad had little matchsticks of raw beets on it. I had never had beets raw, and they are great this way...crunchy, sweet, earthy, RED. I used my mandoline to make the little matchsticks, and mixed them with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, some juice from a clementine, salt and pepper. I put this dressing/beet mixture on top of some greens along with radishes and clementine segments. A very nice winter salad, indeed. The wine I had with it was Columbia Crest Two Vines 10 White Wine- a blend which went really nicely with the bread. I am normally a red wine gal, but the recipe suggested having the bread with a white. This one is quite fruity and flavorful for a white. I am adding it to my list of "crowd-pleaser" wines.