Monday, August 6, 2007

All God's Creatures - Herb & Walnut Bread

Beauty is a beast. Black Swallowtail working a coneflower.

We live on a remarkable planet that sustains all sorts of fascinating, beautiful and unique species. Just think about it: lions, butterflies, elephants, panda bears, eagles, giraffes…. It would be hard to imagine the fields and forests of the world without these creatures; it is harder still to imagine a kitchen cupboard without… PANTRY PESTS! Nearly everyone has had them at one time or another. It happened to me today. I was humming away in the kitchen, getting ready to bake a wonderful round of crusty herb, walnut and garlic bread. All my ingredients and equipment were assembled and ready to go. Into the bowl, I measured the yeast, I measured the herbs, I measured the flour with all these hideous little dark specks in it. Then came the screech, from a B horror film. It wasn’t coming from the bowl; it was coming from me. I recoiled and hit my back on the sink, then slowly approached the bowl, furtively peeking at the scattered pile of flour inside. It was them, all right. I hadn’t had them in years. I’d felt so lucky for so long. I’d been smug and forgetful. This was one sack of flour I hadn’t transferred to a tightly-sealed container immediately after purchase. Some of the beetles were already dead, but others weren’t; they were still skittering about, having a nice feast for themselves.

I moved quickly after that. I threw out all the flour, then double-checked the cupboards for other boxes and bags of grain I may have let slip. There went the rice and the pasta, which I had just finished organizing the other day, right into the garbage. I took no chances, because chances are, if you have bugs in one unprotected package of starch, you likely have them in more. Pantry pests have a Manifest Destiny of their own. But be still your panicked heart. You can push back their borders with a few simple tricks:
  • Immediately wipe up any alluring appetizers like flashes of flour or other accidental food spills with an environmentally-friendly detergent.
  • As soon as you bring your flour home, open the package and do a quick scan of the contents. If you see any infestation, return the package to the store for a refund rather than a replacement, and go buy your flour elsewhere if it was a recent purchase. It’s likely the bugs are eating well on other nearby items on the same grocery shelves.
  • If all looks clear, dump the entire contents into a large metal strainer, holding the strainer above a large bowl to catch the flour as it sifts through. Any critter sightings? Good. Let’s assume, no. Transfer the flour to a tightly-sealed large container, and cut a small square from the package with the date and lot codes and tuck it into the container. Unless you have a good memory, you may want to also stick a label on the container to identify its contents. If you are an enthusiastic baker, you will have several different flours for a variety of recipes.
Inspecting your groceries right away means you can immediately eliminate or point the finger at the source, the store. Sometimes the beasts can microscopically be in the food chain as far back as the grain warehouse; you can never tell. Pantry pests, however revolting they are, are not an indication that you are a dirty cook or housekeeper. They have scouts who periodically check out your digs, then send their friends and neighbors over to literally gorge themselves like fatted cows. Starches that are not hermetically sealed are a come-hither temptation since they can easily crawl through the seams of boxes and cellophane. Some of them do look like they died happy, but better they do it somewhere else.

Herb, Walnut and Garlic Bread - Adapted from The Herb Companion Cooks


4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons Rapid-Rise Dried Yeast
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons dried parsley
2 Teaspoons dried basil
2 Teaspoons dried tarragon
(You can also use double the measure of fresh herbs, finely chopped.)
1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 Teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water (105 - 115 Degrees F) and additional, as needed
1 cup warm milk (105 - 115 Degrees F)
3/4 cup broken walnuts


In a very large bowl, well combine all dried ingredients. Heat water and milk with garlic to correct temperature, using cooking thermometer for accuracy. (It is important the liquid be warm enough to activate the yeast, but not too hot to kill it.)

Beat water and milk into dry ingredients until well blended and dough is sticky and soft. If dough is too dry, incrementally add 1/8 cups of warm water, beating well until dough is proper consistency. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm spot for 30 - 40 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.

Remove plastic wrap from bowl. Sprinkle walnuts evenly over top of risen dough, then punch down and beat until walnuts are well mixed. Transfer dough to greased 1 1/2 quart casserole or 9-inch springform pan. Cover as before and return to warm spot until dough rises level to the top of the baking vessel.

Pre-heat oven to 375 Degrees F.

Remove and discard plastic wrap covering risen dough. Place vessel with the dough in oven and bake for 30 -40 minutes or until a thin knife or skewer tested in center of bread comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove bread from vessel and allow to cool on rack. Serves 8 -10. --

This post is for Weekend Herb Blogging # 95 for Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, the creator of the Weekend Herb Blogging event.


Nora B. said...

ooohh, don't talk about those mini beasts! I've been traumatised before and have not seen them for a long time. Thanks for all the tips.

As for your bread - what a beautiful loaf. I like all the bits in it. I've never seen spicy globe basil before. I'll have to do a bit of research on that now... :-)

sra said...

I'm not sure about flour but roasting pulses helps to keep pests at bay. Your bread sounds delicious!

Sarah C. said...

Wow, that parsley is so gorgeous!
I have never seen Spicy Globe Basil. Do you use it just like you would use regular basil?

Rosa said...

Thanks for the reminder, Susan! It's so easy, yet fatal, to let your guard down against these pests. I periodically take everything out of my cupboards, spray with a non-toxic bug spray, line the shelves with paper and put everything back. Tedious, but somehow satisfying.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Susan, been there - it's really a nasty situation. Those are the times when people around me will find out I'm not that polite (many, many bad words coming out of my mouth). :)

The bread looks scrumptious, though! With herbs and walnuts it's a favorite already.

librariane said...

Oh, goodness, this post reminds me of the time my raisins were crawling. Completely freaked me out and I couldn't do anything raisins for a while...

And that bread does sound fabulous! I love trying new bread recipes.

Meghan said...


Nanditha Prabhu said...

you have a nice shot there!
when you wrote about mini beast i was reminded of my little ones , who get all excited when they spy them in my kitchen racks!my elder one weaves wonderful stories on his new found friends ...and the younger one always runs for a vacuum.
hey ! your herb loaf sounds delicious!

Sylvia said...

You bread looks fantastic. And I agree with you,our world is an amazing place, rest us to care and keep it beautiful and green. Lovely post Susan. In with four fingers now I cut one and I have difficulty yo write,but I send to you a new photo.

Shaun said...

Susan, lovie - Thank you for yet another interesting bread recipe. The garlic and walnut combination reminds me of the chicken satsivi dish I made a couple of months ago. I have not yet read any bread recipes in which warm milk is used as an activating agent for the yeast. Out of curiosity, why is it used here? I also note in your "Feed Reads" that you're reading Elizabeth David's "Italian Food". How goes it? Next on the list for me are her "Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen" and "French Provincial Cooking". I'd love to hear about any highlights - even by e-mail.

Lucy said...

Little beasties in the flour do not make for a happy cook. I'd be screaming with you!

Photo's? Divine Susan, just beautiful. The sleek, black butterfly was very obliging to pose so serenely. As I look out onto my garden the tarragon is just starting to send up the tiniest of shoots - the faintest whiff of spring is finally in the air in these parts.

A lovely, informative piece.

Toni said...

The thought of those little critters makes my skin crawl! I guess I'm feeling a bit smug these days, as I haven't had any in a while. But I really appreciate your tips on how to discover them and then basically "immunize" against them!

And now, about that bread... Oh my! I LOVE the sound of this! I'm already tasting it, still warm with some melting butter...Ahhhh!!

Truffle said...

I absolutely love your photography and choice of recipes. Those herb photos are particularly outstanding. They make me yearn for my own herb garden.

Mishmash ! said...

Coincidence...i threw away half a sack of flour coz of some small living thing! Lesson learnt, buy smaller packs that can be filled fully in a container !!:)
Hey for the loaf,1 clove garlic is enough ,though it says garlic in the title ?
And hey, u had asked me about the use of gamboge as Artists' pigment, I answered that in the comment section of toddy shop post , hope u read that ...that was a new piece of info to me !!!


Johanna said...

the bread looks wonderful - I am sure it will be well protected from your beetles! Nothing worse than discovering unexpected critters in food - I had weevils attacking all my flour which was in (cheap) air tight containers a few months back and it was very distressing to have to throw out all that food!

Kalyn said...

Great photos of the herbs you used! The bread sounds delicious too. I do hate it when pests get into food and try to keep my things in pastic containers or in the freezer too!

bee said...

that's the most stunning parsley i have seen. isn't that just the most glorious shade of green?

Susan said...

Nora - I wasn’t sure how a post about pantry pests would go over, but I do know we can all relate. You will note, I did NOT take any pictures of THEM! : )

Spicy globe is a beautifully compact plant, slow to flower, used exactly as you would any other culinary basil. I like all the little bits in the bread, too. Thanks!
Sra – That’s an excellent idea, but it can’t work for the flour. The roasting would change the character and chemistry of the flour too much for good recipe results.
Thank you, Sarah! There is nothing like fresh from the garden. It almost looks like plastic, doesn’t it? Yes, use Spicy Globe exactly as you would regular basil. It also makes a very pretty garden plant, round and full, like topiary. Thanks for visiting and welcome to my blog!
Hi, Rosa – Fatal, indeed! The last thing I wanted to do is drag out for more flour during this horrid heat wave we’re having. Bad enough I decided to put the oven on! Vigilance is the only way. Shelf paper is a great idea, but I will be sure not to get scented – might wind up with a different set of unwelcome guests!
Patricia, thank you. Sometimes I curse a blue streak, too, but I was too paralyzed with icky fear that I could only shriek. : D
Thanks, Ruhama. The bread is easy and mildly flavored. Sorry to hear about your raisins. I haven’t had anything attacking sweets...yet. Knock wood!
Thanks, Meghan. I knew you would appreciate the generous use of herbs.
Nanditha, thank you. How adorable. Two children with entirely difference perspectives. There’s something fanciful and sweet about imagining these creatures’ adventures, but I’m with your younger one; they have to take their party elsewhere!
Hi, Sylvia. Thank you. Argentina must have its only special and spectacular beauty, too. I’m sorry you cut yourself. It’s so frustrating to injure your hands. We take them for granted, never really thinking how much they do for us until we can’t use them.
Hope you feel better soon.
Hey, Shaun! I’m going to have to backtrack in your archives for that recipe; I’m too intrigued now. The original recipe called for all the liquid to be warm, probably b/c of the high flour content, to make sure the entire mass of dough stayed warm enough for a good rising. I’m guessing milk was used to begin w/ b/c it does impart a certain tenderness (although no one’s going to mistake this bread for brioche!) Since I almost exclusively use quick rise yeast (which doesn’t require proofing & gets mixed in with the dry ingredients), I didn’t want to risk tinkering too much with the rest of the method.

I’ll email you for a rambling discussion of ED’s Italian cookbook, but first I have to find it. I see her “Summer Cooking” and “Mediterranean Food,” but Italy is missing in action!
Thank you, Lucy. At first I thought the swallowtail would be frightened away, but she was more than amenable to present all her “good” sides to the camera. Her comfort in my company made my day.

I love those tenderest of tarragon shoots, so delicate and full of promise. Spring cannot be far behind.
Hi, Toni. These beasts always catch you off guard. Of course, they don’t know what all the fuss is about; they are living large and loving it.

The bread, like all of them hot and fresh from the oven, was irresistible w/ butter, but it also made a nice firm slice for sandwiches, too. Glad you like it. Thanks!
Truffle, thanks so much. The herbs were perfect specimens, just picked from the garden, which made them very easy to photograph w/out much post processing. You can, BTW, successfully grow many herbs in containers, so you needn’t wait for your own plot of paradise. : )
Shn – You are right; small sacks are the best way, but are far more expensive than the large ones. Surprisingly one clove of garlic does work for a very subtle flavor. I soaked the garlic in the warmed liquid to make sure it distributed evenly through the dough. The flavors overall are pretty tame, not spicy at all, but make a good foil for any spread or filling you would choose.

I quickly read your gamboge comment (will fully explore all the sites you generously supplied). I’m particularly curious why some would doubt its use in pigment. Before the advent of synthetic pigments, artists used to grind materials from vegetative, mineral and metallic sources all the time, so much so that the colors were (and still are) named for the original sources. Thanks for checking it out further. Very good of you!
Thanks, Johanna – I hate to throw out food, too. You can be sure that the bread is wrapped in thick double plastic, and it will be eaten long before any beasties drop in again!
Hi, Kalyn. Garden fresh herbs are the very best you can work with, as I am sure you know. Glad you like the bread. Thanks. I used to keep my flour in the freezer, too, but over time it can actually dry it out too much and affect the outcome of a recipe, particularly in cake baking.
Hi, Bee. I couldn’t believe just how green that parsley was, either. It looked fake when I cut some off the plants. The flavor’s just as intense, too.

Terry B said...

Beautiful photos, Susan! And more power to you, baking in this heat. I recently had a similar experience with all God's creatures small and annoying in some rice. Fortunately, I had an emergency back-up bag of rice that was unaffected.

MaOkA said...

miam !!

Jyothsna said...

That seems like a nice loaf! DOn't remind me of those creepies! I threw away a small quantity of flour with those in it!!! Thankfully I was on the verge of buying a new sack of flour when those pests found their way in!! Ever since I've been extra careful, as I don't have creepies around usually.

Susan said...

Thank you, Terry! I've occasionally gotten them in my rice, too. At first, you don't notice as easily as flour, but then....ugh!
Bonjour, Maoka! Merci!
Jyothsna - I was so disgusted, I couldn't help but launch a little campaign against them, but I understand how we don't want to be reminded of these things. Looks like most of us have had similar encounters.

Sandeepa said...

Thats alovely bread and the herbs in them sure make it divine. Have not tried Tarragon ever.

In India my Grandma used dried leaves of The Neem Tree in the pantry to keep a check on bugs. I was thinking maybe you know of a local herb that might do the same

Cynthia said...

You know, you know right? That I have bookmarked this page and will definitely be making this bread.

Thanks for the reminder to check our purchases. Often when we return from shopping one is too tired but this little step saves alot.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Most of my flour is in the freezer. I have some strange dream home where I have an extra room that's really a fridge/freezer where I keep all this kind of food stuffs. Pretty far out idea but the beasties are really not to my liking.
Your bread however is very much to my liking.

Susan said...

Oh, I feel for you, Susan. When I lived in NC, the heat was too much for most grains and spices, and too many times I had to throw everything was because of unwelcome critters. You're right--seal everything in containers. Now, for the real question: What did you say to make that butterfy pose for you? ;) Just lovely!

Lydia said...

We've all hosted pantry visitors from time to time. Thanks for the great suggestions about how to store flours and other pantry vulnerables. I have all of these herbs in my garden, in abundance at this time of year, so your herb bread will be on my weekend baking list.

Padma said...

thats really a very aromatic bread with those herbs, wish I could taste it and loved those tricks, I was so unaware.

Susan said...

Thanks, Sandeepa. You don't often find fresh tarragon since it wilts very quickly once picked, but dried is easily available and very well flavored. It's used often to delicately flavor fish and chicken.

Great idea about neem. I have heard about its therapeutic qualities; I even think my toothpaste has some in it.
Lydia - The herb garden goes about wild this time of year. I'm sure we all have more than know what to do with right now.
Tanna - Not so strange a dream room. Sounds like a cold-storage locker like restaurants or manor homes have - beyond my means, I'm afraid.
Hi, Cynthia. Yes, it's a nuisance to check your groceries, but it's better than a nasty little surprise just when you're feeling psyched to bake.
Thanks, Susan. I think that swallowtail made allowances for my presence b/c she liked my perfume. : )
Welcome, Padma! Glad you find my tips helpful. I learned all of this through trial and error. They are not foolproof, but it can minimize those pesky home invasions. Thank you for your kind words and visit.

Nora B. said...

Hi Susan, how's your weekend? I thought I'd drop a note to say that I have been thinking about ideas for the Food in Film event that you are hosting and I am still waiting for an inspiration. Hopefully, it will come soon! :-)

Sharmi said...

This is the first time in your blog and felt that I had missed it from so many days. I loved the herb bread and the no-Brainer bread. I have bookmarked them. Going back to your blog to check out all the recipes.

Suganya said...

Herbs look gorgeous in various shades of green. I want to dunk that bread in a hot bowl of soup.

david santos said...

I come to congratulate you with your work, very good, and to desire good vacations to you

Mandira said...

the bread looks fantastic, bet it tastes equally fabulous too.

Susan said...

Hi, Nora! Thanks for letting me know. Take your time with your entry; since I'm not posting the round-up til week of August 27, there's time to include latecomers.
Welcome, Sharmi! Thanks for your dear compliments. Archives are very handy to catch up on recently "discovered" blogs; I use them all the time. Good to see you here.
Hi, Suganya. Thank you. Soup and bread are excellent to restore one's health. I hope you are feeling better by the day.
Thank you, David! How did you know I am due for a vacation? It's coming next month. Welcome to my blog; so nice for you to come and visit.
Thanks, Mandira! How are you?! You must be all settled in your new home now. I'll come by your blog for a visit.