Friday, January 6, 2012
50 Women Game Changers in Food - #29 Betty Fussell - Yam Yeast Bread
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...With the holidays behind us, our merry band of (wo)men are continuing to explore the lives and recipes of the women who earned places on the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game Changers in food. Today, we are featuring Betty Fussell, and I must tell you that we are, once again, dealing with an uncommon woman who has led an extraordinary life. She was raised in a puritan household by a stepmother who was obsessed with health and much of the cooking in the family was actually done by her father. There was little time or money for good food, and as a result she displayed no real interest in cooking until the mid 50's when she moved to Princeton with her husband, who was an academic. She had impressive academic credentials of her own, but the times were not kind to married professional women. She turned her energies to food, and, like many educated women of the time, she embraced Julia Child because she gave them something they could do at home. Prior to life in Princeton, her academic focus had been theater and she has said that for her the kitchen and dining room were a stage, the dinner party, a performance and the menu a script. She viewed entertaining at home as a theatrical event. It would, however, be years before she began to write about food. Her marriage ended badly in a very public way and despite a Ph.D, age and gender kept her from gaining a foothold in academia. She left Princeton and went to New York where she met Gloria Loomis who became her literary agent and friend. Loomis helped get her first book, a biography of Mabel Normand published. What followed is amazing. She is one of the first American writers to focus on food as a legitimate subject for scientific, social and anthropological inquiry. A complete list of the books she has written can be found on her blog which you can access here. She also lectures at museums, universities, state fairs, corn festivals, historical societies and culinary groups, and "her essays, which appear in literary journals, newspapers, magazines and encyclopedias, are written with a grace few food writers can match." She has an abiding passion for American food and that is evident in her writing.
I have chosen a simple yeast bread to represent the type of recipe that has been developed by Betty Fussell. The bread, which has great eye appeal, has a soft crust and lovely crumb that is wonderful for toasting. It gets a bit of sweetness from pureed yams and its interesting background flavors come from pepper, mace and allspice. I suggest you use the dough hook of an electric mixer to make this. The dough is sticky and can be frustrating to work with by hand. This is an uncommon bread and if you are looking for something unusual to bake, I think you will enjoy this. I doubt, however, that it will become your daily bread. Here's the recipe.
Yam Yeast Bread...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Betty Fussell
2 packages dry yeast
1-1/2 cups very warm (110-115 degrees F.) water
5 to 6 cups unbleached white flour
1 Tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon each allspice and mace
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup cooked yam puree (from 1 to 2 yams)
1 egg for glaze
1) Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl. Mix 5 cups flour with salt, white pepper, allspice, and mace. Stir into yeast mixture.
2) Add butter, yam puree, and additional flour, if necessary, to make a moist but kneadable dough. Knead until dough is elastic - 10 to 15 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Then put in a buttered bowl, cover with plastic and a towel or plate, and let rise in a warm (75 to 80 degrees F.) place until doubled.
3) Punch dough down and let rise again about 45 minutes. Punch down and shape into one large round loaf or divide between 2 buttered standard bread pans (9 by 5 by 3 inches). Let rise once more for another 45 minutes.
4) Beat egg with a teaspoon of water and use as glaze for top of bread. Bake at 425 degrees F. until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when rapped with the knuckles, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack at least an hour before slicing. Yield: 1 large round loaf or 2 smaller ones.
Recipe Source: I Hear America Cooking by Betty Fussell (Viking Penguin)
Reprinted with permission.
The following bloggers are also featuring the recipes of Betty Fussell today. I hope you'll visit all of them. They are great cooks who have wonderful blogs.
Val - More Than Burnt Toast, Joanne - Eats Well With Others, Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed Susan - The Spice Garden, Heather - girlichef, Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette - Healthy Living, Mary - One Perfect Bite, Kathleen - Bake Away with Me
Sue - The View from Great Island, Barbara - Movable Feasts , Linda A - There and Back Again Nancy - Picadillo, Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits, Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen
Annie - Most Lovely Things, Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook
Next week we will highlight the career and recipes of Barbara Tropp. It will be really interesting to see what everyone comes up with. If you'd like to join us please email me for additional information no later than Monday, January 9th.