From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...We had an empty chair at our Thanksgiving table this year. Bad weather grounded the plane of a friend whose visit was much anticipated, and, I'm sure that disappointment is what caused me to slip into a reverie later in the evening. The trigger was that empty chair. I hadn't thought about it in decades, but for years my parents set an extra place at our Thanksgiving table. It was set it for Roger, a young soldier, who came into their lives just before Thanksgiving in 1944. A blizzard brought trains in the Chicago area to a halt and dashed Roger's plans to visit his parents before being shipped overseas. Roger had just turned 18 when my father, who adopted strays, found him in Union Station and brought him home to spend the holiday with us. We had a full house that year. Roger got the sofa and the other empty beds were taken by my grandmother and an old friend of my mother. Roger charmed my grandmother and that was not easy to do. As a matter of fact, my mother, who was not a believer, did a lot of praying when Maude came to visit. Maude, however, took Roger to her heart, and accepted as an article of faith, her responsibility to feed and entertain him. She even made her wartime version of soda bread for him. I'm told they genuinely enjoyed each others company. He spent the remainder of his leave with my family and then left for duty in the Mediterranean. He did not survive the Battle of Anzio. My parents were affected by his loss and for years thereafter they set a place for Roger at our Thanksgiving table. I had forgotten about that holiday all those years ago until the empty chair at my own table set memory in motion and reminded me, yet again, how blessed my life has been. As to the bread, I'd like to think my own need to feed and nurture comes from those early examples that were shown to me. This bread does not come from Maude but I know she would approve. I found the recipe in Bon Appetit magazine and it really is unusual. It's makes a savory oat bread that's flavored with rosemary and black pepper. When temperatures drop and snow begins to fall, I hope you'll keep this loaf in mind. It's a nice accompaniment to the hearty soups and stews of winter and if you serve it with lots of good butter while it is still warm, I think you'll be pleased. Here's how it is made.
Brown Butter Soda Bread...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper plus additional for topping
1-3/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg white, beaten
1) Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Stir butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until melted and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
2) Stir flour, oats, sugar, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl to blend. Pour buttermilk and melted browned butter over flour mixture; stir with fork until flour mixture is moistened.
3) Turn dough out onto floured work surface. Knead gently until dough comes together, about 7 turns. Divide in half. Shape each half into ball; flatten each into 6-inch round. Place rounds on ungreased baking sheet, spacing 5 inches apart. Brush tops with beaten egg white. Sprinkle lightly with ground black pepper. Using small sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch-deep X in top of each dough round.
4) Bake breads until deep golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool breads on rack at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 2 loaves.
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