Peeta’s Bread inspired by the “Hunger Games”

(Here is an older post that was without its recipe. So now I am re-posting with a recipe included.The next movie installment is due out soon. So start baking now and be ready!)

Have you read  it? Or have you watched it on the big screen? I just finished reading the second book. (one day, easy read). One of the main supporting characters grew up working in a bakery (Way to go!) I think of Peeta (pronounced like the bread, pita) as a type of Samwise Gamgee. He is brave, does the right thing, is confident about who he is. Here is a bit from the book. But first, a picture of the loaves of bread I made today.

a hearty bread filled with raisins and nuts..

The main character, Katniss, is thinking back to when she was about 12 years old and was starving, along with her little sister and mother. She had been walking in the rain, looking in trash bins, looking for scraps to take home. She was out behind the bakery, next to the pigs, wishing she would just die.

“There was a clatter in the bakery and I heard the woman screaming again and the sound of a blow, and I vaguely wondered what was going on. feet sloshed toward me through the mud and I thought, Its her. She’s coming to drive me away with a stick. but it wasn’t her. It was the boy. In his arms, he carried two large loaves of bread that must have fallen into the fire because the crusts were scorched black.

His mother was yelling “Feed it to the pig, you stupid creature! Why not? No one decent will buy burned bread!”

He began to tear off chunks from the burned parts and toss them into the trough, and the front bakery bell rung and the mother disappeared to help a customer.

The boy never even glanced my way, but I was watching him. Because of the red weal that stood out on his cheekbone. What had she hit him with? My parents never his us. I couldn’t even imagine it. The boy took one look back to the bakery as if checking that the coast was clear, then, his attention back on the pig, he threw a loaf of bread in y direction. The second quickly followed, and he sloshed back to the bakery, closing the kitchen door tightly behind him.

I stared at the loaves in disbelief. They were fine, perfect really, except for the burned areas. Did he mean for me to have them? He must have. Because there they were at my feet. Before anyone could witness what had happened I shoved the loaves up under my shirt, wrapped the hunting jacket tightly about me, and walked swiftly away. The heat of the bread burned into my skin, but I clutched it tighter, clinging to life.

By the time I reached home, the loaves had cooled somewhat, but the insides were still warm. When I dropped them on the table, Prim’s hands reached to tear off a chunk, but I made her sit, forced my mother to join us a  the table, and poured warm tea. I scraped off the black stuff and sliced the bread. We ate an entire loaf, slice by slice. It was good hearty bread, filled with raisins and nuts.”

Pages 38 & 39, by Suzanne Collins

The bread turned out good too. I even burnt the bottoms so you could cut them off. Be real hungry when you eat it. Fast for several days before hand. It is full of raisins, cranberries, walnuts and sunflower seeds.

My own version of Peeta Bread

Makes 1 loaf. You can start it in the bread machine. Be sure to check the dough for wet/dry factor. You want it tacky, but not too sticky and certainly not too dry. If so, add flour/water as needed to adjust.

Whisk together:

·         1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

·         ½ cup rye flour

·         1 cup bread flour

·         2 Tablespoons brown sugar

·         2 ½ teaspoons of yeast

·         1 heaping teaspoon of salt

Set these aside.

In a large mixing bowl, bread machine or Kitchenaide mixer, whisk together:

·         1 ¼ cup water

·         2 Tablespoons of oil or melted butter

·         Big blob of molasses. I don’t measure, but more or less a heaping Tbsp.

Once the liquids are mixed together, add the dry ingredients. If using a bread machine you usually put the wet ingredients in the bucket first, then the dry and set to ‘dough’ setting.

If using a mixer or doing by hand, start with a wooden spoon and mix and mix and mix, until it is too difficult to mix by hand. Cover and let it rest about 10 minutes. This is because whole grain flours take longer to absorb moisture and you might think it feels too wet and add more flour when it just needed more time to hydrate.

Times up! Now you do the keading. Using the dough hook of the mixer, start mixing at #2 speed. Or use your hands. As it mixes, if it feels too rough and dry, drizzle in a little more water. If it is way too sticky, sprinkle in a little bread or all-purpose flour. After just a few minutes of this, add the following:

·         Chopped walnuts

·         Dried cranberries

·         Raisins

·         Sunflower seeds

I add just a handful of each. In total you probably do not want more than 1 to 1 ¼ cup of add-ins. Now let it keep mixing until these are all incorporated.

By the way, I love adding left over mashed potatoes to bread. I add it in with the liquids, maybe ¼ cup to 1/3 cup per loaf. If you have some lying around, or have dehydrated potatoes in your cupboard, you can use them. If using the dehydrated, be sure to add a little more liquid to compensate. It makes the loaf a bit more moist and tender.

If you have caramel coloring you can add that for a darker bread.

Anyway, now once it’s all mixed and kneaded, let it rise, covered for 1-1 ½ hours, or until double or until you poke a finger in it and the indent stays. It depends on how cold your kitchen is. No rush.

Of course if it’s in the bread machine, you just wait until it beeps.

Gently deflate it the dough and on a lightly greased or floured counter, shape it into a taut, round shape. Tuck the sides under to tighten the ‘skin’.

Now, get a piece of parchment and lay it in a large skillet (this is what I do anyway.) Put your shaped dough on this, lightly oil and cover with plastic. . After 45 min to 1 hour the bread should be ready for baking. In the meantime…

Either put a baking stone in your oven, or use a large iron pot, like La Cruset or La Kirkland brand covered dutch oven, putting it in the oven and preheat at 400 degrees. Do this before the bread is ready, at least 20 minutes before baking so it is nice and hot in there.

Slash a cut in the top of the dough if you so desire. Brush with an egg wash. If you want, sprinkle with flour or wheat germ or bran for looks.

If baking on a stone, slide the dough with the parchment onto a pizza peal or the back of a cookie sheet and slide it onto the baking stone, closing the oven quickly to hold in the heat. If using a large pot, carefully take it out of the oven, lift the lid and gently lift the parchment ‘sling’ with your bread in it into the pot. Cover with a lid and put back in the oven. Take the lid off after 20 minutes of baking. This helps hold in the steam, creating a superior crust.

Bake until the loaf registers 200 degrees on your instant thermometer, I would say about 30-40 minutes. I cant remember because I always check with my thermometer.

Let it cool and then slice, eat, enjoy! Then go see “Catching Fire” when it comes out.

Bread Baking tips 2: digging in

(This is also a reprint and update from an earlier post a couple of years ago. Since I updated part 1, why not part 2 and think about a part 3?)

Here is where we get to the fun part: the mixing, the kneading, the rising, the shaping. Bringing about life from the humble ingredients talked about in Baking Tips 1. And I got lots of pictures this time. OH, don’t miss the YouTube video!!

Really, as long as you follow a recipe, you should be fine baking any kind of bread. Most of it is in the waiting. Waiting for it to rise. Waiting for it to rise again. Then anxiously wait, hovering around the stove, for it to bake to perfection, with any luck.

But here are a few things I have learned that apply to most bread making. To help keep my thoughts in order, I will use a standard white bread recipe as an example.

Lets see. Mix, knead, raise, shape, raise, bake.

There, that pretty much covers it. Done!

Well, okay, not quite done.

This one turned out a little on the large, Godzilla of all bread side.

So lets say we assemble the following ingredients to make a learning loaf of basic white bread. We can use a bread machine to do the mixing and first raising if you want. We can use your mixer to do the manual work for you, or just dig in and do it by hand. For this recipe and for learning purposes, we will do this one by hand. It is good to get your hands in there and feel what it should, and should not, feel like. Continue reading “Bread Baking tips 2: digging in”

What to do with fresh tomatoes: Bruschetta

No matter how you say it: Broo-sketta or Broo-shetta, it is a wonderful way to use up some old bread and fresh tomatoes from your garden.  A friend of mine said her Italian mama (or was it grandmama?) told her that bruschetta was something you made at the end of the week to use up the stale bread. Thrifty and tasty. Since I have tomatoes coming out my ears, now is the time to get out this recipe. Something other than salsa.

Simple rustic ingredients.

I am walking away from our Dr. Who marathon long enough to make up some bruschetta to have with dinner. I happen to have a plethora of hamburger and hot dog buns left over that I made for a party and they will grill up nicely for garlic bread, cheese toast and bruschetta. Continue reading “What to do with fresh tomatoes: Bruschetta”

Quick n Easy Breakfast, California style

It doesn’t get easier than this.

Only 3 ingredients, about 3 minutes…

And isn’t it pretty too?  Yellow and green and white.

To be even more colorful we could have added salsa on top. But nah…

It is a piece of toast, topped with part of a ripe avocado and then topped with a fried egg. The avocado was mashed on to the toast with a fork. You could conceivably mash it onto a plate first if you are afraid of ruining the toast, then slide it onto the toast.

But whats makes this breakfast so mega-spectacular is….it’s all home grown and home made. Thats some of our wheat/white bread I baked a couple of days ago, the avocado was from a friends tree, the egg was fresh from our chickens bum! Okay, not too fresh. I didn’t exactly go out there at 6am to gather eggs. I did go out just now, at 4-ish to collect. Here is todays haul:

The white ones are from Lefty, the large brown ones are from Ginger, the small brown ones are from Llana…

That is a bit dishonest. It is not actually todays haul. I like to collect every few days, so it looks like more. Then I am less likely to start pointing fingers with a “Alright, who’s not pulling her load” attitude. If I space out the collections, I am very happy with what I find. Instead of 2, 3 or 4, I find 7, 8 or 9. Happy, happy.

Okay Renee, I know you probably could collect about 25 per day. You should too and sell them. Start a roadside stand. Really!

Challah Bread

Now here is a holiday bread. Originally Jewish Sabbath bread, it is wonderful for any holiday table. I have the recipe here for you and you can adjust it to have a sesame topping, a poppy-seed topping, both, neither or how to make it a cinnamon raisin challah.

Festive Holiday Challah

But before I get started I just had to share a funny. Chicky-doodles is a little banty chicken that, due to her small size, usually stays away from the other girls. She got out this morning and was roaming the back yard. Seems she knows how to get out of the pen area, but has not figured out how to get back in.

Anyway, there she is, wandering around, pecking at grass and bugs when lo and behold, Ladyhawk gets out. She is a lovely Araucana and lays, get this, green eggs! (So Dr. Seuss was not so far off, huh?) I hear some flapping and sure enough, she flew herself right over the pen door. Whoever says chickens can’t fly hasn’t had to keep clipping their wings to keep them in their pen. The minute she lands, Chicky-doodles, who is a banty  and half the size of Ladyhawk, starts to run her stumpy legs right after her.

"Can't we all just get along?" Ladyhawk on the right. Chicky-doodles lurking somewhere else.

“My yard!” she is screeching, “My yard!”. Startled Ladyhawk looks around in confusion having a “who-me?” look about her, then takes off with chicky pecking at her. The whole time Ladyhawk is out, she is hounded and chased by this squat, black little banty! Poor docile Lady. She runs all over the place frantic to get away from this little hen from hell and finally flaps her way back on top of the coop. I look later and she was in with the others, casting dirty looks at chicky-doodles. Later on I will open the pen to let the others out to roam before sunset, while chicky-doodles will run inside to see if there are any eggs she can repossess or claim as her own.

Challah Bread

makes 1 large braid. You can use the bread machine to mix the dough.


1 cup water

2 Tbsp. honey

2 eggs, room temp.

3 Tbsp. neutral oil such as canola or safflower

3 cups good quality flour

1 1/2 tsp. yeast

1 scant tsp salt

for wash:

1 egg, beaten in a bowl with a splash of milk

sesame or poppy seeds

If you are using a bread machine, simply put the ingredients in according to your manufacturers directions. Mine have always said to put the liquids in first, then the dry stuff, like flour and yeast. Set the machine for “dough only”. After it has been mixing for a few minutes, check on it. Does it feel too dry? Add a Tbsp. of water and check in another minute. Does it stick too much to the sides of the bucket? Add a Tbsp. of flour and check again after it has had time to incorporate it in.  Once it is the right texture, just tacky, not dry and not gooey, let it go and come back in about an hour and a half or when it beeps at  you.

If doing this by hand, put the  water, honey and yeast in a bowl and whisk. Let is set for a couple of minutes to wake up the yeasties.

Now add the eggs, and whisk some more. Then the oil. Now for the dry ingredients. At this point a Danish whisk would come in handy or a wooden spoon. Add about 1 cup of flour and the salt. Add  another cup of flour. Then add the rest, about 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until a shaggy ball forms.

Bring this ball onto a floured counter or cutting board. Flour your hands well. (Your well washed hands, right?) Start to fold the dough over itself, kneading it along, adding little sprinkles of flour at a time until it is not too sticky but also not TOO DRY. Dry will make hard crumbly bread. Too sticky will make bread that is soft and spreads out instead of up, but it will still taste divine.

Once it is the right texture, springy and smooth, form it into a ball and put in an oiled bowl. Turn the dough over so both sides get oiled and cover the bowl  with plastic wrap. I like to use old bread bags, cut open, to cover dough with. Saves on the Saran wrap.

Now let it sit, undisturbed for about an hour. (tick-tick-tick)

The first rise is done. Good job. (You didn’t forget the yeast did you?)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough to expel some air, but do not knead any more. You want to cut the dough into 3 pieces. Cover and let rest about 10 minutes. Now you want to shape it. They will be shaped into 3 snakes about 15″ long.

Start with one, rolling it along. If it gets difficult, and mine usually does, I set it aside, looking more like a slug than a snake, and start on another one. When I have started all three, I go back to the first and continue to roll it into a snake. Are all three done?

Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. (if you have some). Lay the challah/snakes on the baking sheet, side by side and start braiding. I braid to one end, pinch the end shut and tuck under a little, then go back to the beginning to shape up that end nicely, tucking it under all pretty. It is pretty big on there, taking up the whole baking sheet. I suppose you could break it into two smaller ones and put in a bread pan.

Lightly oil the braid and cover with plastic again. This raise is called a “proof”. You are  now proofing it.

After about 45 minutes you need to start the oven at 375.

Whisk together your egg and milk. Brush this carefully and lightly over the braided dough. Not too hard or it will develop these unsightly bubbles. Like age spots on grandmas hands, you just don’t want them if you can avoid them. You will not use up all the wash and that is okay.

Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. ***I have occasionally used both. I would brush the egg wash on the dough/snakes before braiding and proofing and roll 2 in one kind of seeds and 1 in another, then carefully braid them.

Put into the preheated oven and bake about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and your instant-read thermometer reads 190.

Once done, let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then move to a rack to finish cooling.

If there was less flour, the dough may have spread out more. This is not a problem. Sometimes mine go flat more, sometimes not. If you really want this as sandwich bread, tuck the braid into a large loaf pan (or 2) and bake it that way.

What about cinnamon raisin Challah? Well, glad you asked. You can mix a heaping 1/4 cup of raisins in while it is being kneaded. If it is in the bread machine, it will usually beep at you when it is time to add the raisins. Then, just before braiding, I brush with egg wash and roll in cinnamon sugar, then continue to braid.  I might sprinkle more cinnamon sugar just before popping into the oven. (Egg wash adheres  the cinnamon sugar to the dough more effectively than butter.)

Let cool. Slice ‘er up. Wonderful for dinners, thin sandwiches, french toast, croutons, chicken feed…

Hoagie Rolls

Before I get started, did I mention that Lefty, our young hen, laid today’s egg in the dogs house again? After all, its sheltered, soft, warm and seems to be everything an egg would need. Sometimes I wonder if Jack, our dog, isn’t extorting eggs from them for protection. I may have a mafia dog. (“Pay one egg a day for protection, or I’ll break your beak”) Poor sweet Jack. If anything, he is the henpecked one.

I wanted to make something with stew meat that wasn’t beef stew yesterday. I ended up making Philly Cheese steaks, which you may have read in my last post. But I did not want to go to the store, not when I had everything I needed to make it except for the rolls. After all, am I not a baker? Should I have to go to the store and get rolls? That would mean putting on shoes.

And lipstick.

And changing out of the slacks I have on with nail polish spilled on them. (kind of ironic since I don’t really wear any nail polish).

So I am going to make my own.

a bit lumpy. Look kind of like potatoes

They may look lumpy, but they were just the right texture for the sandwiches. soaked up the juice without falling apart. Crisped up nicely when I cut them open, buttered them and grilled them in the skillet I had grilled the veggies in.

Okay. Here is the recipe for the rolls. I was a little surprised by them. I thought is would be a leaner dough. You know, just flour, water, yeast and salt. But this dough had enriching goodies in it. I made half the recipe. Here is the whole one. It’s from my “Artisan Breads Everyday” book by Peter Reinhart. (signed copy I will have you know, personalized, oh yeah.)

5 1/3 cup bread flour (really? 1/3?)

2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. barley malt syrup or 3/4 tsp. malt powder (optional. I just happen to have malt syrup.)

1 egg

3 Tbsp. vegy oil

1 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. lukewarm milk

2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast (I used  regular yeast)

This recipe calls for making the dough on one day and baking it the next. I did not think this far in advance. I rarely do. (Really, do people think that far ahead, for meals for the family?) I will put my modifications in parenthesis. And I will make it shorter. He has lots more details. I am too tired to copy it all out.

In a mixing bowl put all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the malt syrup, egg and oil together. In another bowl, combine the water and milk, adding the yeast until dissolved. 3 bowls.

Add the oil mixture and the water mixture to the dry ingredients. If using a mixer, use the dough hook and mix on the lowest speed, or mix by hand for 4 minutes to form a coarse ball of dough. Let is rest for 5 minutes.

Now mix for 2 more minutes, adjusting with flour or water as needed to form a smooth, supple and tacky but not sticky dough. At this point, you can put it in a bowl with enough room to raise, cover well with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Or, like me, let it raise now for a couple of hours.

Once you are ready to bake, you take out the dough to cut into pieces. If it was chilled, let it sit out at room temperature for a couple of hours first.

Divide the dough into 4 oz pieces. They will make 7″ rolls. Flatten each piece with your hand, then roll them into 4″ torpedo shapes. Let each piece of dough rest as you shape the next one. Then go back to the first one and gently roll it back and forth to extend it about 7″ long. It should have a slight taper at the ends.

lay them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Mr. and Mrs. Lumpy

Mist the tops with spray oil, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour. (Have I mentioned that used bread bags, cut open, make great plastic covers for dough?)

Here is something different. It says to remove the plastic wrap and let rise another 15 minutes. I guess to let the dough dry a bit. Hmm.

Use a sharp serrated knife or razor blade and cut a slit down the center of each roll, about 1/4″ deep and 3 1/2″ long. Let them proof for another 15 minutes after you make the cuts.

Place a steam pan in the oven and set the temperature at 425. I put a cast iron skillet in the bottom rack, on its lowest level of the oven. You should probably do this toward the end of the proofing time.

Put the rolls in the oven, pour a cup of hot water into the steam pan, then lower the oven temperature to 400. (I sprayed water on the rolls as they went in).

Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake another 10-20 minutes or until the rolls are a light golden brown and their internal temp. is 190 degrees.

Cool on a rack 1 hour before slicing.

You  can use some whole wheat flour in place of some bread flour if you want. Just increase the water by about 1 Tbsp. for every 7 Tbsp. of whole grain flour you substitute.

Come aaaand get it!


ta-da! ta-da! ta-da! 1st gluten free loaf of bread a sucess ta-da!

Ah-ha, I have conquered my fear! I have scaled the highest peak, braved the monsters under the bed, sneered in the face of failure. Even missing the 1/2 cup brown rice flour I was supposed to put in there, my first loaf of gluten free bread came out a success!

Gf loaf #1

(Have you even gone to use an ingredient, or maybe to put it away, noticed it was not open yet and have that “oh-oh” moment? Like when the brown rice bag wasn’t even open and the bead recipe called had for it.)

#2 is about to come out of the oven. I will include that picture when it is done, cooled and I have tasted it. Not that I am a GF bread connoisseur. The only reason I am making it is I have had several people ask me about it due to their special dietary needs. I put this off for a looooong time! Bread without wheat flour, bahh! Thats like wine without grapes, bubble without gum…But I yield to the needs of my friends.

You may remember my brief interlude with gluten free eating. I didn’t even give it a chance. But I have faced my fears and finally made bread with rice and sorghum flours among other things. As you can tell, I am very excited. Now I better get back to the oven and take out loaf #2.

gluten free loaf #2


Gosh, this looks a lot like loaf #1 doesn’t it? Hmm. Very strange. Well, there you go. I have one other recipe I am going to try on sat. and that one includes sunflower seeds for crunch and flavor.

Wish me luck!

Oh yeah, we got “Hugo” in the mail today. Can’t wait to watch it tonight. Will make special popcorn and everything. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

“Fast Food Fridays”, and Italian Rolls

Well it’s that time of year again. Flowers around here are all in bloom, cats are howling in the alleyways and chickens are laying more eggs. It’s almost spring and as far as southern California is concerned, it is well into spring. And this means…Lent.

I didn’t do a post on Ash Wednesday, but here it is Lent again. For many Christians and especially Catholics, this means times of fasting, extra prayers and some sacrifice as a means of denying our physical side in an attempt to strengthening our spiritual side and, hopefully, finding ourselves in a closer walk with God.

Along those lines, our church has, on each Friday night during Lent, the Stations of the Cross and “Fast Food Friday”. This by no means has anything to do with golden arches or drive through windows. But as a way of “fasting” and abstinence, we gather together and have homemade meatless soup and home baked bread. Tonight it is Pasta Fagioli (pronounced “fazool”) and Italian dinner rolls. Guess who is making the rolls. Well, aren’t you the smart one! I am making lots of them and a friend is making some as well. I will try to recruit some helpers tonight. But for those who want to make some crispy dinner rolls of their own at home, here is how I go about it. Continue reading ““Fast Food Fridays”, and Italian Rolls”

Using Yeast in baking

Just a quick note or two on using yeast in baking.

First, it is cheaper to buy it in bulk and it freezes beautifully.

Second, It does not like to be too hot. If the liquid you add is much over 110 degrees, they will die a deadly death. Their little screams are beyond human hearing, but hot water kills them. If you need to, toss a small ice cube in your liquid before adding it to your yeast.

I generally add the yeast to the flour and sugars, whisking them all together with the salt and any other seasonings. Then I stir in all the liquids together, whisk a bit and let the standing mixer do the rest.

Generally you let dough raise once, press it down, shape it and let it raise again just before baking. The pressing down redistributes the yeasties, giving them new feeding ground while letting you shape the dough into a loaf or rolls or whatnot.

If worse comes to worse and you let the dough rise too much the second time, maybe you fell asleep or stayed blogging too long, you can redistribute them again by punching down and reshaping your dough, putting it back in the pan and covering it. After the 3rd time though there is a chance they can run out of food.I have never tried more than 3 raises.

When you first put the shaped loaf  in the oven, the sudden heat creates a frenzy of activity,  called a bloom. And that’s what your bread does, it blooms up, then the crust hardens as it gets hotter and hotter. The yeast gives its life for your bread. They are your buddies, laying asleep in their little jars and packets, waiting for their prince to come and wake them up. (so to speak). I buy the 1 lb. bags at Costco, freeze half and put the other half in a glass jar with a sealed lid to keep in the fridge. Its half the price of those little bread machine yeast jars, and the same type of stuff.

Do not fear the yeast..