News From the Test Kitchen: Play dough mixes and matches

The schedule didn’t have another week of dough on it for the test kitchen. But the schedule ended up crumpled into a ball once we went to visit our latest WeBromance, The Butte Creek Mill. With all that flour we had to get into the test kitchen and have some fun.

I love the experimentation of dough, which is why I return to it often. The dough itself is alive and changing each time, with so many types of flour combinations to be explored. Beyond that are the expressions: pizza dough, pasta, tortillas, pastries, croissants, buns, rolls and of course, my favorite: breads. Then finally there’s the flavor combinations in an inexhaustible arsenal of options. We’ve made some great breads, but haven’t scratched the surface of what we can do with dough.

This week we’ll push forward even further into the unknown. We started with the end in mind however. Unlike past test kitchen’s where we decide who will get a surprise package of what we make in the mail through the online debate, this time we awarded the winner from the start.

The Bride and I have a penpal named Sue. I know it sounds old fashioned, but I didn’t know Sue when she decided to write me a letter while I was in rehab. She knew of me and simply felt a spiritual prodding to encourage me. Her letter arrived at a time of deep spiritual challenge for me — my “dark night of the soul.” We started exchanging letters. When The Bride decided to get sober, I recommended she meet Sue. They got together and well, we’ve all been friends ever since. Except to this day, I still haven’t met Sue. Our penpal relationship has extended from pen and paper to emails, but it remains and important, distant friendship.

After one of our posts on facebook, Sue responded that she simply couldn’t wait for the day she could try my bread, and well… that’s all it took. She’s this week’s Test Kitchen winner and this first bread of the week, was created in her honor. I just hope it doesn’t suck.

The Bride tells me often to keep it simple. I’m often mixing flavors in ways that challenge her less than exuberant desire to try new things. “Can’t you just make wheat bread,” she asked me a couple of weeks ago (which I did, just to show I’m not obtuse).

But for this week, it’s a back to the wild west of combinations. I call this one Floral Seven Grain Bread, because it has so many wonderful scents it’s like a flower garden.

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I combined rosemary, roasted garlic, parsley and blackberries with seven grain flour to make this bread.

The dough has a pretty purple hue with flecks of fragrant spices.

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And I created a couple of different styles of expression, including a boule’ and a pan with braided top. One I drizzled with blackberries for extra flavor and the other I dusted with flour.

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The key is to allow subtle flavors to merge. If anyone overpowers, I’ll have missed my mark. But as the bread hits the oven, even as I write this, I am cautiously optimistic. Either way, Sue will have to be the final judge.

I just hope its as delightful as Sue’s friendship has been for The Bride and I.

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