This bread is one of my favorite things to serve as an appetizer with some wine, cheese and olives. It's a pull-apart bread that is scented with cinnamon and cardamom and is slightly sweet, made with a little milk and sugar. It's really delicious. I got the recipe several years ago out of one of my favorite all time books, "Love by the Glass" by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, the long time wine writers for the Wall Street Journal. Their column, which ran for twelve years, was called "Tastings" and Brian and I religiously read it. In addition to writing about wine, John and Dottie always snuck in little bits about their own life and children and if you were a long time reader, you got to feel like you knew them a little. After I read their book, which is really a memoir of their life together, their love of wine and some favorite recipes, I really felt like I knew them. I've read "Love by the Glass" three times over the last few years and it's more charming and funny every time I read it. So we were stunned this past week when we read, at the bottom of their column, these words:
"This is our 579th—and last—"Tastings" column. The past 12 years—a full case!—have been a joy, not because of the wine but because we had an opportunity to meet so many of you, both in person and virtually. Thank you."
Huh? We couldn't believe it. No explanation, nothing. I haven't been able to find any information on what happened or what they are going to do now. Their Facebook page is just full of people expressing good wishes to them, but no word from them. Hopefully, they will resurface on the web somewhere with their excellent writing. Until then, I think I'll curl up with their book again and reread some of their fun stories. This bread was their most requested recipe.
Harvest Grape Bread
for a printable recipe, click here
- 2.5 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 package dry yeast (active or rapid rise)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon group nutmeg
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons orange liqueur or orange juice (I used Cointreau)
- 2 egg whites, separated
- Poppy seeds (optional)
Combine 1-1/4 cups of the flour, the yeast, cardamom and nutmeg in a bowl. If you have a stand mixer, like a KitchenAid, put the ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. It's much easier to make the bread in a stand mixer.
Heat together gently the milk, sugar, butter and salt until just warm and the butter is melted. Be careful not to make the mixture too hot or it will kill the yeast when you add it to the dry ingredients.
Add the warm liquid, liqueur or orange juice, and one egg white to the dry ingredients. If using a stand mixer, attach your dough hook and mix ingredients until blended. Otherwise, use a hand electric mixer and beat on low for just a minute, scraping sides of bowl. Beat 3 minutes at high speed. By hand, stir in as much of the remaining flour as possible. If using a stand mixer, add enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that does not stick to the bowl. Mix, using dough hook, until smooth. If making this by hand, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour until dough is not sticky any more and knead until smooth, about 5-8 minutes.
Place dough in a greased bowl; turn once to grease surface, clover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, one to two hours.
Punch dough down; let dough rest 10 minutes. Remove one fourth of the dough (or a little less), cover and set aside. Using remaining dough, shape it into about 30 inch balls, about the size of a walnut.
Arrange balls on a greased baking sheet (I used baking parchment) in the shape of a bunch of grapes. Brush with mixture of remaining egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon of water; sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired. On lightly floured surface, roll the reserved dough to a rectangle and cut triangular shapes for leaves. Position shaped leaves atop the widest end of the bunch of "grapes". Brush the leaves with the egg white mixture and sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Let rise in a warm place till nearly doubled (about 40 minutes). With a very sharp knife, slash ribs in the leaves.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until bread is just golden. Remove to wooden board or serving platter. Serve warm and let your guests serve themselves by pulling off pieces of bread.