fresh herb twist
'Fresh herb twist' is not the literal translation of pane alle erbe, but it is the one chosen by Daniel Leader, author of the book from which the recipe came: Local Breads, Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers. I have recently become interested in developing my bread baking abilities, an interest fostered by a couple of recent Daring Bakers challenges. Thanks to my dear friend Christine, I learned about this book and, now that I have it, I have started to use it.
For my first sampling of the book, I chose an Italian bread that I had not tasted before: pane alle erbe (herb bread), which the author learned about in Alto Adige/Südtirol, a region in northern Italy. What attracted me to the recipe was the use of farina di segale (rye flour), together with wheat flour, and of fresh herbs: rosmarino, timo e basilico (rosemary, thyme and basil), the first two of whom grow in my little herb garden. The nice shape of the bread also played a role in my choice, since all my bread production until then had been of a rather conservative appearance.
The book in general and the recipe in particular include all sorts of instructions that contribute to the happy outcome of your efforts. I was so happy with the outcome that I made pane alle erbe again within a few days. The second time, I intentionally left a portion of one of the twists aside, because I had decided to experiment with canederli, or knödel, which are gnocchi made with pane raffermo (bread that is a day or two old) that are typical of Trentino Alto Adige. Variations of this dish use different ingredients. I did not have a recipe, so I looked around the web and, among all the ones I found, I decided to use this one as my guide. I made some adjustments to the recipe, the most important one being the omission of speck, an ingredient I did not have. Speck is a product of Alto Adige/Südtirol: it is made by de-boning, then curing and finally smoking a pig's thigh (here you can see the different production phases). It is really good and I recommend you try it, if you have the chance.
I cut the bread, 6.5 oz., into 1/4-1/2" cubes and placed them in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, I beat two large eggs with a pinch of salt and a sprinkling of ground black pepper, then added half a cup of non-fat milk. I poured the mixture over the bread cubes and mixed well. I let the bread rest for over an hour, mixing every now and then to make sure it absorbed the egg mixture and therefore softened.
In the meantime, in a small frying pan sprayed with olive oil, I cooked a shallot (a bit more than 1 oz.), minced, together with half a teaspoon of minced fresh rosemary until it was soft. When it was cold, I added the shallot to the bread, together with a sprinkling of ground nutmeg, two tablespoons of grated parmigiano, two tablespoons of minced fresh parsley and 1/4 cup of regular white flour. I mixed well and let rest for about half an hour.
With the help of a small measuring cup, I scooped up enough bread mixture to shape 2" diameter balls with my hands. I let each ball roll on a plate with flour so that its surface was coated, then set aside. I ended up with eight canederli. I cooked them, four at a time, in a saucepan filled with vegetable broth. I used a slotted spoon to gently immerse the canederli in the simmering broth and kept them there for 15 minutes, making sure the broth remained in a nice simmering state.
To my husband, I served two knödel in a bowl with some of the broth. I had one asciutto (dry) together with some roasted squash. This being the first time I tried to make this dish, I didn't have a frame of reference to assess the result of my experiment. I can tell you that my husband liked it and I did too. I am planning to make this recipe again, using speck, if I can find it, or adding more cheese to the mixture. I would also like to try other variations. Here is an update on this recipe.
This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, a food blogging event started over two years ago by blogger extraordinaire Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, hosted this week by the founder herself. Here is the roundup of WHB #127.