Back in 2009, I watched Jacques Pepin mix, proof and bake a bread in one pot on one of his shows on Create TV – which I recorded and saved on DVR. I idolize the man..he’s an absolute demigod in the kitchen. Most everything I learned, in a high-end culinary sense, is from him, and he has been an incredible inspiration to me since the age of 13. I will get more into detail about what I learned from him and how he changed my life when it came to cooking, in another post, one most likely dedicated to him with one of his amazing creations.
So, again, on that day in 2009, I watched him mix, proof and bake a bread in a non-stick pot. I knew I had to try it – it was way too easy not to. I wasn’t sure the bread would turn out as crusty, with an artisan like crumb, as it looked, because it went against everything I’ve ever learned about artisan bread baking over the years. Plus, it was made using only commercial yeast.
Well, here we are in 2012, and I finally got around to making it. I was wrong, this bread is as close as you can get to a wild yeast like bread without a starter or sponge. I think it has a lot to do with the overnight (10-14 hour) rise in the refrigerator, or perhaps it’s just Jacques Pepin magic?
Once I made the bread plain and loved it, I knew I had to play with this blank canvas of crusty, lovely crumbed, perfection. The possibilities were infinite. I could just add cheese and it would be wonderful, as one person in a forum about this bread did, but I was feeling more ambitious. After eating some tabbouleh one night for dinner, it hit me – why the heck not a tabbouleh bread? All the flavors of tabbouleh in this wonderful loaf, including the bulgur wheat. But, would it work? Would the soaked wheat be too heavy for a decent rise?
I wasn’t taking any chances. After deciding not to add my homemade tabbouleh to the bread batter, since cucumbers and tomatoes could make it really soggy and also affect the rise, I decided to add just the bulgur wheat, herbs, lemon zest, green onions, garlic and leave out the cucumbers to serve along with the bread. Since tomatoes needed to make some kind appearance, I felt tiny grape tomatoes would make a great topping, especially once I decided to create a design on top with some extra mint, chives and parsley – the tomatoes being the fruit growing on the branches of my little trees, stems, bushes, or whatever you want to call them.
Let’s just call it free-form.
Not only did the bread turn out, but it.is.incredible, and, it tastes like tabbouleh. The bulgur wheat adds chewiness to the crumb and also binds it so you can use it as a sandwich bread. When it’s plain, it’s more of a ‘rip off a hunk’ type of bread than a sandwich bread. This is not a bad thing, but since the addition of the bulgur wheat made for lovely slices, of course I had to make a sandwich, pictured further down.
Oh, did I mention the crust? I think I did briefly, but please let me ooh and ahh over it for another second. It’s crisp, crunchy, and flaky, like a bread baked in a steam oven on a stone. I do think it’s magic, because, how do you get such an amazing crust from a batter bread that’s mixed, proofed, and baked in a non-stick pot?
I’m still flummoxed.
That being said, the decorative topping adds a nice texture too, a light crispy bite jam-packed with herbaceous flavor (that sounded granola, didn’t it?) complimented by the little roasted tomatoes – a sweet, concentrated punch, both enhancing the already perfect crust.
Okay, there is a slight caveat if you want to make this bread. There is one thing you must have, and that’s a 3-quart non-stick, oven safe (up to 500 degrees F) saucepan like THIS, to make the magic work (there are cheaper ones out there – this is just an example). People have tried mixing the dough in bowls then baking it in loaf pans, but although they may get something okay, it will not be this bread. The whole reason behind its success is that every step of this bread takes place in this pot – no kneading, no shaping, no greasing or flouring, so not using this pot defeats the purpose, not to mention, the amazing crust.
I know, it sucks to have to buy something for one use, but you can cook in it too, so technically, it’s not a ‘one use’ item. However, trust me when I say you will be making this bread at least once a month, whether it be plain or with additions, because it’s simple, wonderful and convenient. Mix it up at 2 am if you like, as long as it gets the 1 to 1 1/2 hour room temperature rise and the 10-14 hour refrigerator proof, you’re golden.
I changed the basic recipe just a bit for my tabbouleh bread..using a whole packet (2 1/4 teaspoons – .25 oz) of yeast to insure a good rise with the bulgur wheat, and increasing the salt. You can also play around with the recipe, maybe using bread flour or decreasing the water, but I think it’s pretty perfect as is. Be creative and add whatever you want to his base recipe, or just make his base recipe without any additions. You cannot lose no matter which direction you take..I promise! .As I mentioned above, the possibilities are endless!
My next ‘endeavor’ will probably be baby spinach leaves and gruyere, OR, maybe even a cinnamon sugar bread, slathered with gobs of gooey, cream cheese glazey goodness. Why not?
Brush the inside of both slices with the lemon olive oil, then layer butter lettuce, tomatoes, feta cheese and cucumbers. I really like feta cheese – can you tell?
- 2¼ cups tepid water
- 3-4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 package Active Dry Yeast - .25 oz
- 4 cups AP Flour
- ⅓ cup bulgur wheat (fine to medium grain)
- ⅓ cup boiling or very hot water
- I very large handful parsley leaves
- 1 small to medium handful mint leaves
- 4 green onions, sliced thinly
- 4 - 5 cloves garlic, finely minced (I make my tabbouleh with garlic - not the norm, but everything is better with garlic!)
- 1 lemon, zested..then juiced for olive oil dip
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- fresh black pepper
- grape or teardrop tomatoes - cut in half, seeds and juice squeezed out.
- 3 or 4 chives plus extra whole stems of mint and parsley (optional, for making design)
- Boil water, then add bulgur wheat. Let soak abut 20-25 minutes, until the wheat has absorbed all or most of the water.
- Coarsely chop the parsley leaves with the mint leaves. I chopped mine too fine..you can barely see them in the bread. This is for aesthetic purposes only, so it's really ok if you chop them finely. Chop the garlic finely.
- Pour the tepid water into the pot. Add the kosher salt, yeast, and flour.
- When you start to mix the bread batter, stir in the bulgur wheat (if any water remains, strain it out), chopped garlic, lemon zest, parsley, mint, and thinly sliced green onions. Mix thoroughly. Cover and let rise for 60 to 90 minutes, at room temperature.
- After room temperature rising, lift off cover and stir down the risen dough. Cover again, tightly, and place in the refrigerator overnight 10-14 hours.
- Preheat oven to 450F. Remove risen bread dough in pot from refrigerator. Top with grape tomatoes (keep whole if very small, slice in half if not that small), parsley leaves (no thick stems), mint leaves, and strips of scallion or chives (for stems if you want to make a pretty design).
- Bake for 35-40 minutes (40 was perfect for me).
- Combine the cup of olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper, then add some lemon slices to it. Dip slices of the bread in the lemon olive oil, if desired. Serve with sliced cucumbers and more tomatoes or make that awesome sandwich above - or eat it/serve it any way you want - it's amazing without any of the above.
I’m submitting this bread to Bread Baking Day #50 – Bread with Vegetables, hosted by From- Snuggs Kitchen, and Yeastspotting, hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast.