Weird Crap I Cook: Anchovy Bread

Ever since Janet showed up, I have had a lot of time to spend around the house.  I’ve found that a good way to spend that time is honing a few recipes for bread and getting comfortable with the rising and kneading process.  To me, it’s amazing how small changes to ratios and cooking time can make big changes to the flavor and texture of the bread.  So far I’ve figured out a solid recipe for sandwich bread and also an Italian-style bread that’s great with a little olive oil for dipping.

This sandwich bread is excellent, especially when toasted slightly. In other news, bread making as a hobby is definitely the polar opposite of "getting in shape"

Based on how the Italian loaf comes together, it has some potential to have other ingredients folded in for flavor.  Sun dried tomatoes and kalamata olives both seemed like solid candidates, but I’ve seen those breads before.  That’s no fun.  So, I figured I would instead incorporate one of my favorite ingredients that has a bit of a bad reputation: anchovies.

Most would argue that marinated or salt packed anchovies are far superior, but I still love the salty, fishy tins of oil packed anchovies that I grew up with

First step was mixing a teaspoon of yeast with a little sugar and a cup of warm water.  The main point of this was to make sure the half full yeast packet I had in my fridge for a week was still alive and well.  While that sat for ten minutes I measured out my flour and prepped the anchovies.

I really jumped in feet first into this whole breadmaking thing; the 1 and 1/3 cup you see is approximately 1/100th of the 25 pound bag of flour I bought at Costco

Anchovies separated and draining. This was a familiar side on pizza night in the Ryan family, which is why we rarely had friends over on pizza night

Once most of the oil was off the anchovies, I restacked and diced them.  I wanted the pieces to be small enough that the flavor would be evenly dispersed throughout the whole loaf and no bite would have a huge chunk of anchovy.

Ended up going with two tins, one tin definitely looked like too little

The flour and the ‘chovies were beaten into the now foaming yeast mixture and allowed to settle under the ever-important clean kitchen towel.

Usually this batter is off-white, but the addition of anchovies made it a bit darker

After 15 minutes, I stirred in an additional cup of flour and then tipped the extremely sticky dough out onto a heavily floured surface.  As with the regular Italian loaf, over the course of the following 10-15 minutes of kneading, approximately an additional half cup of flour is folded in.

Timer shot!!! Getting the hang of proper kneading and allowing adequate time to rise has contributed significantly to the improvement in my breads

Once the dough was smooth and no longer sticky, it went into a lightly greased bowl under a kitchen towel to rise for a couple hours.  The goal is for the dough to double in size, which looks like this:

I liked that you could see tiny chunks of anchovy floating in the dough. Not sure anyone else would like seeing that

At this point, I pulled the dough out of the bowl, deflated it (or punched it down), and kneaded it for another ten minutes.  Then it went back into the bowl to rise for another hour or so.  Once it had doubled again, the kneading process was repeated and I sprinkled a little cornmeal in the bottom of the Le Creuset Dutch oven.  The dough was stretched into a long cylinder and laid in the base of the pot for one final rise.

This isn't just love for my favorite piece of cookware; Dutch ovens can be a huge help in making good bread as I will explain later

After another 45 minutes, the loaf was ready for the oven.

Nice little throwback to the poorly lit Philly apartment with that shadow. Not sure what happened there, the point is that the dough doubled again

The lid went onto the Le Creuset and went into a 450F oven.

While doing some online research early in the bread making craze of 2011, I saw a recommendation by Michael Ruhlman to use a Dutch oven when baking bread.  It immediately made sense to me since I’ve always disliked homemade bread due to the hard thick crusts.  By cooking inside the Dutch oven, the lid can be kept on through half or more of the cooking keeping the bread moist and avoiding the formation of a thick crust.  It makes a huge difference.

After 20 minutes in the oven, I pulled the lid off of the Le Creuset to check on the loaf.

The crust was still soft despite the cracks. Looking at this picture makes me want to start another loaf rising right now. If you hear about a person being killed from a pants explosion in the Poconos in August, you'll know I was stubborn about sizing when purchasing my groomsman pants

At this point it’s usually good to brush something on the crust to avoid it drying out.  On the regular Italian loaves I use a little water, but since I knew this one wouldn’t be dipped in anything I went with olive oil.  Once the surface had been brushed completely, it went back into the oven for 15 more minutes, leaving me with this.

It might look like brioche, but it's, you know, anchovy bread

After it cooled down a bit, I cut a couple slices off the end.  I was pretty surprised to find that the anchovy flavor was very mild and not nearly as strong-flavored as I had hoped.  Over the next couple days, I discovered that the bread’s flavor came out best when sliced and lightly toasted.

The anchovies mostly disappeared during the cooking process leaving only their flavor behind

The texture of the bread was light and bubbly and the anchovy flavor came through best near the crusts.  The oddest thing was that the crusts smelled a little like crisped asiago cheese when the bread was toasted.  Never really figured that one out, but it didn’t take away from enjoying the bread.

That look says "If one crumb from that weird crap touches my new 4th of July dress, I will freakin cut you!"

If I made the loaf again I would likely use anchovy paste instead of the chopped anchovies since I think the flavor would come through a little stronger.  It would probably be best used cut up and crisped as croutons, served with lightly grilled romaine and a lemony Ceasar dressing.  Sounds delicious to me.

Not sure what I will do next week, but I haven’t been to the grocery store in over a week.  Will come up with something.

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5 thoughts on “Weird Crap I Cook: Anchovy Bread

  1. Wow, that bread looked tasty, but the words “fish loaf” would makemit tough for me. Great job though, the last pic is one of my fave things.

  2. Halfway through reading the post I thought “Hmm, I’m going to ask him why doesn’t just use anchovy paste.” I feel so smart now! Love your salad recipe at the end. Sounds delicious.

  3. I sampled this and loved it and wished there was more anchovy flavor. Also, I would recommend brushing with egg wash instead of olive oil.

  4. Pingback: Pete’s Recipes: Pete’s Breads | A DB

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