Asparagus Bread-Success!

I was enjoying my weekend pulling out weeds from my grass when I was wondering to myself what if all these weeds were something else green? Like oh say, asparagus! Oh my I would be in heaven. Long stalks of green yumminess. I enjoy this time of year when local asparagus is plentiful and easy to find and can be used in so many recipes like stir fries, sautés, soups, salads and well just about anything. With the cooler weather still lingering I was thinking I should make something warm like a soup or a casserole with my asparagus. But then I thought why not use it in bread? I love making bread and it would be a perfect treat to enjoy with dinner or on the weekends for lunch or just a nice little snack. Now at first I was thinking a quick bread, like muffins or cornbread but I changed my mind as I haven’t made a yeast bread well since Easter so I thought I would give it a try.
I was thinking that something like a focaccia bread would work well as not to overwork the dough. Using the asparagus in the dough would make it a little tricky but I am up for the challenge. I also wanted to give it some other flavours and textures so sundried tomatoes in oil is what I pulled out of the refrigerator. It’s so much fun to have pantry staples to incorporate with fresh produce.
I know some people don’t enjoy using yeast and making bread. I find it very relaxing and I can do more than the bread baking at the same time. What do I mean? Well, simply put as the dough rises I try to do something else, like pull more weeds in my case! There are different yeasts you will find in the grocery store and they are sold in different packages. I like to use Traditional active dry yeast, which look like little balls of yeast. I find that this yeast produces a great flavour and texture to breads. There are also a few other types of yeast available like quick rise or rapid rise yeast, which reduces your rising times and bread machine yeast which is pretty much self explanatory. Quick rise yeast is a bit finer in texture than traditional yeast and I find bread machine yeast is further smaller in size. You can purchase any of the yeasts in small glass jars or packets that are usually sold in threes. If you don’t make a lot of bread the latter is the way to go. I purchase the glass jars because homemade pizza dough is a staple around here so I go through it often enough to warrant the purchase. One packet of yeast is equivalent to 2 ¼ tsp (11 mL). I’ve measured it out so that you can use either for the recipe.
Now back to the asparagus, cooking the asparagus a bit first helps remove some of its water and will produce a nice textured bread. You can boil it, steam it or grill it for this recipe. But whatever you do, season it! Toss it with a little salt and pepper and taste it, because you know if it tastes good on it’s own it will taste great in the bread.
I was so excited to make this bread I posted it on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. How much fun to let people know what I was working on and get them excited too. And you know what? It worked! I had people wanting to know how the bread turned out-almost suspenseful. Kind of funny in a way, that we’ve come so far along in technology we use it to tell the world what we are doing. When back when my grandmother would make bread if you happened to stop by you would get a loaf and then later if you were lucky enough to get the call you would race over for some warm bread and butter. Oh my mouth waters as I think about it! Well I didn’t have anyone pop by for a piece of bread, which I think looks pretty good and tastes yummy too. So I’ll continue to enjoy my bread alongside my soup on this cool evening and hope for greener stalks of asparagus to come shooting up through my lawn and overpower the weeds! There is always next spring.
Asparagus Sundried Tomato Bread

By making small pieces of the dough and placing them in the pan, we create pull apart bread that your family will love. I used a springform pan to make it easier to pop the bread out of the pan, but if well oiled the bread will come out easily of any cake pan or pie plate.

Preparation Time: 20 minutesCook Time: 35 minutes

8 oz (250 g) fresh asparagus (about ½ a bunch)
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (175 mL) hot water
1 pkg (7 g) traditional active dry yeast or 2 ¼ tsp
2 tbsp (25 mL) sundried tomato oil
2 tbsp (25 mL) finely chopped sundried tomatoes
2 ¼ cups (550 mL) all purpose flour (approximately)
1/3 cup (75 mL) shredded Gruyere cheese

Trim tough ends from asparagus. In saucepan or deep skillet, bring 4 cups (1 L) water to boil. Add asparagus and blanch for 3 minutes or until bright green and tender crisp. Drain and chill with cold water. Chop asparagus and toss with half of the salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in water and sprinkle with yeast. Let stand for about 10 minutes or until frothy. Stir in oil. Add asparagus and sundried tomatoes and stir until combined. Add 2 cups (500 mL) of the flour and remaining salt; stir until soft ragged dough forms. Turn out onto floured surface and gently knead remaining flour into dough until smooth. Place in oiled bowl; cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Gently turn out dough onto floured surface. Divide dough into 2 pieces and roll each piece into 16 inch (40 cm) long ropes. Using a knife, cu dough into about 1 ½ inch (3.5 cm) irregular pieces and place into oiled 8 inch (1.5 L) round springform or baking pan, covering pan evenly. Cover and let rise for a bout 30 minutes or until doubled

Sprinkle with cheese and bake in 400 F (200 C) oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Makes 8 servings.

Grilled Asparagus Option: Omit blanched asparagus step and instead toss trimmed asparagus with 1 tbsp (15 mL) of extra virgin olive oil. Place asparagus on greased grill over medium high heat and grill, turning occasionally for about 8 minutes or until golden brown and tender crisp. Remove stalks to cutting board and chop.


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