It happened like this… I was standing on the northeast corner of Broadway and whatever street waiting to cross. I was running to shop or cook or finish some errand that must must must get done quickly so everything else can be done quickly so that I can get on to the next thing and then the next and then fall asleep so that more stuff can get done tomorrow. I was staring at a pick-up truck heading in my direction. It was the only car on the road for that moment, the only thing halting my progress, and right before it got to me it suddenly made a turn WITHOUT ITS TURN SIGNAL ON. I could have gone! I was waiting for seconds for this fucking truck to pass when it wasn’t even passing!!! My life is disappearing before my very eyes and this selfish asshat doesn’t even care.
I made a sound in response, alone on that street corner, like a groan/ moan/ wail of agony so dramatic you would have thought my child was being ripped from my breast.
But then I stopped. And I heard myself. And I was ashamed.
I’m not going bore you with platitudes about how we should all take time to smell the roses blah blah blah. I acknowledge the thrill and torture of the hamster wheel I live on. I’m a New Yorker. I’ve earned the right to complain about slow walking tourists and stalled subway trains, but sometimes even I recognize I’m taking myself a little too seriously. I guess the challenge is keeping the thrill in the torture.
I was in Fairway when our building’s gas was turned back on (see “Getting Inducted” for the whole story). Shannon texted me a picture of all four gas burners lit up like the tree in Rockefeller Center and I made a squeal that stopped other busy shoppers in their tracks. This meant I could put the ying back next to the yang of my life. I could reintroduce the ONLY thing that makes me stop and appreciate a slow moving clock – baking a loaf of bread. Alas, I was too busy with hungry clients throughout the metropolitan area to get to it until now, where everything has slowed to a brilliant manageable crawl.
It took me about a second and a half to choose my first bread back. When I was 19, I discovered Casatiello in a never-opened cookbook called “The Italian Baker” that my parents had in their house in Big Sur, California (my folks don’t bake). I was bored while they were out riding horses or taking a long hike (not things I was much interested in when I was younger, paler, and more obsessed with loud music than exercise). I did like to experiment in the kitchen, especially with baking, and this recipe called to me. It was like a meal in a loaf- with cheese and eggs and salami all baked right in. Over the years, as my baking moved from a hobby to a career, the recipe developed. This is slightly different than a traditional Casatiello, which is an Italian Easter bread and contains classic Italian cheeses such as parmesan and provolone. I upped the anti a bit by switching out some white with whole wheat flour, adding sundried tomatoes, fresh rosemary, Dutch gouda, and some comte gruyere, though I often change cheeses. This bread is open to whatever you want to throw in it.
I have renamed it “Tunnel Bread” because, though the crust is delicious, you’ll just want to tunnel your way through the eggy, meaty, cheesy insides until you’re practically comatose. It’s that freakin’ good.
And it’s not quick. It takes time. It teaches you to appreciate every second of your life because, when you do, the rewards are endless.
On a personal note, thank you for your readership and support this past year. I’m grateful to have you all on my side. Please take a moment off the hamster wheel, have a magical holiday, and don’t forget to use your turn signal!
(makes two loaves)
- 4 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 ¼ cups warm water
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- ¾ cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- Pour the water into a large bowl. Stir the yeast and sugar into it and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the eggs and half the flour, mixing to incorporate. Add the rest of the flour and the salt and then turn on to a floured board and knead for about 4 minutes, or 1-2 minutes if using a mixer fitted with a dough hook. It will be sticky but don’t worry. It’s supposed to be. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for about 1 hour.
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 stick butter, room temperature
- 2 ounces gruyere cheese, chopped into small cubes
- 2 ounces gouda cheese, chopped into small cubes
- 2 ounces salami, chopped into small cubes
- 2 ounces sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
- 1 egg white mixed with ¼ teaspoon sugar
- Beat the eggs, sugar, and salt together in large mixing bowl. Add the sponge and stir until combined or, using the paddle of an electric mixer, beat for 1 minute. Add the flour, alternating white and white whole wheat, mixing constantly. If making by hand, turn the dough onto a floured board and add the butter and then the cheeses and knead for 3-4 minutes. If using an electric mixer, add the butter and switch to the dough hook. Add the cheese and mix for 2-3 minutes. Add the salami, sundried tomatoes, rosemary, and pepper and knead by hand for another 4 minutes or by mixer for another 3 minutes.
- Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 ½ hours.
- Turn dough onto a lightly floured bowl and knead gently for a few minutes. Cut dough in half and place each loaf onto a parchment or silpat covered baking sheet. Let rise another 1 ½ hours.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg white/ sugar wash and then place in oven and bake 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 and bake an additional 25 minutes.