Someone asked me recently if I save posts for certain times when I think they’ll be more popular. I said that I didn’t; I just post when I have something ready, although I usually have a bit of a queue to choose from. But then I realized that I had just made green bread, and of course it’s more fun to look at green bread near the middle of March than it is in February!
The color comes from cooked spinach, which I recently said that I don’t like, but when I said that, I meant I don’t like it plain. I like it quite a bit when it’s mixed in with dough. Seriously, what doesn’t get better when you mix it with flour?
(I didn’t bake it like this; I was just enjoying the caterpillar resemblance.)
The finely chopped cooked spinach is kneaded into fairly traditional bread dough, which is then treated like any other bread – it rises, is shaped, proofed, baked, and cooled. The result is a spring green, pleasantly spinachy, tender loaf of bread, which can then be made into the best egg salad sandwich ever, or a mean grilled cheese. Which would be perfect served along some green beer for St. Patrick’s Day, don’t you think?
One year ago: Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spinach Bread (adapted from Ultimate Bread, by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno)
You could probably use frozen spinach for this instead of cooking your own. The instructions are for a long loaf, but you can make this bread into pretty much any shape you want.
5 ounces spinach
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3½ cups (17.5 ounces) unbleached flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup water, room temperature
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1. Place cleaned spinach leaves and any water that clings to them in a nonreactive soup kettle. (If you’re using pre-washed bagged spinach, add 2 tablespoons water to the pot). Cover and cook over medium-high heat until spinach wilts, 2-4 minutes. Cool spinach slightly and squeeze out the excess liquid. Chop very finely, or puree in a food processor.
2. Mix the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn machine to low and slowly add the water, then the spinach and oil. When dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until dough is smooth and satiny, stopping machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes. If after 5 minutes, the dough sticks to the sides of the bowl, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
3. Lightly oil a large bowl. With floured (or lightly oiled) hands, shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to the bowl, rolling it to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1½ hours. Press to deflate, then let rest for 10 minutes.
4. Gently pat the dough into a rough rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough, letter style, up to the center and press to seal, creasing surface tension on the outer edge. Fold the remaining dough over the top and use the edge of your hand to seal the seam closed and to increase the surface tension all over. Press evenly with the palms of both hands and roll the dough backward and forward until it is 10 inches in length. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Place the loaf on the pan and lightly dust with flour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
5. Proof at room temperature for about 45 minutes, or until the loaves have grown to about twice their original size.
6. About half an hour into the second rise, place a baking stone* on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 450F.
7. Using a very sharp knife or a serrated bread knife, cut 5 diagonal slashes, each about ¼ to ½-inch deep, across the top of the loaf. (Alternatively, cut one long slash that extends for the length of the loaf.)
8. Transfer the dough on the parchment paper to a peel or the back of a sheet pan. Transfer the dough to the baking stone. Close the oven and reduce the temperature to 400 degrees. Bake until golden brown and the temperature is around 200 degrees** at the center, 30-40 minutes.
9. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.
*If you don’t have a baking stone, simply bake the loaf on a baking sheet at 400F for 45 minutes.
**If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, tap the bottom of the hot baked loaf. It should sound hollow when the bread is done baking.