Friday Bread Basket 4/9/21
This week’s Bread Basket contains links to two of my favorite newsletter emails from the past week. I subscribe to a ton of newsletters and rarely have time to get to most of them, but these are definitely two of the few I make a point of reading regularly.
Nicola Miller’s Tales from Topographic Kitchens is always so, so good. Each monthly email is a deep dive into a specific culinary topic, loaded with references that you’ll want to chase down. This month’s was all about sops, the hunks of bread that are used to soak up the drippings from roasting meats, and are the etymological origins of a common culinary term:
The word ‘soup’ derives from sop or suppa (meaning the slices of bread onto which broth or cooking juices was poured). Sops were commonly known as pieces of bread dipped into the drippings from the spit-roasted meat. A pan placed underneath the spit collected its juices. Another type of sop came from bowls of pottage or gruel. When the bread had ‘sopped up’ and was soaked in liquid, meat juices or fat, the trick was to convey the sop as swiftly as possible to the mouth before it disintegrated in the hand. Joan of Arc liked to sop her bread with wine instead of cooking juices. Wealthier people in the Middle Ages threw their trencher bread (so-called because it functioned as an early plate for meat and sauce) out to the dogs, despite it being sopped in a good sauce. Sometimes the trencher bread would be cast out to the waiting poor too.
Nicola begins with the tale of William Symonds, a ‘turnspit’ for the Duke of Rutland at Cheveley in Cambridgeshire, who so loved his fat-laden sops that his metal dripping pan was attached to his gravestone above his (likely self-penned) epitaph, which describes his sadness at not being able to enjoy them as he grew closer to death.
On her newsletter Eat Gorda Eat, writer and recipe developer Illyanna Maisonet traces the history of the mallorca, a snail-shelled sweet roll from Puerto Rico that began life as a Sabbath bread baked by Sephardic Jews on another island, Mallorca, off the coast of Spain:
Fluffy and pleasantly sweet, mallorcas travel well across breakfast cultures. Originally called ensaïmadas, they were first documented in the late 18th century—though they likely had been made for centuries before that—when a Franciscan friar began collecting and recording a number of recipes from the Balearic Islands, the eastern Spanish archipelago that includes Mallorca. As he noted, bakers there would roll out the yeasted, enriched dough; spread it with lard (called saïm in Catalan, from which the bread’s original name derives); shape it into its signature coil; and bake it until risen and golden. According to Tomeu Arbona, owner of El Fornet de la Soca bakery in Palma, Mallorca, the bread’s first bakers were likely Sephardic Jews. “Ensaïmadas were originally a sweet bread for the Sabbath,” he says, “similar to what we would now call challah.” While he earliest ones were likely made using kosher butter or oil, there are records of Jews switching to baking with lard—decidedly against their beliefs—during the massacres and persecution led by the Catholic church in the 14th and 15th centuries. While many Jews continued to practice their faith in secret, some of these conversos cooked with lard to convince the church of their loyalty.
Illyanna describes carefully transporting a mallorca from NOLA’s great Pan Fuerza bakery home to California and making griddled a bacon and American cheese sandwich out of it, which, yes please. Fortunately, she includes her own recipe for mallorcas so you can make one for yourself without needing to go to such lengths.
We can foccaciate that
In my sourdough class a few weeks back I mentioned that if you end up with over proofed, unshapable dough, all is not lost, you can always pour it into an oiled pan and turn it into focaccia. A few days later, one of my clever students sent out this tweet, coining a term in the process:
After the enthusiastic response to my email yesterday about adding a new sourdough focaccia recipe to my pizza al taglio class, I have no choice but to follow through on it. Since then, space in the class has been dwindling fast, so sign up soon if you want in on it:
See you all next week, have a peaceful weekend.