Thursday, April 19, 2012

B Is for Bread: Safflower Petal Bread Recipe

I made safflower-petal bread a few weeks ago and promised to post the recipe. I bought the dried safflower petals at the Mesa, Arizona Pro's Ranch Market. I found them in the Spanish-language spice section, and I thought that they were saffron strands, but I was incorrect. Safflower petals impart a slight citrus-floral note to the bread. The bright orange strands are easy to spot when you slice the loaf. Serve this bread with orange-blossom honey and homemade butter for a farmhouse treat that beats cake hollow.

Ingredients and Equipment:

8-quart mixing bowl
8 sifted cups enriched all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons dried safflower petals
2 cups water or pan drippings
1 cup cola
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
11- by 17-inch glass casserole dish or a no-stick baking pan

If you want a fat-free, gluten-free version, substitute 6 cups of besan (chickpea flour) and 2 cups of finely-ground cornmeal for the flour and add 1/2 cup of applesauce instead of using 1/4 cup of canola oil. You will still need a tablespoon of canola oil to grease the glass casserole dish, unless you have no-stick baking pans. Remember to raise the baking temperature by 25 degrees if you use a metal baking pan instead of a glass casserole dish.

Sift the flour into an 8-quart mixing bowl. If you do not have a sifter, simply sprinkle or shake the flour into the bowl rather than dumping it. This will result in lighter, airier loaves with more appealing texture.

Add the baking powder and the baking soda. Although it sounds like a large amount, you are not using eggs or yeast, so the loaf needs all the help it can get.

Stir in the dried safflower petals. Sift the mixture again to ensure even distribution of the two leavening agents throughout your dough.

Add the water or pan drippings. I prefer pan drippings, because I hate waste in the kitchen, and because they flavor the bread, but water works just as well if you need a vegan or vegetarian option. You can use vegetable broth, almond milk or rice milk in place of water for a more full-bodied vegan bread.

Add the cola, which should cause the dough to foam, then add all but 1 tablespoon of the oil. Mix the dough until all the dry ingredients and wet ingredients merge. There should be no leftover flour in the corners or "mushy" portions in the dough. The dough should feel stretchy and should not stick to your hands.

Grease the casserole dish. Divide the dough into two equal portions and place them in the casserole dish, at least two inches apart. Pat each portion of dough into an oval loaf and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F if using the glass casserole dish, or 425 degrees F if using a metal, no-stick baking sheet. Bake the bread for 20 minutes, then turn the pans around and bake for another 20 minutes to ensure even baking.

Allow the bread to cool on the counter before slicing it into 1/2-inch thicknesses with a serrated knife.