Thursday, January 29, 2009

Prussian Leaf-Wrapped Breadsticks

This recipe was brought over from Prussia, where bread dough was often baked on leaves of cabbage or kale, and adapted in traditional Mennonite baking. The visual touch of the beet leaves makes for a beautiful presentation, alongside a bowl of vegetable soup, or alongside any other main dish of choice at a dinner party.

Trim the stems from 12 beet leaves (about 6 to 8 inches in length). Wash the leaves and pat dry, then set aside.

Dissolve one packet of yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons) in 1/3 cup warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees). Let stand 5 minutes.

Customarily, buttermilk would be added here. Instead, combine 1 cup plain soy milk (such as Silk) with a tablespoon of lemon juice and let stand 5 minutes to clabber (sour) it. Add 1/2 cup of the 'buttermilk' to the yeast mixture, along with 1/2 tsp. salt. You can discard the remaining 'buttermilk' or save it for another use.

Spoon out 1 cup bread flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour into measuring cups, leveling with a knife. Add to the yeast mixture and stir until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes (punch down, fold over, quarter turn, repeat!). Add up to 1/4 cup more bread flour as needed so the dough doesn't stick to your hands, though it will still be tacky.

Place in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat the top, then cover and let rise for 1 hour. As per all my bread recipes, the ideal conditions are at about 85 degrees, in a space free from drafts. Once doubled in size, punch the dough down and let rest 5 minutes.

Roll the dough into a 12x4-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Cut, cross-wise, into 12 1-inch strips. Wrap a beet leaf around the center of each breadstick, starting with the stem (both ends of the breadstick should remain uncovered). Place the breadsticks on 2 baking sheets covered in parchment paper. Brush with 2 tablespoons of melted vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. coarse salt. Cover and let rise 45 minutes.

Note: I found this step difficult, because the breadsticks were still very small before the second rise, and the beet leaves were a bit stiff and hard to wrap. I realized, though, that if the beet leaves are wrapped only loosely, the breadsticks rose enough to fill them out just fine. If needed, just make any last minute adjustments to the beet leaves before putting the breadsticks into the oven.

Once risen, bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 35 minutes - they will be browned on the bottom and lightly browned on the top. Cool on a wire rack.

One breadstick is 110 calories. They are delicious dolloped with vegan sour cream, such as Tofutti's Better Than Sour Cream.

beet leaves (attached to beets - which you can roast for a side dish!) $2.49
soy milk $2.49

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The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy
  • Vegan milk - Silk
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance