Gardeners have preferences when it comes to the plants chosen each season and I am no different than most. In my flower beds, I always include a mix of herbs and edible flowers as well as those that will attract beneficial insects and help repel the destructive ones. My vegetable garden follows the same plan and tucked in between the crops are many of those same herbs and flowers. Companion planting is another of my strategies in the garden but honestly, I haven’t seen a huge improvement by following the does and the don’ts of plant location.
This year, like every other year, I have planted cucumbers in my garden. The selection of varieties chosen include Marketmore (both #70 and #76), Homemade Pickles, Charming White, Lemon and Tendergreen. The weather pattern this summer has been challenging and while none of my squash plants survived and produced fruits, the cucumbers have done well, at least, two varieties have. Homemade Pickle plants produced enough cukes that I have completely stocked my pantry with pickles and relish and I have enough gathered now to make one last batch of relish.
Making salads with cucumbers is another one of my favorite summer activities. While I enjoy adding slices to green salads or just mixing the slices with a little rice wine vinegar, honey and chili flakes, I decided to try something different. With more Tendergreen Cukes than I could eat, I thought about a loaf of bread and what it might be like with cucumber puree in it.
The previous photo is a Homemade Pickle and this one is Marketmore #76. In the past, Marketmore #76 has been a great producer, this year, not so much. My thoughts are that the weather has affected the yield but more importantly, I think the soil is still lacking. If you have been following this blog, you are aware that we started this garden from the ground up two years ago and this is the first year that we are planting in the ground. Lots of layering with materials such as compost, leaves, coffee, chicken litter from our hens and eggshells has greatly improved the structure but I think it needs to be amended further and turned as well as given a season off to let the nitrogen levels fix.
The tendrils are amazingly strong and these plants would sprawl out all over if I give them a chance.
For my first batch, I peeled, seeded and pureed some cukes. The pale green liquid was added to a hard roll recipe and the dough was shaped into batards. My thought was to keep it simple and I added a few dill seeds to the mix.
Once baked, it was nearly impossible to see that the cucumbers had an effect on the dough. The interior of the loaf is nearly white and the crumb is a tiny bit compact. Not the results I was hoping for but still a good loaf of bread.
After giving it some thought. I started a second batch of dough using a different recipe. For this batch, I left the skin on the cukes but removed the seeds before pureeing. The liquid was a much darker shade of green and had little flecks of skin in it. For the dough itself, I settled on a recipe that used a Poolish style starter to develop more flavor in the dough. After letting the flour, water and yeast mixture age overnight, I mixed the dough using a method that does not include kneading the dough.
There are several good books out there that use this method but I chose to follow the Country Loaf recipe found in Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson and found here in this New York Times Recipe. To clarify, I did not use his recipe, just his method for mixing, shaping and baking the dough.
As you can see, the inclusion of skin gave the dough a good amount of green color. The little flecks of skin provide some visual interest and a little texture, as well.
Using a lovely little banneton mold that my husband gave me, I was able to give the loaf a nice spiral pattern on the surface.
As you can see, the interior has a tint of green to it and a few green specks here and there. The crust baked up crisply and it tasted wonderful while still a little warm. The problem, it just didn’t taste like cucumber, at least not while it was warm. Once the loaf cooled and sat for several hours, the flavor of caramelized flour and dough from the crust of the bread was no longer the predominant flavor. The subtle, earthy and almost sweet, flavor of the cucumbers was fairly obvious.
This loaf recipe is a work in progress and if all goes well, it will be part of my next book. Until then, I will have to make more bread and test it for flavor and color, and you will have to forgive me for not including a recipe that is only half done!