I’m not exactly sure when my love affair with ricotta cheese began, but I’m pretty sure it dates back to my infancy. Occasionally for breakfast, my mother would whip up a mixture of ricotta cheese and powdered sugar, and by all accounts, I used to wolf the confection down like an eating machine. Can you blame me? She was basically serving me a baby-proof cannoli for breakfast.
As I grew older, I somehow shifted my affections from sweet ricotta recipes to savory ones, most of which involved pasta and red sauce: ravioli, manicotti, my Aunt Robin’s stuffed shells. Make no mistake: My family is not Italian. We are, apparently, a bunch of ricotta loving Jews. But ethnicity aside, I loved the taste of the soft, mellow cheese up against the tangy tomato sauce.
Many years later, I’ve returned to my sweet-ricotta-for-breakfast roots. But seeing as I now have teeth, I’ve updated the recipe. It couldn’t be simpler, really: fresh, crusty bread topped with ricotta and drizzled with honey. I like to use bread that’s chock full of goodies, something like a cranberry walnut loaf (if you’re in DC, get thee to the Penn Quarter farmer’s market) or this homemade granola bread.
The recipe for this bread is of the no-knead variety, which makes it a snap to throw together. Yes, the no-knead concept has become a little gimmicky, and I will never jettison old school kneaded bread, but just because something is gimmicky doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Studded with granola and perfumed with honey and cinnamon, this bread smells divine as it bakes. Throw some fresh ricotta and honey into the mix and Installment #2 of the “Breakfast Series” might be one of my favorite weekday breakfasts ever.
Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
The one gripe I have with this book is that it has tons of errors and misprints, and not all of them are explained on the book’s web site. For example, this recipe lists an egg wash and granola topping in the ingredients list…and then never says what to do with them. Also, the book stipulates a 9″x5″ loaf pan, but I found that my loaf did not end up being as tall as I would have liked. So next time I might try an 8″x4″ pan and adjust the baking time. Nevertheless, the bread was delicious.
2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated yeast
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granola, plus a few tablespoons to sprinkle over the top
Neutral-tasting oil for greasing the pan
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
In a 5-quart bowl or lidded container, mix together the water, yeast, honey, oil, cinnamon and salt. Stir well.
Mix in the flours and granola without kneading, using a wooden spoon. You may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
Cover the container — not airtight — and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), about 2 hours.
The dough can be used immediately after this first rise, but it is easier to handle when it’s cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days.
On baking day, grease a 9″x5″ (or 8″x4″) nonstick loaf pan (it is important to use nonstick, as the dough is very wet). Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 pound (grapefruit size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Stretch the ball into an oval shape about the length of the pan and drop into the prepared pan. Allow to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes (or 1 hour if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).
Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 375F.
Right before baking the bread, brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle with a few tablespoons of granola. Place the bread in the center of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until richly browned and firm. You may need to cover the loaf with aluminum foil to prevent the granola topping from burning. When done, the bread will sound hollow when tapped and the internal temperature will be ~205F.
Allow to cool completely before slicing. Serve in thick hunks, covered with ricotta cheese and drizzled with honey.
Yield: 2 loaves worth of dough, although the recipe can easily be halved