In a display of bitterest irony, on the seventh anniversary of Katrina, we were greeted with yet another hurricane in New Orleans: Isaac. On Monday, before the storm hit, we were urged to “hunker down” if not evacuating (most people in Greater New Orleans not under mandatory evacuation didn’t) after undertaking the usual hurricane prep: securing lightweight loose items outside, nonperishable food, water, flashlights, matches, and gas for cars and possibly generators. It was a day of tense preparations and hoping that maybe it would miss us or at least wouldn’t strengthen.
Isaac did neither but delayed along its meandering path, and when the heavy rain and wind began Tuesday afternoon, they wouldn’t stop until late Wednesday. The storm sat on top of us and dumped water, water, and more water. Tuesday evening I heard a crack that was a sound of a sizable limb ripping from a pecan tree and flattening boards of our fence in the backyard. The perpetual rain was accompanied by a shrieking wind coming in frequent, angry gusts that whipped through the trees and were strong enough to shake our house. The street, sidewalks, and yards were flooded though luckily not the homes in our neighborhood. The storm raged throughout the long night and into Wednesday and finally abated Wednesday night, though scattered rain and wind continued until Thursday.
At that point we were able to survey the damages. Windswept leaves and tree limbs, small and large, were covering the yards, sidewalks, and streets of our neighborhood. Downed electrical and telephone lines, some entangled in trees, created a maze of hazards. A few trees, even large, stately oaks, were uprooted and toppled onto houses, cars, and property. I’m not sure how we missed the sound of a few limbs splitting from our cedar tree and toppling (luckily) onto the sidewalk before our front yard, but somewhere between the torrential rain and wind we did.
But we–residents of Greater New Orleans–were spared the worst. People in areas outside the federal levee system suffered the most severe damages and flooding, in some cases in excess of Katrina. Homes and buildings in places like Reserve, LaPlace, and Plaquemines Parish were inundated in several feet of water. They most need our help and prayers.
While Issac was no Katrina, as a Category 1 storm, its effects were surprisingly destructive. My family was extremely fortunate to not have damage to our home, and I feel guilty that miraculously we never even lost power throughout the entire storm (the reason being, my dad jokes, is because he bought a generator Monday morning). At one point up to 85% of New Orleans had no electricity, and many people still don’t. The recovery, and for some, rebuilding, has begun.
Part of hunkering down included baking bread on Tuesday. On King Arthur Flour I came across this “butterflake herb loaf,” which just left me wondering what the delightful-sounding butterflake was. (A quick googling cleared that up–it’s pull-apart bread.) The bread has pockets of herb butter sandwiched between its many layers that peel off one by one.
One year ago: Toasted Coconut Blueberry Coffee Cake
Pull-Apart Butter Herb Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour
King Arthur Flour says this makes a 12 x 4 x 2 1/2-inch tea loaf or two 8 1/2 x 4-inch loaves, both with smaller “scrap” loaves. I don’t have a tea loaf pan of two 8 1/2 x 4-inch loaf pans but found that the dough fit in one 8 1/2 x 4-inch.
The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of potato flour, which I omitted and you can do likewise by simply adding more all-purpose flour.
If you want to see more process photos, the original recipe has a photo for each step.
1 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick | 4 tablespoons | 2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces | 35 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
2 large eggs
about 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
Butter Herb Filling
1/2 cup (1 stick | 8 tablespoons | 4 ounces) unsalted butter, very soft
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon chopped chives or grated onion or shallot
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer–so it’s steaming with little bubbles around the edge. In the bowl of a stand mixer or the pan of a bread machine, pour the milk over the cubed butter. Sprinkle over the sugar and salt, and let the mixture cool to lukewarm.
2. When the liquid is tepid (110°F for instant yeast, 120°F for active dry), add the yeast, eggs, and 3 1/2 cups of flour and begin mixing the dough on medium speed using the dough hook attachment for a stand mixer or using a bread machine.
3. After the dough comes together, about 3 minutes, touch the dough with your finger to test its consistency. If the dough is wet, sticky, and comes off on your finger, add more flour 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup at a time, mixing between additions until it’s incorporated. I added 10 tablespoons flour, for a total of 4 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons.
4. Once the dough is smooth and soft, not sticky, let the bread machine finish its cycle or transfer the dough to a large bowl with a light slick of oil, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, anywhere from 1 to 3 hours (in my cold kitchen, it was 3), depending on the warmth of your kitchen and the type of yeast–instant yeast will be on the low side of that time range; active dry a little longer. In my cold kitchen, using active dry yeast, it took 3 hours.
5. While the dough is rising, mix all the herb butter ingredients together in a small bowl.
6. After the dough has risen, deflate it and roll it out on a lightly floured surface about 1/2-inch thick. Cut in 3 1/2-inch to 4-inch circles with a cutter or English muffin ring. I had neither so I made do with the rim of a Mardi Gras cup.
7. Butter half of each circle, fold in half, and place with the folded side down in a 8 1/2 x 4-inch bread pan. Butter the scraps and stack them together on a baking sheet to make a haphazard mini-loaf. Cover both with greased plastic or a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minute to an hour and a half*. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
8. Bake the loaves in preheated oven for 22 to 30 minutes. A ceramic loaf pan will take about 5-7 minutes longer to bake than a metal one; tent with foil for the last 15 minutes of baking if necessary to keep the top from over-browning.
*I sped up this process using a trick I learned from Alton Brown. Place a baking dish (I used a 9 x 13) with a thin layer of boiling water on the lowest rack of your oven, and place the loaves above it. This will create a warm, moist atmosphere that will help the dough rise. Just don’t be as impatient as me and have your butter start melting on you because you keep switching out the pans of boiling water.
Variations: King Arthur Flour suggests some variations: using pesto instead of butter for the filling, swapping the butter in the bread dough for olive oil, adding your favorite grated cheese in the butter mixture and a sprinkling of more cheese on top, and the most enticing option to me: using a sweet filling (like cinnamon-sugar-butter) and a glaze on top so it’s like a cinnamon roll.