A well-fed crew is a happy crew: this is no secret. Food is a love language for many, myself included. Feeding people, seeing their pleasure in something I’ve made, makes me so happy. I dug the minor challenge to create a yummy and totally gluten free dinner from our dwindling provisions for friends last week (who knew quinoa could make a tender chocolate cake?!). In the Chesapeake last fall, it was pull-apart bread (garlic herb deliciousness, dunked in soup) that made several nights with friends extra memorable: at Camp Quigley, soaking up the good vibes from Mary Marie, getting to meet her Frank, and catching up with the R Sea Kat crew… on Totem with friends from Annapolis as the main cabin on Totem filled not just with warm yeasty yummy aromas but with laughter and signing and the strumming of a guitar and ukulele. Food gets inextricably woven with wonderful memories. Another night, helping a boy-child-turning-man make the same recipe, I felt like I got to pass a baton of understanding how good it feels to see people appreciate the floury work of your hands.
Yesterday I made that pull-apart bread kind of at last minute as a way to fuel our crew up before a trip back to Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island. This natural wonder is one of the deepest known blue holes (sinkholes in the world); when we visited a few days prior, there was a busy class of learners. A lot of expensive gear being used for the first time. We kept to the fringe and hoped to come back for a quieter visit. Help with a ride (neighboring SV Akira had a rental car) made it a lock!
There was going to be swimming, and blue-hole-diving, and cliff jumping, and possibly a longish walk back to town afterwards. Fuel for humans required! The bread packs along well, it’s an easy recipe (OK, maybe it takes a little attention the first time), and how many fantastic yeast breads take less than two hours from start to finish? I started while sipping my morning coffee, and it hot out of the oven before our mid-morning dinghy ride to shore.
This recipe is often called “Monkey Bread” (why? because you can easily eat it with your hands, I guess, pulling at hunks that peel effortlessly away from the loaf?) and typically prepared as a sweet cinnamon bread– but the same basic recipe and method, just a few ingredient tweaks, makes a killer garlic bread. Unable to choose between sweet and salty, I just made a loaf of each (doubling the recipe below).
I couldn’t resist posting a picture as we departed for our swim/hike/explore:this is for everyone that requested the recipe! When I looked it up to pass along, and realized just how different Real Boat Life can be in a step-by-step retelling of the recipe. Enjoy the “hardships” (not really) of cruising.
1/4 cup warm water
1 package (2 ¼ tsp) yeast
2 tablespoons softened butter, plus more for pan and bowl
3/4 cup milk, warmed
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus pinch for yeast 1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 1/4 cups flour
- Sweet: ½ c butter, ½ c chopped nuts, 2 tsp cinnamon (or whatever! I pounded a couple of teaspons of cardamom seeds in my little mortar yesterday, because I love all things cardamom), ¾ c sugar
- Savory: ½ c butter, 2 cloves crushed garlic, herbs of choice, ¾ tsp salt
…or do as I did, double the recipe and make a loaf of each of sweet and savory!
|Real recipe instructions||Boatlife version|
|1. Proof yeast: in a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water to which a pinch of sugar has been added. Stir; let the yeast soften and dissolve, about 5 minutes.||1. Water in kettle still warm from morning coffee. No fresh milk, will add some milk powder later, so start with a big mixing bowl and use a full cup of warm water now to take make up for that liquid. Stir in a bit of sugar, then sprinkle a spoonful of yeast on the top.
This is done from muscle memory as coffee has not yet hit bloodstream and exact measurements aren’t critical here.
|2. In a mixer bowl, combine butter, warm milk, sugar, salt, and egg. Grease Bundt pan and a medium bowl.||2. Skip milk; add veg oil instead of butter because it’s easier and less precious, and nobody can tell in the recipe. Crack the egg in a separate bowl first, because you got the eggs from a roadside island stand and it’s not 100% clear that it’s fresh and unfertilized.
Stir mixture by hand, because a mixer is a waste of space on board. Don’t bother to grease pan, and absolutely skip the step of greasing another bowl! The dough will have plenty of melted butter or oil on it later and we don’t need more dirty dishes to expend fresh water on.
|3. When the yeast is foamy, add it to mixer bowl; mix well with dough hook, then slowly add flour. Knead on medium-low 1 minute. Place in the greased bowl; cover with plastic. Set dough in warm place and let rest 20 minutes.||3. Ingestion of coffee times nicely with yeast proofing. Over the top of the yeast, add about 2 cups of flour, salt, and about 3 tablespoons of powdered milk. If making sweet (instead of savory) bread, add ¼ cup of sugar too.
Stir to make a thick batter, then gradually knead in additional flour until dough is ready . It MIGHT be the 3 ¼ cups specified, but different flours and different climates mean variable moisture-absorption qualities; you have to do this bit a little by feel. Sorry/Notsorry. When dough is soft, a tiny bit sticky, and springs softly back from a poke- it’s ready.
No sane (power/water conscious) cruiser would dirty a second bowl, so clean dough bits off the sides, glug in a few tablespoons of veg oil, roll the dough ball to coat, and set it aside to rise… under a TEA TOWEL, because hello, we are not into single-use plastic! Turtles and whales and the future of the planet and all.
|4. Make coating: Melt butter and put it in a bowl. In another bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts; sprinkle 2 tablespoons of nut mixture in Bundt pan.||4. Melt butter. It really is better with butter, but in a pinch (ran out of the last canned butter from Tahiti? Not lucky enough to have subsidized Kerrygold Irish creamy buttery goodness in the Bahamas?) Vegetable oil is fine. Making sweet bread? Put ingredients in a separate bowl. I never include nuts, because the kids object with interference from the sugar/spice mix, and we often don’t have brown sugar—just white. Whatever. I never measure this, either, just keep making a sugar/spice ratio that seems right. Making savory bread? Stir garlic, salt, and herbs into melted butter, no need for a second bowl.|
|5. Cut dough into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll into balls. Dip balls in butter, then roll in nut mixture; place in prepared Bundt pan.
|5. CUT? What a waste of time and dishes! Just pinch off a golf ball sized glob. For sweet bread, dunk it in the butter (or oil), roll that slippery lump in the flavor bomb sugar/spice mix and toss in your pan. Savory bread is easier still with the all-in-one-bowl combo!
Perfection here is highly overrated; irregular globs offer more places to grab seasoning. Did you really think this was carefully braided or trimmed? Ha!!! This is dead easy and creates a beautiful, delicious results.
I like our trusty bread tins, but break out the bundt if we’re feeling fancy.
|6. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise about 1 hour or until doubled in size.||6. Again, not with the plastic. Dish towels are your friend. If you’ve been motoring, the engine compartment is a great place to set the bowl. If it’s sunny out, a warm spot in the cockpit well works too.|
|7. Bake 30 to 35 minutes in oven preheated to 350 degrees. Let cool 15 minutes in pan when done.
|7. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! AS IF A BOAT OVEN COULD HIT AN EXACT TEMP! Crank it up, set pan on a rack and hope for the best. If your oven is uneven (what, a boat oven uneven?!) rotate partway through as needed. Don’t worry about time so much, I mean, we’re not even sure what temp this is hitting! Just watch it.|
|8. Turn bread out of pan; cool 20 minutes on rack or plate.||8. You think I can keep anyone on board out of this when the boat is permeated with the tantalizing aroma of warm fresh bread? It doesn’t matter if you go sweet or savory, it’s irresistible. I can usually get them to wait till it’s been turned out onto a plate, and maybe a little longer if we have guests, but that’s it.|