Every time I opened the fridge last week there it was, staring at me and silently saying in a sing-song voice, “My sell-by date is coming up. You’d better do something with me…” I know what you’re thinking, you think I was hearing things, that this was all in my head. Nope, it really was taunting me from the top shelf – a partially used, industrial-sized bucket of cottage cheese.
If you’ve stopped by this blog lately you know that Shawn and I hosted a coffee hour at our church a few weeks ago. I went a wee bit overboard making tons of food, which of course tired me out, and the food fatigue led to some whining on my part (and a fair amount of resting on the couch), but I’m going to stop now because it also led me back into the kitchen and gave me a handful of recipes to share with the people who stop by this blog (as well as my knitting group, and the Altar Guild, and the neighbors). I promise to try to pace myself better next time. Let’s just say it has been awhile since I’ve cooked for 100.
So, back to the talking cottage cheese. I knew when I bought it I wouldn’t use it all, but honestly buying the five-pound bucket at Restaurant Depot was cheaper than buying just the right amount of normal-sized containers of cottage cheese at my local grocery store. However all those years of cooking in restaurants had trained me not to waste food, so I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. Instead I dug into my recipe box and found Mary Massad’s recipe for Cottage Cheese Dilly Bread. I wanted to really notch up the subtle flavors of scallion and dill so I used five times what the recipe called for, and it turned out that super-sizing the flavoring agents was a very good idea!
Like both of my grandmothers, I enjoy a heaping spoonful of cottage cheese with some fruit, but I know plenty of people who can’t stand the stuff. Whether it’s a texture thing or a taste thing or just something I’ve come across a lot of people who just plain don’t like cottage cheese. The great news is you can easily hide it in other foods. Okay, maybe not in raw foods, but in cooked foods it just seems to melt quietly away. I’m thinking about cottage cheese pancakes, or spanikopita (where it also helps offset the saltiness of feta), or cottage cheese dilly bread. Note – if you’re serving this to picky eaters I would recommend not using the words cottage cheese when you describe what you’ve made. Unless someone is allergic, in which case you should most definitely mention the cottage cheese factor. Of course now that I’ve blabbed you know I’m sneaky and devious about some food things, but the truth was going to come out sooner or later.
The original recipe calls for dried dill weed, however I substituted fresh dill instead. The general rule of thumb when substituting fresh herbs for dried, is to use three times as much since the dried herbs are more concentrated in their herbiness (1 unit dried herb = 3 units fresh herb) For this bread I really wanted the flavor of dill and scallion to come through, and since they are both quiet flavors I added more and more and then just a little bit more. Feel free to play around with it. As I was mixing up the dough this time my tastes have changed over the years. To that end I reduced the amount of salt and sugar the original recipe called for. It was a bit like being a sound mixer at a concert – a little more base, down with the high-end for the back up singers. Only I was mixing flavors – up with the herbs, down with the sucrose and sodium chloride. Feel free to play around with the amounts yourself.
The recipe makes two loaves of bread. You can also turn it into rolls (think Parker House rolls) by rolling little balls and popping those into greased muffin pans, or placing them on a greased sheetpan with a little bit of room between. I think this dough would be amazing made into bread knots and then coated with the garlic coating from the White on Rice Couple’s blog. The sliced loaves of Cottage Cheese Dilly Bread make a mean grilled cheese sandwich, which is perfect with a bowl of soup. Which brings us full circle back to my dear friend Mary who got this recipe from the Bakery Lane Soup Bowl Cookbook (which is now unfortunately out of print), because really, what is better than a steaming bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich?
Cottage Cheese Dilly Bread
2 cups cottage cheese
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine, plus more for greasing the pans
1/2 – 1 cup finely chopped fresh dill (stems removed)
3/4 – 1 1/2 cups minced scallions (2-3 bunches)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm water
1 package dry yeast
1-2 Tablespoons honey or sugar
5 cups flour (I used a mixture of white and whole wheat)
In a saucepan warm the cottage cheese and butter until the butter has melted and the cottage cheese is a bit soupy (you don’t want this too hot, as it could cook the eggs). Add in the dill, scallions, and salt then stir to evenly distribute the green bits. Next beat in the eggs. At the same time as you are warming the cottage cheese mixture proof the yeast by adding the honey to the warm water and sprinkling the yeast on top. Now bring it all together by stirring 4 cups of the flour into the cottage cheese -scallion-dill-egg mixture along with the proofed yeast. You’ll have a very gloppy dough.
Turn out onto a well floured surface (here’s where you’ll use that 5th cup of flour) and knead for 7-12 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft like a baby’s bum with a few wee lumps of cottage cheese. Do not fret, these will disappear when the bread bakes. Oil or butter a large bowl, placing the dough in and giving it a turn so it is greased on all sides, cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down, cut and shape into two loaves or 24 rolls. Place into greased loaf pans or greased muffin tins or a greased jelly roll sheet (greased is the key word), then cover and let rise till double. You can, if you want, brush the tops of the loaves or rolls with extra melted butter now. Or just before baking. Or after baking. Or not at all. Your choice.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF and bake loaves for 40-45 minutes or until they have a hollow sound when thumped on their bottoms. The rolls can take 25-35 minutes in muffin pans or 35-40 minutes on a jelly roll pan. Again perform the thumping test, which will be all the easier because you greased your baking vessel. If you want to push them in the direction of herbed Parker House rolls brush on the butter now. If you want to go in the garlic direction, again apply the garlic oil while hot. Cool on a rack and store in an air tight container.
Oliver and I have been taking lots of walks of late and the non-bread pictures in this post are what we’ve seen in Northampton and Whately.