Sunday, February 1, 2015

Yiayia X's Cardomon Bread -- DELICIOUS!

When recently visiting relatives in California, my cousin and consummate baker Helen Bertron offered me a slice of Yiayia's X's Cardamom Bread for breakfast. I had no recollection of this bread, obsessing over the years only on Yiayia's Squash Pitta. But the bread was quite nice, and I asked for the recipe -- which I dutifully filed away. I'm a bread eater, not a bread baker!

A few weeks later, my Travel & Recipe Book Club read Ruth Reichl's Delicious -- her first novel, which I frankly had not given much thought (or credence) to.  But what a wonderful book, with a multi-layered story line and a number of surprising culinary twists and turns. I couldn't put it down!

What stuck in my mind -- 
and in my heart -- was the protagonist Billie Breslin's amazing proclivity for recognizing tastes and foods, starting with spices. As a child she was constantly smelling them and developing a skill that set her apart in her cooking/food world... something comparable to the great Robert Parker of wine tasting fame.

Gingerbread Cake
Here I had been cooking for years and never really stopped to smell the spices up close and personal. And what was the linchpin of Billie's Chapter 1 Gingerbread? Cardamom! Right then and there I promised myself to always smell spices as I used them. And also to bake Yiayia's Cardamom bread.

Cardamom is the 3rd most expensive spice after Saffron and Vanilla, and I finally tracked some down at Whole Foods for the reasonable price of $4.99. Best to get the pods and grind the seeds yourself, but couldn't do that this time. So I rounded up the rest of the ingredients and methodically went to work.

Cardamon Bread
Surprisingly enough -- to me at least! -- the bread turned out to be pretty darn delicious, thanks to coaching from Helen and an added assist from James Beard's Theory and Practice of Good Cooking.  So here's the recipe. Make a couple of the loaves and freeze one -- makes great toast!

And it always feels great to perpetuate a Yiayia recipe in hope that it is enjoyed for years to come, especially by members of her family!

NOTE: Shout-out to my book club cohort Linda Laquer, who baked Billie's Gingerbread Cake to Ms. Reichl's specifications -- totally awesome!

Yiayia's Cardomom Bread (Makes 2 Loaves)

2 + 1 eggs beaten
2 Active Dry Yeast packets
1/3 t. salt
2 t. ground Cardamon
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. scalded milk (NOT boiled)
6 c. flour
1 1/3 sticks melted butter + a little Crisco

1.  Add yeast to water warmed to about 110, let it sit to "proof."   
2.  Stir eggs, salt, sugar, milk and cardamon in a large bowl or pot.
3.  Add melted butter, and then the yeast/water.
4.  Add 2 cups flour, kneed well adding rest of flour cup-by-cup. 
     (Kneed dough until it is not sticky on a floured surface, 
     adding more flour at end if needed.)
5.  Let rise covered with lid and heavy blanket for 2 hours.
6.  Beat down and kneed again.
7.  Divide and add to 8X5 loaf pan lined w/Crisco.
     (Dough should not be higher than 3/4 pan or it will rise too high.)
8.  Let rise 1 more hour.
9.  Gently brush with the extra beaten egg.
10. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350.


  1. Congrats on your bread making journey. Looks delicious.

  2. I ate this bread which Paula brought to the book club meeting and loved it. Great job, Paula!