Foodiva's Kitchen: Safflower and Lavender Savory Loaf

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Safflower and Lavender Savory Loaf

It's really ironic that I have this food blog because although I've always loved to eat, cooking hasn't come easily nor naturally to me. The people who know me very well wouldn't automatically associate me with an apron or a whisk, or even a broom. I cannot recount many childhood memories of being in the kitchen, happily stirring something delicious on the stove whilst being imparted with useful culinary knowledge from some whiz-in-the-kitchen elderlies. Of course, I'd had plenty of opportunities to learn how to be a good cook, but being in the kitchen was for me a big, tiresome chore. My childhood was spent mostly outside my home, exploring the neighborhood and nature, being up trees, climbing up hills, swimming in rivers or the sea. Those are the things that made me truly happy. Ah well, they still do. 

It's a bit like being in an arranged marriage, this cooking business. I approached it with a certain amount of wariness to begin with, then got slowly used to it and finally, fell insanely in love. Now, being in the kitchen seems somehow normal. Like it was always meant to happen. Such has been the tumultuous history of my relationship with cooking.

Now, science is different. When our worlds collided (I was maybe about 11 or 12), it was love at first sight! I'm talking about grown-up science - chemistry, biology, physics - I loved them all, especially chemistry. My favorite teacher of all time was Mr. P, he taught us chemistry for 2 years. He was some kind of fierce but had a big, caring heart that overrode all his (fake) dictatorial acts. My classmates and I adored him to bits and his greatest legacy was probably to instill in us a passion for this fascinating subject of chemical reactions. Half the class went on to have illustrious careers in the medical, pharmaceutical or petrochemical fields, while the other half went on to other of life's possibilities (guess which half I'm in?). I'm pretty sure that all of us ended up being good cooks, though. The common denominator of those vivid and exciting chemistry lessons we all had with Mr. P probably benefitted us in ways we never, ever imagined.

Chemistry may well have landed me here, writing this blog. Except now the chemical components are (mostly) edible and the lab is my very own kitchen. Mr. P had passed more than a decade ago but I'm sure he oftentimes watches over me while I conduct my kitchen experiments, sharing some chemistry tips, his roaring voice circling in my head. From the bottom of my heart, thank you forever for your kindness and dedication, Mr. P.

Today's flowery recipe was another experiment that ended up rather well. A friend had recently mailed me some safflower (Turkish saffron) she'd bought at the Spice Market in Istanbul, Turkey. The red-yellow florets are similar to saffron, but they're not thread-like nor as expensive as saffron. While safflower does when steeped give that lovely golden yellow color to dishes, the flavoring it gives off is much subtler than saffron. It is one of the oldest crops in mankind's history, with records of its use dating back to the twelfth dynasty of ancient Egypt (1991 BC). The fact that this spice has been in circulation for so long just intensified my curiosity to use it. Only, I had no idea what to do with it. Hmm.. I wonder what an Egyptian Queen would do in her kitchen with safflower? Wait, does she even go into the kitchen? :-}

I had dried lavender flowers left over from a previous International Incident Party recipe, so I thought it would be good to combine both flowers in one dish. It was a long shot, not knowing how the end product would taste like. I hadn't wanted to make anything sweet as my body could really do with a sugar-break right now, hence this savory but flowery-tasting loaf which really seemed like a breath of fresh air (literally)! It had been a while since I'd baked bread so I decided to have some fun with this one and send it to Susan's Yeastspotting.

I started by caramelising some onions and kneading these into the bread dough, followed by the safflower and lavender (separately, of course). I then took some Chinese chives or garlic chives which I rolled up inside the dough and finally stacked these rolled dough pieces up on top of each other inside a loaf pan. Asparagus would be good too if you don't fancy chives. The safflower and lavender dough rolls were arranged alternately in the pan and when the loaf was baking in the oven, the aroma it gave off was unlike anything I've ever smelled before! Can you imagine it... the sweet smell of roasted onions interlaced with the distinctive scent of lavender and a whiff of safflower?


Yes, there definitely is a difference between cooking and kitchen chemistry. This loaf was a pure joy to make and even better to eat. I had so much fun making this, and I know that's exactly what Mr. P would've wanted!   

Safflower and Lavender Savory Loaf
• 2 large onions, diced
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 4 cups bread flour
• 2 1/2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 2/3 cup lukewarm milk
• 2/3 cup lukewarm water
• 1 heaped teaspoon safflower (Turkish saffron)
• 1 heaped teaspoon dried lavender flowers
• 6 stalks Chinese chives (garlic chives)
• 1 tablespoon butter, melted

1. Lightly grease a 25 x 10cm (10 x 4 inch) loaf tin. Sauté the onions in hot olive oil until soft and light golden. Set aside to cool.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the yeast, salt, pepper and flour. Stir in the cooled sautéed onions. Make a well in the centre, add the water and milk and knead with your hands or using a dough hook attachment to form a soft dough. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
3. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Take another portion and knead in the safflower. To the second portion, knead in the lavender flowers until fully incorporated.
4. Place each dough in separate, lightly-oiled bowls. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
5. Punch each dough down. On a lightly floured surface, roll one dough portion into a flat, rectangular shape. Place 3 stalks of Chinese chives along one long edge, and start rolling the dough forward into a cylinder, wrapping the chives inside it.
6. Cut off both ends of the chives protruding out of the dough, and slice roll into 12 equal pieces. Repeat this process for the second dough.
7. Alternating the safflower and lavender doughs, arrange 6 pieces of each in the prepared loaf tin (so 12 pieces altogether). Brush with some melted butter, then top with the remaining slices of dough. Brush tops with melted butter. Cover with oiled clear film and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake at 190C/375F for 40-45 minutes.
8. Brush tops with more melted butter as soon as the loaf comes out of the oven. Leave to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out on a wire rack.


Cake Duchess said...

I am in love with this bread! Just gorgeous. I never had bread with lavender or with safflower. The flavors sound amazing:)

Jennifurla said...

OMG I am wat to hungry to be at your blog, it is just gorgeous.

Cucina di Barbara said...

I have just discovered your lovely blog and now I am following you!
this bread is absolutely yummy...:))

If you want you are very welcome to have a look at my blog.
Have a nice day!

Foodiva said...

Cake Duchess and Jennifurla, while baking this bread, my kitchen smelled like an exotic garden - with just a hint of roasted onions! Lol, words cannot adequately describe it... ;-).

Foodiva said...

Barbara, your blog and Italian recipes rock! Thanks for visiting and following, come back often.

Carolyn said...

Cooking really is like chemistry, and experimenting with recipes and seeing how they turn out is really fun sometimes. This loaf looks gorgeous, as usual!

blackbookkitchendiaries said...

wow this bread looks so beautiful!!.. such stunning pictures..thanks for sharing.

Evan @swEEts said...

What a wonderful loaf of bread! Our stories are quite different though.. I love cooking/baking and science on the other hand.. well I'll avoid it like the plague, but now that I've gotten more into the baking business I've enjoyed it a little more :)

Foodiva said...

Thank you for the bread love, guys! It's wonderful to see how food just brings the commonality in people. ;-)

Shirley said...

Your bread is gorgeous! And I love the unusual combination of flavors in it.

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