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From Russia, Germany, and France come three hearty (and unusual) peasant breads.

From Russia, Germany, and France come three hearty (and unusual) peasant breads

Hearty flavors and textures unite these peasant breads from three different countries. The first, a cheese-filled quick bread from southern Russia, is substantial enough to serve as an entree.

The sour pumpernickel, a German bread that's good with soup and for making sandwiches, gets its crunch from sunflower, flax, and sesame seeds.

The dense French walnut loaf is one version of a bread often served with the cheese course in France.

Both the dense-textured pumpernickel and walnut doughs use yeast, but they are kneaded rather briefly--just until they feel smooth. Longer kneading, required to make wheat-flour doughs springy and elastic, isn't necessary, since both these breads contain a high proportion of rye flour. (Rye-based dough doesn't become as elastic as wheat-based dough.)

Russian Cheese Bread (Khachapuri)

You need a total of 1 1/2 pounds cheese. For boldest, most authentic flavor, use 1 pound goat cheese. Traditional accompaniments include parsley, cilantro, or green onions, and dry, fruity white wine.

1/2 to 1 pound goat cheese, such as bucheron or montrachet

1 to 2 packages (8 oz. each) neufchatel cheese (if using 1 lb. goat cheese, use only 8 oz.)

About 3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 3/4 cups sour cream

1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

In a large bowl, mix goat cheese and neufchatel until well combined; set aside. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups of the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add sour cream and stir until evenly blended. Gather dough into a ball and gently knead on a well-floured board until fairly smooth, 20 to 30 turns.

Divide dough in thirds; set aside 1 portion. On a well-floured board, roll remaining dough into a 14-inch round. Trim edges to make even; add scraps to reserved dough. Fold dough round in quarters; set in a greased 10-inch cast-iron frying pan (or other oven-safe frying pan). Unfold dough to line pan and extend beyond rim. Evenly pat cheese mixture into dough-lined pan. On a floured board, roll remaining dough into a 9-inch round; set on top of the cheese filling. Brush dough top with yolk mixture. Fold extended rim down over dough top, crimp, and brush rim with yolk mixture. Prick top in 12 places with a fork. Bake in a 400| oven until well browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then run a knife between pan and bread. Turn bread out of pan onto a plate, then turn upright onto a rack; cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve in wedges, warm or at room temperature. If made ahead, cool completely; chill air-tight up to 2 days. Makes 9 or 10 servings.

Sour Sunflower Pumpernickel Bread

For sourest flavor, let the beer mixture ferment the maximum time. Cracked rye, flax seed, and sunflower seed are sold in some supermarkets and most health-food stores.

2 packages active dry yeast

3/4 cup warm water (110|)

3/4 cup stout (dark, strong beer) at room temperature

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 cup cracked rye

1 1/2 cups rye flour

3/4 cup unsalted sunflower seed

1/4 cup flax seed

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons salad oil

About 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sesame seed

In a large bowl, let 1 package yeast soften in 1/2 cup of the water. Mix in beer, sugar, cracked rye, and 1/2 cup of the rye flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until bubbly and sour smelling, 15 to 48 hours.

In a bowl, soften remaining yeast in remaining water. Stir into beer mixture with sunflower seed, flax seed, salt, and oil; mix. Stir in 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour; add remaining rye flour and mix with hands until evenly moistened. On a well-floured board, gently knead briefly until smooth and no longer sticky; add flour to prevent sticking. Shape dough into a round about 6 1/2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle sesame seed on board, then gently roll dough in the seed, pressing lightly, until all sides are coated. Place on greased 12- by 15-inch baking sheet. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until puffy, about 40 minutes.

Bake in a 350| oven until well browned, about 40 minutes. Remove from pan to a rack and let cool completely. Serve, or store airtight up to 3 days; freeze to store longer. Makes 1 loaf, about 2 pounds.

French Walnut Bread (Pain aux Noix)

Chef-owner Michel Lorain serves this at La Cote Saint Jacques in Joigny, France.

1 cup coarsely broken walnuts

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (110|)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 cups each rye flour and all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine

Place walnuts in an 8- or 9-inch wide pan. Bake in a 350| oven until lightly toasted, 10 to 12 minutes; shake often. Let cool.

In a large bowl, soften yeast in water. Stir in salt, sugar, rye flour, 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, and walnuts. Mix well.

Scrape dough out onto a board coated with remaining all-purpose flour. Knead briefly until smooth and no longer sticky when lightly touched. Divide dough in half. Shape each portion of dough into a 2- by 10-inch log; place loaves about 4 inches apart on a greased 12- by 15-inch baking sheet. Cover lightly with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place until slightly puffy, 30 to 40 minutes.

Brush top of loaves with melted butter. Bake in a 425| oven until loaves are well browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a rack. Cut into thin slices to serve. Or store airtight up to 3 days; freeze to store longer. Makes 2 loaves, each about 3/4 pound.

Photo: Spoon goat and cream cheese filling into dough-lined frying pan to make Russian bread. Pat filling smooth and top with a dough round. Brush top with egg yolk and crimp to seal; bake

Photo: Rustic country loaves include (from left): cheese-filled Russian quick bread, seed-crusted German pumpernickel, and French walnut loaves served with soft, ripe cheese
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1987
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