May 4, 2017

Bread Toast Crumbs with Alexandra Stafford + Giveaway

Bread Toast Crumbs | The Naptime Chef

I first met Ali Stafford several years ago at a gather in New York. Since then I’ve been following her wonderful blog, Alexandra Cooks, and was so excited when her first book was published last month. It is called Bread Toast Crumbs: Recipes for No-Knead Loves and Meals to Savor Every Slice and is easily the best ever guide to bread baking I’ve ever read. The key? She starts off with a family no-knead bread recipe that is hands down amazing. From there is riffs on all kinds of breads with add-ins and flavors, all of which are easy to make. She also features a whole chapter on recipes featuring toasted bread and, finally, a chapter featuring bread crumbs. It is basically all you’ve ever wanted to know about bread and I couldn’t be happier to share the little chat we had:

1) This book is so inspired! It is clear that homemade bread has been a staple in your life forever. How did you come up with all the different variation on baked breads that are in this book?

Thank you! Yes, homemade bread has been a staple in my life for as long as I can remember. My mother seemed to always have a bowl of bread rising on the counter, and she always had a stash of sliced bread in the freezer, which we used for toast every morning. What’s funny in regard to your question about creating the variations of the peasant bread is that I didn’t make a single variation of my mother’s bread until I posted the recipe on my blog, which led to readers writing in sharing their own variations and asking questions about how to adapt the recipe in various ways.

So, the first goal in creating variations of the bread was to address the questions I had been asked over the years: How can I incorporate nuts and seeds? How can I add cheese? How can I add spices and herbs? How can I incorporate whole wheat flour or other flours into the bread? Can I use beer or milk in place of the water? Once I had recipes that demonstrated how to make these simple substitutions, I thought about the classics: brioche, cinnamon-swirl bread, anadama, white sandwich bread, whole wheat sandwich bread, hamburger buns, etc. Once those recipes were included, my editor suggested thinking about how we could push the simple peasant bread even further: monkey bread, pizza, pull-apart dinner rolls, focaccia, pissaladière, etc. My mother, with whom I wrote the book, loved working on the variations and still comes up with creative adaptations. A recent favorite of hers replaces ¼ cup of the liquid with fresh orange juice, and she adds fresh orange zest along with 1/3 cup of sesame seeds.

2) I plan to work my way through every single recipe in the toast chapter! What inspires you when you develop a recipe starting with toast? Your ideas are so unique!

You’re amazing! First, and just to clarify for anyone who hasn’t seen the book, the toast chapter is not filled strictly with toast-as-we-know-it recipes: bread + topping. Rather, it’s filled with recipes that call for bread in sliced form, from freshly baked to several-days old. With this spectrum in mind, I wanted there to be a recipe or a few recipes ideal for using at each phase of bread’s lifecycle. For instance, with super fresh bread, you want to eat it alone or with butter, or you want to slice it and make a sandwich. So, there are a few recipes that call for fresh bread. As bread ages, you need to heat it up to bring it back to life a bit. With these recipes, I wanted each to reflect the various ways you can heat up a slice of bread, which sounds obvious, but sometimes I think we forget if the oven is occupied, we can accomplish the same thing stove top or elsewhere. So there are recipes that call for broiling, pan-searing, baking, and grilling the bread. And as bread ages further, you need to do even more to revive it: an egg-and-milk bath does the job! So there are several recipes for stratas, which, like the bread, can be adapted in countless ways. I also wanted to make sure there was a mix of vegetarian and meat recipes, appetizers and entrees, and a range of breakfast, lunch and dessert options.

Bread Toast Crumbs | The Naptime Chef

3) What are some of your children’s favorite recipes to make with you? I love how involved they are in the kitchen.

They love baking, and this is probably because that’s all I’ve really exposed them to at this point. My oldest is 7, and while I could probably start introducing her to cooking at the stove, I’m not ready mentally to take this step. So we stick to less hazardous activities such as baking. The kids love making the peasant bread, and my oldest can use the scale, which is great. Other favorites include: banana bread, zucchini bread, birthday cakes, cookies, etc.  They also like making pizza dough, and topping the rounds of dough with sauce and cheese. This is the extent of their involvement at the moment, and I should be better about including them more because they ALWAYS want to help.

4) Do you have a favorite recipe in this book? I know this is like asking you to pick your favorite child — impossible — but is there anything that you make over and over and still adore?

I do have a few. I really like some of the simple variations of the peasant bread: three seed, quinoa and flax, and cheesy cheddar and Parmesan. These require just a little bit more effort than the master recipe, but the subtle additions totally change the character of the bread, which is fun when I’m looking for a change. I also love the cinnamon-swirl bread, because it, too, is simple, and sometimes there’s nothing better than a slice of that toasted with butter (and, for me, sprinkled with salt).

From the toast chapter: I love the vinaigrette toasts. I had never dressed bread in oil AND vinegar before toasting it, and now, I rarely leave out the vinegar — it’s so tasty. I also love the endive tartines —they’re just so fresh, and I have fond memories of eating those with my aunt in Vermont at a restaurant in Burlington. I love my mother’s plum butter recipe, and I love it paired with homemade almond butter. I also love the food cart grilled cheese because there’s something so satisfying about making something so simple so good. I make these a lot.

From the crumbs chapter, I love the brioche bread pudding recipe. The trick, I learned, was to remove the egg whites from the equation, which makes the texture of the custard extra silky. It’s so rich and delicious. I also love the roasted tomato and bread soup — I make that a lot during the late summer. And I also love the frittata with mustard croutons. The mustard-dressed croutons are great on their own—they’re also dressed with olive oil and vinegar—but they are especially good when surrounded by eggs and fontina cheese.

5) What’s next for Alexandra Cooks? I hope there is another book in your future!

I don’t know! I would love to write a book on vegetables. I know everyone is focusing on vegetables these days, but more and more, I love vegetarian cooking. I also subscribe to a CSA year-round, so I’m constantly trying to find creative uses for all of those potatoes, beets, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, radishes, etc.

Alexandra is generously giving away a copy of Bread Toast Crumbs as well as a set of Pyrex bowls and cotton bowl covers to one lucky reader! Here is how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment sharing your favorite kind of bread to make!
  2. Contest runs from May 3rd through May 10th at 7:00am. Winner will be selected by random and contacted by May 11th! Good luck!


3 Responses to “Bread Toast Crumbs with Alexandra Stafford + Giveaway”

  1. Robin Chesser says:

    My favorite bread to make is challah.

  2. Meghan says:

    I love to make banana bread!

  3. alexandraskitchen says:

    Kelsey, thank you so, so much for this!! I’m so bummed I’m just seeing this now … I’m so behind in everything. Thank you for the kind word. I so hope to see your soon. Big hugs!! xoxo