Whacked By The Staff of Life

My neighbor and fellow blogger, Joyce, in a recent post in Living in Potrerillos, decried the lack of decent bread here in Panama…http://joycepa.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/the-staff-of-life/. I couldn’t agree more. What I have tried was simply inedible. Even my four-legged garbage disposal, Charlotte, wouldn’t touch the stuff and I’m hoping the remains won’t damage the compost heap. The only thing I like about bread in Panama is the name of the largest bakery – BIMBO Bread. (A big conglomerate, I guess, because I’ve seen Bimbo bread in Spain and Mexico as well.)

One of the things I truly miss about France is the bread. If happiness is a warm puppy then a crispy, fresh from the oven  French baguette is a mighty close second. It’s also a fact that no baguette ever makes it home from the boulangerie with the ends intact.

Recently I’ve made a couple of attempts at making bread myself. Previously I’ve only ventured into bread making a couple of times. One of my favorites, and enjoyed by everyone I know, has been cranberry bread. Actually this is more of a cake than a real bread and was something my mother made every Christmas time as I was growing up. The recipe is found on the back of every package of Ocean Spray whole cranberries. Around the holiday season bags are usually found in the produce section of the supermarket but the rest of the year you can often find them in the frozen food section.  Cranberry bread is easy to make and absolutely delicious but you’d never use it to construct a tuna salad sandwich with the stuff.

This is not a photo of MY cranberry bread but shamelessly ripped off from:


If you want something yummy, here’s the recipe from Ocean Spray:


2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 tablespoons shortening
1 egg, well beaten
1 1/2 cups Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in orange juice, orange peel, shortening and egg. Mix until well blended. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Spread evenly in loaf pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. Wrap and store overnight. Makes 1 loaf (16 slices).

PER SERVING (1 slice): Cal. 211, Fat Cal. 54, Protein 3grams, Carb. 37grams, Fat 6grams, Chol. 18mg., Sodium 313mg.

Richard’s Rating: Ease of preparation A, Satisfaction A+

The only “real” kind of bread I ever made previously was a family recipe my maternal grandmother used to make for “Shredded Wheat” bread. A light, wonderfully nutty-tasting bread that doesn’t require kneading.

I’d love to make this again, but none of the four supermarkets in David stock shredded wheat cereal and I have no idea what could be used as a substitute.

Richard’s rating: Ease of preparation A, Satisfaction A+

The other day I decided I’d try my hand at producing some of the real stuff and went online and Googled “bread recipies.” The search engine came up with approximately 2,900,000 hits. Okay, narrow it down a bit and add the word “simple.” THAT came up with 3,250,000 hits! How is that possible?

Being basically a lazy, lay-about I next tried “no knead bread” and knocked it down to only 305,000 possibilities. Here’s a video I found:

Needless to say mine didn’t turn out like that in the video even though I followed the instructions to the letter. The New York Times recipe, (click to link to it) as well as others that are basically the same, all say “dough will be shaggy and sticky.” Mine was, for, oh, maybe three milliseconds and then it turned into something else. Not knowing what I could do to change the situation other than just starting all over again I decided to just let things develop and see what happened.

The next day this is what I got:

Looks pretty good, but it would have made a better discus than a loaf of bread. One problem, I think, was that the Dutch oven I used was probably too large so the dough spread out and gave me a loaf about 2-1/2″ high. On my next trip down the mountain to David I’ll buy one a little smaller. I need to build up my kitchen items over the next few months anyway for the time I’ll leave this house.

Richard’s rating: Ease of preparation B, Satisfaction D -.

Tuesday I had a go at what was supposed to be an easy recipe for generic white bread complete with kneading. I went through all the steps required and it turned out a lot better than my first attempt and I came up with this:

Again, it’s not something I’d use to make sandwiches with, but still warm with a little butter it was heads and shoulders above Bimbo bread but still lacked a little je ne sais quoi. It did make excellent toast the next morning.

Richard’s rating: Ease of preparation C+, Satisfaction C.

I’m not going to give up yet, though.


Filed under Living Abroad, Retirement Abroad, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Whacked By The Staff of Life

  1. Hello Richard:

    Great post. Those loaves of bread sure look tasty. Congrats! Any good wine to make the pair?



    Thanks for the compliment, Omar, but they look better than they actually were. Especially the “no knead” loaf.

    Wine? No. But another thing I miss about France (actually there are quite a few things I miss) was the weekly visit to the wine store. Living with a French girl we naturally had to have wine with our meals. A short walk from the harbor in Golfe Juan, on the Rue des Pecheurs (Fisherman’s Road), a narrow lane bordered by homes that were old before spotted the Pacific Ocean where, if you closed your eyes and listened real hard you could hear the echoes of long-departed Musketeers treading down the cobbles, was a small wine and cheese shop run by an aging couple from Corsica. The wine they sold was all locally produced. Nothing in bottles, just in casks. You’d bring your own bottles in to be filled from the casks. Some of it was quite good. Some of it not.

    You’d ask if they had anything new on each visit and if there was they’d give you a little sample. After filling your bottles you’d ask what kind of cheese would go well with what you’d chosen. (DeGaulle once said it’s impossible to govern a country that has over 350 different kinds of cheese) They’d then proceed to give you little bits of cheese to try along with thimbles-full of the wine you’d bought and small pieces of baguette to cleanse your pallet. It would always take about an hour to complete a visit to the store. Wonderful.

    You know, Omar, I never made a lot of money in my life, but I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to live among different cultures than the States. France, Spain and now Panama. Truly it has been written that money is a poor measure of a man’s wealth.

  2. Ken Hulme

    I’d make a seared tuna steak sandwich with that cranberry bread! Yuuuumm.

    Bammy bread is Jamaican, I believe, in origin. For your recipe you might substitute the British cereal Wheatabix (Brit stuff seems to be available in all the odd corners of the world). Another good sub might be Bran Buds. Heck, try any wheat based cereal crushed.

    Here’s a recipe I use for Bammy:

    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup cornmeal
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto
    2 tablespoons cold water, or as needed

    In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Mix in the sun-dried tomato pest until evenly distributed. Add water 1 teaspoon at a time so that the mixture is just moist enough to form a ball.

    Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Form the dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, flatten the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness, or about as thick as a very thin pizza crust. Place the flat dough into the preheated pan, and fry for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. When done, each side should have several browned spots. Serve immediately, or store at room temperature. It keeps very well.

    I don’t know about the “Bammy Bread” thing being Jamaican or not, Ken. I never heard it referred to as that in my family and the first I saw of it was in the tiny book of recipes my cousin (on my mom’s side of the family) prepared when her mom died. But just figuring my age it’s been baked in my family for over 68 years.

    I’d try Wheatabix but it’s not here, either. There are frosted mini wheats available but not the plain stuff. I thought about wheat bran which might do the trick. The problem now is to find molasses. Saw it in one of the markets once but didn’t pick it up then and haven’t seen it since.

    Your recipe sounds interesting but who knows where in Panama one would be able to find sun-dried tomato pesto.