Sunday, August 12, 2012

Failure: Roasted Tomato and Parmesan Bread

Every now and then, I'll walk around with a Great Idea buzzing in my head. When I was younger, the Great Ideas tended to be novels and plays, sometimes poems.  When I was a graduate student, I'd occasionally think of some philosophical concept that I was sure would revolutionize the way all of academia viewed, say, Chekhov or pop culture. 

Now that I have a food blog, a recipe idea will occasionally possess me.  This time it was: "why not roast some tomatoes and put them in a version of your blue cheese cake?  Only instead of using blue cheese, use Parmesan cheese. The Parmesan-tomato combo is always a winner."

So, I roasted some tomatoes using this recipe, made the bread (substituting 1/4 Parmesan grated cheese instead of the blue cheese) and plopped the tomatoes in the bread.  Then I sprinkled 2 extra tablespoons of grated Parmesan on top.

 I felt very smug as it baked and the smells of thyme, rosemary, and Parmesan permeated the house.  I was polishing my shiny medal for: "Best Baker in the World" in my head.  Going through the final lines of Dr. Zhivago in my head, only changing them around saying, "how does she do it?  She is an artist!  It's a gift."

When I pulled the bread from the oven, the top was firm and springy.  Then I let it cool, but when I sliced it: disaster.  The moisture from the tomatoes had caused the bottom of the bread to be flabby and saggy. It smelled lovely, but was wet like a damp sponge.

My thoughts on this failure:

1. If I was really, really super-hungry I would have been able to eat the bread.  Or back in my binge-eating high school days, I probably could have eaten at least some of it because of the cheese.

2. I still think the recipe has legs, if you use sun-dried tomatoes.  Dried being the operative word.

People often say that 'baking is chemistry, while cooking is..." (fill in the blank--artistry, biology, whatever).  I am not sure I buy the cooking versus baking distinction, given that I know many fine cooks who are also talented bakers and many bakers who can cook.  What I will say is that a cooking failure is usually at least marginally edible by someone's standards, at very least a hungry teenage boy's standards.  Baking failures, on the other hand, don't even bear resemblance to food.  No one wants to eat a sponge.

Sigh.  And yet, it doesn't LOOK that bad...


  1. It doesn't look bad at all, but that would probably just make it worse when you bite into it and go, "oh, wet bread." I wonder if you could still use roasted tomatoes if you removed the seeds and juice first. The roasting should make up for the loss of flavor in the juice.

    A while back I had the Great Idea I was going to write a novel about a girl who was three times the size of a normal girl but was otherwise unremarkable. Then one day, I was reading book reviews and discovered that someone else wrote that book and published it a couple of months ago. I may read it eventually, but I'm currently too annoyed.

  2. @Flurrious--I think you are right--I should have de-seeded the tomatoes and perhaps let them drain on a paper towel for awhile. But I do think that sun-dried tomatoes would probably be the most painless solution, because even if the bread wasn't spongy, it might be more moist than was really palatable.

    That happens to me quite often with books, and I feel the same way--I don't want to read the published 'imposter' version.

  3. I've firmly stood under the "baking is science" banner for many years (it's actually what I prefer about baking) and support Buddy Valastro's saying: "Baking is science, cooking is passion." Baking is all about balance, and chemical reactions. Once it's in the oven, that's it, you're done. Cooking can be altered mid way through, it's dashes and handfuls, not teaspoons and cups :).
    Part of the problem with the recipe, I think, is that because it lacks sugar (rightfully so) it doesn't behave like a normal quick bread, where the sugar would absorb a lot of the moisture. You might try increasing the flour to 2 or 2 1/4 cups, puree some of the tomatoes, boiling out the water and using it to replace the yogurt and oil (1/2 to 3/4 cup total) and then add the remaining tomatoes or just remove the yogurt and keep the oil without making a puree. All that shooooullld (?) be enough to balance out the moisture of the tomato... (should) :). Or just go with sundried tomotoes like you said... it would work and it's easier :).

  4. @Adam--that's true--altering baking half-way through can produce some...interesting...results, and even when they are good, they can't be replicated!

    I used David Lebovitz's quick bread recipe for the blue cheese 'cake,' and because cheese is 'moist' I thought I would be okay. I think I would miss the richness of the yogurt and oil (one think I liked so much about the blue cheese 'cake')so probably sundried tomatoes are still my best option.