Can a Couple of Geeks Bake Peeta’s Bread?

As you are enjoying the book series again or for the very first time, and hitting the theater to experience the action on the big screen, we thought you might enjoy trying out a couple of the recipe selections that were inspired from the pages of The Hunger Games.

We tried out a couple of hungry bites from The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook (F+W Media) by Emily Ansara Baines ourselves and are offering up the recipes and our thoughts about and experiences with them.

Prim’s Basil-Wrapped Goat Cheese Balls

Not being a fan of goat cheese, except feta, I wasn’t sure what I would think of this recipe. A nice thing about this one is that it requires minimal ingredients and time, and is also a breeze to make. I found that the crisp and vibrant flavor of the fresh basil leaf paired nicely with the tartness of the goat cheese spread. I enjoyed experiencing a single sample, but would not personally eat additional bites as the bitter goat cheese aftertaste that I’ve always experienced does occur even with the basil pairing, although in a muted form. I would say that if you are a fan of goat cheese this would make a wonderful light snack or appetizer. To test this theory, I had a friend who is a goat cheese lover partake of our attempt at Prim’s Basil Wrapped Goat Cheese Balls and she noted that it was delicious. So in a nutshell, if you like goat cheese you’ll like this recipe for it’s taste and ease.

Tips from Your Sponsor
Yes, it’s true, goat cheese comes from milking a goat. While this might sound gross, goat’s milk has much more in common with human milk than cow’s milk does. In fact, in most parts of the world other than the West, goat’s milk is the norm!

 Yields 25 servings

5 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
25 large basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil to taste

 1. In a small bowl, stir together the goat cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Place a spoonful of cheese mixture onto each basil leaf. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

The Boy with the Bread: Hearty Raisin Nut Bread

First let me start by saying that mise en place (measuring out ingredients ahead of time) should happen in advance of getting started on your preparation. There are a lot of ingredients and steps to this recipe and we found that the prep made for a better baking experience. (When prepping your materials be sure to select whether you want to go with the regular or sweeter option, we went with the latter.) We actually had to make this recipe twice as on our initial try, in the shuffle of pulling ingredients together as we proceeded versus mise en place, we missed one of our ingredients which resulted in a bread suited only for the bird feeder. So again we stress, prep first!

In addition to pre-prep, be sure to start earlier in the day when you have time to go through all the steps. You’ll want to allow for well over 3 hours of time for this one. We made the mistake of starting around 7 pm and it made for some really late nights.

We followed the recipe to the letter, but our attempt wasn’t very successful. But we don’t think that the times allotted in the directions enable you to have a successful result.

 Our bread had a lovely cinnamon scent, and a good flavor. However, during the rising portion, we didn’t experience our dough doubling in size. So we’d suggest allowing the dough to rise over night or at least for multiple hours. This was our first attempt at making bread, but if we had to guess a self-rising flour might have made for a better ingredient option. Plus the recipe calls for 40 minutes baking time, but we found that it required more than this. We did an hour and still ended up with the very core still being under baked.

In the end I think the potential to have a great bread was there, but in following each step of the recipe as presented we simply didn’t come out with a great product. So like the bread that Peeta cast out to Katniss, we got burned out on this recipe.

Since we want to believe that it wasn’t simply user error, we’d be curious for you to take a stab at it yourself and let us know about your experience. Anyone up for the challenge?

Tips from Your Sponsor
To give this hearty bread a sweeter taste, add 2 more teaspoons ground cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar to the mixture.

Yields 2 large loaves
1 (.25-ounce) package or 5 teaspoons active dry yeast

½ cup warm water (110°F)
1½ cups warm milk (110°F)
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 eggs
3 cups whole wheat flour
3½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 egg white
2 tablespoons cold water 

1.      In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the milk, butter, honey, salt, cinnamon, sugar, eggs, and whole wheat flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough.
2.      Place raisins in a bowl of tepid tap water. Let soak until needed.
3.      Turn dough out onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
4.      Grease two 8.5″ × 4.5″ loaf pans.
5.      Punch dough down. Turn out onto the lightly floured surface; sprinkle with raisins and walnuts and knead them in. Divide dough in half.
6.      Roll dough into loaves, keeping raisins folded inside.
7.      Place loaves into greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about one hour.
8.      Preheat oven to 375°F.
9.      Beat egg white and cold water; brush over loaves.
10.  Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes or until golden brown. If top browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil for the last 15 minutes.
11.  Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

(All recipes were excerpted from The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook: From Lamb Stew to “Groosling” – More than 150 Recipes Inspired by The Hunger Games Trilogy (F+W Media, December 2011) by Emily Ansara Baines, and used  with permission.)


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