by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong
Sometimes you can see more clearly with your eyes closed. Eyes closed, a bite of a hot dog with the works and I’m an adolescent again, sitting on the bleachers at Wrigley Field. Close my eyes and a bite of a fried pork tenderloin sandwich takes me back to the warmth of my grandmother Lula Mae’s kitchen. Sea urchin roe with a squeeze of lemon? I’m transported to a secluded beach in Greece and a vision of a boy who was never a gentleman.
When I close my eyes and take a bite of this apricot bread— with chunks of sweet apricots and hints of rosemary—I’m back on the island of Sardinia with the love of my life. If I open my eyes, I’m in my Savannah kitchen with the same man. I guess sometimes you don’t need to bother closing your eyes when heaven is staring right at you . . . blue eyes shining, and a mouthful of apricot bread.
Eyes Wide Shut Bread
(an apricot + rosemary chewy loaf)
yields 2 loaves
What you need:
1 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1⁄2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1⁄2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2⁄3 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cornmeal
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir the water, yeast, honey, and oil with a spoon until the yeast dissolves. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to foam. Add both flours and the salt and mix until the dough is a messy, ugly ball. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Add the rosemary and apricots and continue to mix for about 4 minutes, until the dough is firm and smooth and the rosemary and apricots are evenly distributed.
Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 1 hour. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal portions and shape them into rounds. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel, and let them rest for 1 to 11⁄2 hours, until they have doubled in size. (I prefer to let the dough rise in proofing baskets, but if you don’t have any don’t worry, just use a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you do use baskets, dust them first with flour and shake out any excess flour, then place the rounds of dough, seam side up, in the basket. Cover with a kitchen towel and let them rise as directed.)
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place any size cast-iron skillet in the bottom of the oven, and a baking stone or baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven to preheat, too.
Using a serrated knife or a razor blade, score the tops of the loaves, making an X that is 1⁄4 inch deep (if using proofing baskets, turn the loaves over and gently remove from the baskets before scoring the top). Dust the baking stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and place the loaves, scored side up, on it. Add 1 cup ice cubes to the cast-iron skillet and close the oven door. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 425° F and continue to bake for 20 minutes more, until the loaves are a rich brown color.