Sunday, December 4, 2011

District 4's Seaweed Bread

When I decided to start this project, I knew District 4's seaweed bread would be one of the first breads I'd try. The book describes it as a "salty," "fish-shaped loaf tinted green with seaweed." My first thought: Er. Seaweed??

I'd never cooked with seaweed before, and I'd never even heard about a bread with seaweed in it. I thought at first that I might be able to slip in the seaweed unnoticed, as a powder or something. But as I continued to research, I found a great recipe for Irish soda bread with dulse -- aka seaweed. 

I felt like I had stumbled upon greatness. My educated guess put District 4 in either the Pacific Northwest or the Mexican Gulf, but with a tribute named Finnick Odair, I've always wondered about the district's potential Irish roots. This recipe honors that, and it lets the seaweed shine through too, instead of being surreptitiously added as a powder.

Although the book describes the loaf as tinted green from the seaweed, I didn't get much tinting, and I chose not to add it artificially. If you want to, add a little bit of moss green food coloring to get a green tint.

District 4's Seaweed Bread
1/4 to 1/3 oz dried dulse (you can find this at a specialty store like Whole Foods)
2 cups plain white flour 
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt 
3/4 cup buttermilk (No buttermilk at home? Add 1 Tblsp lemon juice to 3/4 cup milk & let sit 5 minutes.)
Egg white

1. Preset the oven to 400 degrees, and put a baking sheet inside to let it warm up.

2. Soak the dulse in water for 5 minutes, then strain water out and break leaves into small pieces. I tried the dried dulse before soaking it, and it tastes like an accidental mouthful of ocean -- almost caustically salty. After a soak, the taste is remarkably different.

3. Mix the flour, baking soda and salt into a large bowl, using a sieve if you have one. If you don't have one, use your hands to aerate the flour.

4. Add the buttermilk and gently fold it into the flour mixture using your hands or a wooden spoon.

5. If you have a fish-shaped cookie cutter (recommended), roll out the dough so that it is approximately 1 inch thick, then use the cutter. If you have no cookie cutter, break the dough into 4 pieces and shape each one into a fish. (Be forewarned, your biscuits will lose some of its shape as it bakes up, so your fish may end up looking wonky -- like mine did!)

6. Take the warmed cookie tray out of the oven. Place the biscuits on the tray, then brush the tops with egg white and sprinkle with some salt.

7. Put in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Once they're ready, enjoy with some seafood!

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