honey spice bread and attempted stew

I’ve often opined that travel is one of the ultimate relationship tests. Why and how different people travel can be so… well… different! Different paces, different priorities, different expectations, and different comfort levels when dealing with the unknown. I once booked a two-week vacation to China with a boyfriend I had been dating for nearly one year; less than 24 hours after stepping off the plane I knew that we had to break up. The moral of the story is, plan a nice little weekend trip together before you wind up spending 13 days trapped in a hotel room with your future ex boyfriend.

David Lebovitz opens this week’s Cook the Book Fridays recipe, Honey Spice Bread, with these words: “Some people travel to sightsee or visit museums, cathedrals, or gardens. Me? I travel to eat.” David sounds like my ideal travel companion:-)


He then goes on to warn us that this is a bread and not a cake. I guess I need to work on my listening skills because even after reading this warning, I found myself initially disappointed that this recipe wasn’t very cakey. It just smelled so amazing while it was baking and very reminiscent of gingerbread or similar Christmas treats, that I completely forgot. In any case, my initial disappointment was quickly overcome once I remembered to treat the bread as bread and started experimenting with toppings. David points out that it is quite good with froi gras, but I didn’t have any of that lying around. Topped with the very prosaic peanut butter and jelly, it made a surprisingly good breakfast. My husband enjoyed a few slices with gravalax and sweet mustard. But my absolute favorite topping turned out to be a nice smear of Fume d’Ambert blue cheese. All in all, a delicious and very repeatable recipe.

IMG_4221As for this week’s actual recipe, Belgian Beef Stew with Beer and the aforementioned Spice Bread, well, that didn’t turn out so well. The sauce was delicious, the beer (my favorite Belgian of course!) was also delicious, the meat was dry and tasteless.

As much as I would love to deflect blame away from my cooking skills and on to the recipe, I can’t in good conscious do it because this particular problem seems to plague most of my attempts at making stew. I would love to know where I’m going wrong. Am I cooking it too long, too short. Am I inadvertently buying the wrong kind of meat? It’s entirely possible that something is getting lost in translation between me and the butcher. I just don’t know. At least I had some leftover beer to drown my sorrows.

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13 Responses to honey spice bread and attempted stew

  1. The bread was so good!! I never thought of pairing it with gravlax! I am sorry about the meat. Did you crowd the meat? That is to say, did you fry it in batches? Xxx

  2. Chez Nana says:

    Stew has to cook a long time to become tender and fall apart. It’s so frustrating to do all that and not have it turn out to your liking. The bread was so delicious, I like all your ideas for topping.
    I used just plain soft butter.

  3. Nicole @ The 2nd 35 Years says:

    I tried theverything bread with taramosalata, a Greek salmon roe in creamy suspension deliciousness and it was exquisitely paired for the same reason as the gravlax paired well. Yum!

  4. Piebird says:

    You’re right to consider the cut of meat. There are many ways a “simple” stew or braise can go wrong and make a good cook feel like she just wasted hours of cooking! Here’s a link that has a pretty complete explanation of stew/braise technique, mostly “low and slow”. http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/icooks/2-1-03article.html
    Hope it helps so you’ll feel like trying this type of comfort food again!

  5. That is really frustrating about the stew. I admit that my stew making is a it hit and miss too!

  6. Teresa says:

    That’s so disappointing when a dish doesn’t live up to expectations. I have pretty good luck with stew, but it was one of the things I started helping with in elementary school (one of the advantages of being a latchkey kid). The bread was a winner for me, too. I’ve only tried it with butter so far, but your toppings sound wonderful.

    Travel companions who are in synch with you are something to be very grateful for. I can relate to being stuck on a trip with a soon-to-be ex. That’s an experience I’d never want to re-live.

  7. Kitchen Conundrum says:

    Your bread looks great. I am sorry to hear about the meat. But the leftover beer always helps!

  8. I had to drown my sorrows too many times before. Know the feelings well. Fortunately and surprisingly, I was successful with this recipe. Give it another try. Good insight on the relationship test.

  9. Thank you for sharing your life lesson. Too bad the stew did not live up to expectations. I have had my mishaps and that is has been due to lack of time in the oven.

  10. Cher says:

    I am hit and miss with many things, so I don’t know what to tell you 🙂
    There are people that I have to travel with at work that I would have dumped long ago if they were a boyfriend/ girlfriend. I had a former boss who was THE WORST traveler; I told him that I was going to send his wife a fruit basket if this is what she had to put up with at home. Fortunately, he took my comments in good humor and behaved better on future trips (kind of).

  11. betsy says:

    I wonder what kind of traveler I am. I love all the sights and sites, but also love the grocery stores, bakeries, markets, etc. I had some issues with the stew, but I think I’m just not a stew person. Loved the bread, though I didn’t venture beyond butter for topping the rest of the loaf. Hope things work out better next week.

  12. Hmmm, I wonder what happened that it was tasteless. I loved your opening story, Rose, and the segue. And it’s totally true! Me and my now-husband early on decided to make a last-minute summer trip to the Maryland coast when we still lived in DC. Without a hotel reservation we were pretty much out of luck and had to drive all the way back home at 3 am as there weren’t even any rooms in Annapolis. We didn’t even get mad at each other or anything. Just kind of went with the flow. Good stuff. Anyway, I hope that our next recipe is kinder to you. 😉

  13. Karen says:

    Right after I graduated from college I spent 8 weeks in Europe with a friend (Eurail passes, hostels, backpacks, so fun!). We were compatible travel companions except when it came to food. We were on a tight budget, and my friend wasn’t much of a food person, so my one disappointment about the trip is I didn’t get to fully experience the food. Otherwise it was a grand adventure! Your bread looks wonderful. I’m sorry the stew didn’t turn out.

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