Interview by Stephanie Jane Carter
Edible New Orleans: You grew up in Maryland, a state known for its seafood.
Vanessa Niemann: Yes. I...
Not long after Jazz Fest is over, I start to crave the crawfish bread again. It is best to make the filling and the bread dough the day before you intend to serve this. This recipe is for New Orleans–style French bread, which is less dense than traditional French bread. It benefits from a long resting time.
If making the dough from scratch seems too laborious, just buy high-quality New Orleans–style French bread and dig out some of the filling. Then, fill it with the crawfish mixture, wrap it in foil, and heat it in a 350° preheated oven until it is warm. That is the method we used for the photo.
The homemade bread dough certainly makes this special and is worth the extra time, even if it does look a bit more rustic than the photo.
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the 100°– 115°F. water by gently stirring with the end of a wooden spoon or a chopstick. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. It will become slightly foamy as it dissolves.
Combine bread flour, wheat gluten, and salt in a large bowl. Gently stir the cane syrup into the yeast and water mixture. Add this to the flour mixture, being sure to scrape out all of the cane syrup, and combine with your hands. (You may instead use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.)
Knead by hand (or electric mixer) for about 5 minutes. It may seem as if you need to add more water during this step, but you don’t. Just continue kneading it until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Add the shortening and knead for another 4–6 minutes. The dough will feel slightly oily.
Place the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 20 minutes.
Scrape dough onto a lightly floured surface and press out into two 12-inch rectangles. Bring the right side to the middle and fold the left side over the right, so that you form 3 folds. Repeat. Lay the rectangles side-by-side and cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 2 hours in a slightly warm place.
Move it to the refrigerator to let the dough rest overnight.
Melt the butter and oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
Add onion, pepper, and celery. Add about a teaspoon of salt (this does not need to be exact) and sauté until the vegetables wilt (about 5 minutes). You will know you have accomplished this when the bell pepper lends some of its color to the onion, which will be otherwise translucent.
Add 1 teaspoon of salt.
Add garlic and cook until that, too, is translucent (about 2 minutes).
Add the vermouth. Reduce to sec, or nearly dry. The mixture should look almost as it did before you added the vermouth and it should no longer smell acidic.
Decrease the heat to medium. Add the crawfish and their liquid. Stir to combine and cook about 2 minutes.
Add the paprika, dry mustard, another teaspoon of salt, and a grind of black pepper. Stir to combine. Turn the heat off.
Add scallion and mayonnaise. Add 1/3 cup of the mozzarella and 1/3 cup of the cheddar cheese. (You will use the rest of each tomorrow during assembly.) Stir to combine. Add the lemon juice and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary.
Store in the refrigerator overnight.
Preheat oven to 450° F.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the bread dough out into 4 ovals that each measure about 8 inches by 6 inches.
Visually split the dough through the middle horizontally. Most of your filling should be placed below that imaginary line and about ½ inch from the edges of the dough so that you will be able to fold the dough over the filling and seal it around the edges in the final step.
Combine the remaining cheeses and divide into 8 equal portions. Place a portion on each of your pieces of dough and spread around the filling space defined in the previous step.
On top of the cheese, place about a ½ cup of cool filling.
Top with the remaining portions of cheese.
Apply water on your fingertip to the exposed ½ inch of dough around the filling. Now, fold the dough over the filling and seal well.
Move the 4 loaves to a baking sheet (you may need two) and spray with nonstick spray, such as Baker’s Joy.
Brush the top of each loaf with water.
Bake on middle rack, uncovered, for about 11 minutes or until the top of the bread is golden.
Remove and let rest on a rack for 10 minutes. The bread will soften in this time.
Copyright ©2017 Edible New Orleans. All rights reserved