Apple Bread and Grilled Blue Cheese Sandwiches
2 Mar 2007

Flip through just about any foodie glossy these days, and in addition to gorgeously styled and shot images in articles, you'll find equally splendid looking advertising, ever so subtly marked somewhere along the edge of the page with "special advertising section" or some such disclaimer. In many magazines, it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference between the adverecipes and the magazine's actual articles. Have you seen Nestlé's latest in the Australian magazines? You'd swear Donna Hay whipped up the molten chocolate cake herself. I haven't decided whether I like the trend. On one hand, there are more sumptuous photos for me to drool over or be inspired by. I never could figure out why advertising photos always were so cold and uninviting, or even just down right ugly in the past. I certainly welcome the softer editorial style focused on making the food look beautiful and delicious, particularly since this is pretty much the business that I'm entering. On the other hand, it's advertising. And I feel a bit tricked as I start digging in to what looks like a fascinating article on Arizona or arugala, that turns out to just be a bunch of marketing spiel with pretty pictures. Maybe I'd feel better about it if the quality of the product lived up to the glory of the photo. So often, you know it just won't.

I recently found myself caught up in one last month that took me a few looks before I realized that it was too was a recipomercial. I had even dog-eared the page to come back and make it at a later date. Even after I realized it was an ad, I decided to go ahead and give it a try, mainly because the ad was for Bramley apples and that seemed a bit less slick than many of the other ads-in-disguise. Plus, Sam had given the apples such high praise last fall, I figured they had to be good. The recipe, which I stumbled upon in the UK version of Delicious, was for a hearty looking apple bread. The photo showed a gorgeous chunk removed, so you could see the little piece of apple poking through the chewy crumb, sitting atop a perfectly distressed chopping board with a little sampling of cheese and fruit softly resting in the background. I couldn't help but want to reach out for a hunk of my own.
Of course, it's not Bramley apple season, so ironically, while the ad actually made me get excited and cook the bread, I used locally grown Washington apples (winesap to be exact). I also wasn't sure what "strong wheat flour" was, but given that all I had was whole wheat pastry flour, I decided to rustic-it-up a bit by adding sunflower seeds and oat bran to the mix, and go a bit easier on the white flour, and both were good additions.
I cooked the loaves as directed, and the crust and crumb were both well developed... although I think next time I'll take a page from the no-knead bread baking style and cook the loaves in a covered pot on higher heat. As it is though, it makes fantastic toast, or, something I'm a bit more excited about, grilled blue cheese sandwiches.
I'm sure grilled blue cheese on a hearty bread has been done many times before, but my first experience, being still fairly new to the loves-blue-cheese world, was last Sunday as part of the cheese course at dinner at The Herbfarm just outside of Seattle. The Herbfarm is one of those legendary Seattle restaurants. The meal is over 4 hours of course after course (9 to be exact) of a set seasonal menu that changes monthly and revolves around a theme... next month, for example, is all about beef. My meal was was root-vegetable inspired. The individual courses are small enough that you don't leave stuffed at the end of the night, and each dish is exquisitely prepared. I quite enjoyed my entire meal, but the one course that I found myself pining for was the cheese course of a knock your socks off Oregon Blue Cheese oozing from perfectly grilled whole grain bread. Between the bites of the almost smokey cheesy goo, were little nibbles of a tart cherry to round out the palate. So simple and good.
So, without a doubt, I knew what I'd be making with the apple bread. I wasn't disappointed. As the buttered bread grilled, the sugars from the apples caramelized just a touch more to bring out just a little edge of sweetness, and the nuttiness of the seeds was warmed and deepened. The Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue I used was strong, but not overwhelming. For the contrasting flavor, I made a little tangy rhubarb puree which I might even have liked better than the tart cherry compote, because I could dip the corder of the sandwich in to all the flavors in one bite. I have a feeling, there will be more grilled cheese sandwiches coming into my life over the next little while. There are so many other cheese that will be tempting me... goat cheese, feta, manchego, not to mention the rest of the blue cheese spectrum.

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