Dragon's Bread with Smoky Paprika and Spicy Nasturtium (for when adventure calls):
Do you remember that defiant, adventure-seeking feeling that would come over you time-to-time when you were little? That feeling that led you to sneak into the pantry for some bread or maybe some Pop Tarts and stuff them into a bag, which you then hung on a stick in true drifter style. That feeling that led you out the door and into the unfamiliar, whispering “We’re about to embark on a grand adventure!” or “I’m going to go find a dragon to conquer!” After a little while, though, that voice would tire out and become silent and the growing in your stomach would begin its complaints. That was always about the time my sister and I would decide that maybe running away from home wasn’t such a good plan and gosh, mom was making hamburgers tonight and they sound awfully good, maybe we’ll run away tomorrow. And so it goes.
Whether that sudden inspiration to leave the stale known world behind came from romanticized concepts in literature like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Fin or ancient ballads of dragon-slaying knights, or whether we were collectively tapping into something more ancient, more primal, and more immediate is unknown to me still, but it makes sense. This is the time of outward energy, of trying new things and going new places and exploring the external world to give us fodder to explore our own inner worlds in the depths of winter. It’s a time of venturing into the dragon-like heat of a summer’s day to conquer or own fears and curiosity. It’s only natural that thoughts of adventuring outside of our known world consume us and we daydream of camping trips, road trips, and days spent at the beach.
Running away is still a temptation as an adult too. We may not be able to run away for a week, leaving our jobs and responsibilities behind us, but surely we can run away for a night? We can drive into the wilderness and let our naked bodies soak up the pleasure of brisk mountain streams and we can lay on the ground or snuggled up in blankets and admire the ways the stars twinkle. We can even run away for just a few hours, go to somewhere wild and magical and get our fix of summertime adventure before we blink and it passes us by. But by now we know better than to pack such a lame assortment of adventure foods. We know that to truly run away, we’re going to need some tasty sustenance. We’re going to need a picnic.
And luckily, this bread serves the perfect function for a runway summer picnic. It’s beautiful, flavorful, and easily shareable. You don’t need any utensils to enjoy it, nor do you need any condiments to top it. It is filled with everything you need. The radial scale pattern makes it easy to tear off a chunk to munch on, and the orange-red bread itself is colored and flavored with smoky paprika and tomato paste. The zesty filling is a pesto made from spicy-sour nasturtium leaves and parmesan cheese. Start it now so that by the time dinnertime rolls around you can pack it up and head somewhere a little more adventuresome than your own dining room.
If a dragon had a favorite flower, I bet it’d be nasturtiums. Their peppery bite and fiery colors seem to encapsulate summer’s heat in flower form. Nasturtiums are a common sight in mid-summer. Their tangled vine-y foliage and unmistakable round leaves are peppered with bright yellow, orange, and red flowers. They can be seen in gardens and pots, but you can also find them growing wild along the Pacific coast in sunny areas with well-drained soil. Both leaves and flowers are edible and have a pleasantly spicy, radish-like flavor. They have a slightly tart aftertaste, probably due to their high levels of vitamin C (in fact, they were once used to treat scurvy!) They make an especially flavorful pesto that mellows out just the right amount during baking.
Smoked Paprika and Tomato Dragon Bread:
3/4 c. lukewarm water
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
5 Tbs. tomato paste
3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 tsp smoked paprika (or more, if you like it more flavorful)
1/4 c. finely-chopped fresh basil
egg, for egg wash
- Dissolve yeast, sugar, and 1/2 c. of flour in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, egg, olive oil, salt, paprika, and basil to the mixture and stir until combined. Add the remaining flour and stir well. Add additional flour if needed to form a stiff dough.
- Knead for 6-8 minutes until smooth and supple. Place in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour or until doubled.
- Roll the dough out to about 1/4” thick, then use a 2” pastry cutter (or drinking glass) to cut out discs. Keep the rest covered while you work. Place 1/2 tsp. filling into the center of each circle, then fold it in half like a taco. Fold that in half again to make a petal shape and pinch the bottom together. Place the petals in a greased 9 or 10” cake pan in a circle, then place another layer in the middle to form a radial flower shape. Roll a bit of the leftover dough into a small ball and place in the middle.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until puffy, about 30 minutes. If you used a springform pan, you can now remove the outer ring and place the bread flower onto a cookie sheet. (If not, just leave it in the pan.)
- Preheat oven to 400F. After the dough has risen, remove the plastic and brush with a thin egg wash, then bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Nasturtium Pesto Filling:
A note: this recipe makes about twice as much as you’ll need for the bread filling. You can halve it, or make the double batch to eat later - it’s great over pasta, eating with chips, or baked into quesadillas.
3 c. nasturtium leaves and flowers
1/4 c. olive oil
3 Tbs. lemon juice
fresh black pepper
1 c. grated hard cheese like parmesan
- Blend the nasturtium leaves, olive oil, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender until only small chunks remain. Stir in the black pepper to taste, then add the grated cheese.
I hope you enjoy your summertime adventures! If you give this recipe a try, I'd love to hear what you think of it. (And I super-love seeing the versions people make! Tag me in the photo on Instagram (@misswondersmith) or Facebook (@thewondersmith) so I can see!
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