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Panini & Foolproof Beer Bread

By Edited Mar 8, 2016 0 0
Panini
Credit: Partial cover of the paperback book 200 Best Panini Recipes by Tiffany Collins
Wine and cheese parties are sooo yesterday. Now the coolest thing to do is throw a panini party. I'll have to admit, being the nerd I am, I first heard about paninis while working at a hospital about 10 years ago.
 
One day, a co-worker of mine (who loves sashimi) offered to get me a panini. I had no idea what it was, but I figured it was fish (and I'm allergic to seafood). So I replied, "No thanks, I'm allergic." She shrugged her shoulders and walked away.
 
Well, once I saw how gorgeous these squished deli sandwiches looked, I had to try one. They are divine. 
 
Later, I discovered there is a documented history of the panini (aka grilled sandwiches) that appears to date back to the early 20th century. A pretty detailed account appears online in The Food Timeline.[1]
 
But for fun, I thought I'd recount my recollection of (and possible history) of the panini - at least here in Canada. I also threw in my 20 year old foolproof recipe for beer bread.

Waring Commercial WPG150 Compact Italian-Style Panini Grill 120-volt

Waring Commercial WPG150 Compact Italian-Style Panini Grill 120-volt
Credit: Amazon.com

Found out what the experts use

First, I thought I'd check out what my local Panini shop uses. It didn't quite go "as planned" but I got the goods.
 
With my notepad in tow, I politely asked the gent behind the counter what kind of grill they use for their paninis.
 
Puzzled and worried looking, he asked me (in a heavy Italian accent),  "Oh, are you from like ah the CFIA?" (Canadian Food Inspection Agency is what he meant). But I heard FIFA and thought, "Hmm, I don't really follow soccer, but the Brazilian team is hot."
 
"No, I'm a writer..." I assured him. And before I could explain anything else, he went on to tell me, "We no longer selling the calamari, eh."
 
I didn't want to stress this man out anymore (which I seem to have a knack for) so I smiled, nodded, and left. But not before checking out the fabulous panini grill he uses with the brand name WARING clearly visible on it (shown next). 

Found the exact model on Amazon

When I checked out Waring Commercial Grills and Griddles[2] online, I was impressed by the sizes available of Italian-style panini grills. 

I compared a few Waring panini grills on their website and this model on Amazon impressed me the most. It has all the bells and whistles of more expensive grills - but the price just can't be beat. (Last I checked, it was less than 1/2 price). 

Waring Compact Italian-Style Panini Grill

Waring Commercial WPG150 Compact Italian-Style Panini Grill, 120-volt
Amazon Price: $808.50 $312.68 Buy Now
(price as of Mar 8, 2016)
Specs that impressed me: NSF certified, UL approved, ribbed cast iron top AND bottom plates (makes it heavy, but necessary for real grill marks). Love the ergonomic, rugged handles on this bad boy! Backed by a 1-year limited warranty, ships free and gift-wrapping available.

The Panini

a pictorial of how I think the panini began:

The clubhouse sandwich is tasty and is sliced into quarters. But it's still way too thick and what's with the toothpicks? They're never long enough, at least not the ones I buy.

Clubhouse Sandwich
Credit: Geoff Peters 604 on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Then submarine sandwiches came along . . it's all good. But precisely how does one open the mouth wide enough to bite into it?
Submarine Sandwich
Credit: jeffreyw on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
So, you order one toasted - but still that bread IS shaped like, well . . a submarine. And you almost chip a tooth biting into it.

 

Toasted Submarine Sandwich
Credit: jeffreyw on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Microwaves

Sure it melted the cheese and heated the meat and stuff - but it made the bread soggy and lifeless.

I enjoyed those artisan breads though. Especially those with special flavor combinations . . yum (still a bit thick, though).

Artisan Bread Sub
Credit: jeffreyw on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

What I think happened

Someone decided that squishing the bread to heat the stuff inside (without burning or sogging up the bread) would be easier to fit into the mouth.
 
I theorize a man invented this method. Why? Because anything with grill marks on it - a man will eat.

Case in point

Here's a tuna salad panini (blah) but the grill marks help

Tuna Salad Panini
Credit: stu_spivack on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

I began to examine the panini

I thought about this whole panini craze and compared several to the "less than $5" submarine sandwiches I used to buy for lunch.
 
On closer look, I realized there IS a big difference in how the ideal panini is created. I illustrate my findings next.

I'm lazy, so I watched how the pros make subs

Submarine Sandwich
Credit: time_anchor on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The internal structure of a typical sub

Internal Structure of a Sub
Credit: jeffreyw on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic / Text added by me, RoseWrites, using Pixlr.com.

Then, I became one with the panini

See how I feel this next panini could be improved upon:

Improved panini
Credit: ben pollard on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic / Text added by me, RoseWrites, using Pixlr.com.

Can paninis be sweet?

Sure, this is a strawberry & Nutella panini

Strawberry & Nutella Panini
Credit: pure.sugar on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

RoseWrite's Favorite Panini

Serves: 1 - 2 | Prep: 7 - 10 mins | Total: 15 - 20 mins

My recipe is loosely based on one I enjoyed at Balducci's while visiting The Johns Hopkins Hospital[3] in Baltimore, Maryland a couple of years ago. Balducci's Food Lover's Market[4] sells a fabulous Italian panini made with mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, some kind of pesto, and sliced tomato on a ciabatta roll.
 
Ingredients:
2 - 3 slices (about 1 oz. per slice) of Havarti cheese or any cheese
3 - 4 oz. thinly sliced Prosciutto (or any deli or vegan "meat")
Freshly sliced tomatoes and leafy greens (if desired)
Basil Pesto (I prefer Seggiano's)
Fancy mustard & or mayonnaise
Salt & Pepper (or substitute) to taste
Artisan Bun or Beer Bread (see recipe next)
 
Directions:
Slice your bun (or bread) in half if need be. Add, in this order to each half: cheese, meat, mustard (if desired) pesto, tomato slices and / or leafy greens and I put the mayo on last (on top of the veggies). Season with salt & pepper (or substitute) to taste. Slap the two halves together.
 
Heat your panini grill (according to manufacturer's directions). Carefully place your panini on the grill, close the lid, and grill for 2 - 4 minutes.
 
Remove panini from grill and allow to cool for a minute (get your drinks ready) and enjoy.

The Italian Panini (prior to grilling)

Balducci's at JFK airport terminal

Balducci's at JFK airport terminal
Credit: gtrwndr87 on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

I've had this recipe card for over 20 years

Beer Bread with Rosemary recipe card
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel / All rights reserved.

RoseWrite's Beer Bread

I have no idea from which cookbook or magazine I obtained this recipe. I've had it in my recipe folder for over 20 years (shown above). All I know is . . it's fabulous, simple, easy, and the house smells great whenever I make it. If you know of the source (or are the original creator) let me know so I can properly credit you for it.

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour OR 2 cups white flour & 1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1.5 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
Optional: 1 tbsp. chopped fresh (or 1/2 tsp. dried) rosemary OR oregano
1.5 cups (12 oz. / 341 mL can) beer
 
Topping:
1 tsp. olive oil
Optional: 1 tsp. fresh (or 1/4 tsp. dried) rosemary OR oregano
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
 
Directions:
Make sure that bread loaf will be centered in your oven, adjust oven racks if need be. Preheat oven to 350 F.
 
In a large bowl, combine flour(s), baking powder, salt, sugar, and rosemary (or oregano). Stir in beer until batter is formed.
 
Lightly oil (or line with parchment paper) an 8" x 4" (1.5 L) bread loaf pan and put bread dough in it.
 
Brush the top of the loaf with olive oil (I use the back of a spoon) and sprinkle with coarse salt (and rosemary or oregano, if desired).
 
Bake at 350 F for 75 - 90 mins. or until firm in the center. I tap the loaf with the back of a spoon (when it sounds hollow, it's done). TIP: If after 1 hour or so the top of the loaf looks brown, cover with a tented piece of foil.

200 Best Panini Recipes by Tiffany Collins

For 199 more ideas...

200 Best Panini Recipes [Paperback] [2008] Tiffany Collins
Amazon Price: $40.64 Buy Now
(price as of Mar 8, 2016)
What I love most about this book is it caters to everyone in my family. I can find something on the sweet side for my daughter like a breakfast or dessert panini and a surprisingly large selection of vegetarian recipes. There's even some for my man-servant who loves seafood, Philly cheesesteak, and the smoked turkey, brie and Granny Smith apple panini.

Author Tiffany Collins is a contributing editor (and spokesperson) for several magazines. She created the Dillard's and Southern Living Home Design Seminar and spent numerous seasons with the Southern Living Cooking School as a foods & entertaining specialist.
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Bibliography

  1. Lynne Olver "Food Timeline FAQs: sandwiches | panini." foodtimeline.org. 4/03/2014 <Web >
  2. "Grills and Griddles | Waring Commercial: Products." waringcommercialproducts.com. 4/03/2014 <Web >
  3. "The Johns Hopkins Hospital." hopkinsmedicine.org. 4/03/2014 <Web >
  4. "New buildings, new culinary delights." hopkinsmedicicine.org. 07/02/2011. 4/03/2014 <Web >

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