So, I have this duck. Long story short, last August I sent my husband down to the neighbors’ house to deliver some homemade bagels, fresh from the oven. The next thing I knew, they rode up here to return the favor by giving Fletcher and Emery two Pekin ducklings to raise. Now, this usually gets a chuckle when I tell this story, but doesn’t everyone trade bagels for ducklings?
As they grew, we discovered that we had one duck and one drake, and they were inseparable. They waddled their way all over the property, but their favorite spot was always on the front porch. There, they patiently waited for us to feed the cats, so they could chase the cats away and devour all the food in the bowls (they’re kinda bossy like that).
Sadly, one morning we discovered a spot by the pine tree covered in white feathers, and the drake was missing. The duck was huddled by the barn door, waiting for us. And I swear to you, she went through a mourning period, searching for her brother for a few days until she seemed to acknowledge that he was gone for good.
Since then, the duck, or Pretty Girl as we affectionately call her, has become accustomed to being the only duck on the farm. (Actually, I think she’s got a bit of a princess syndrome.) She still quacks from the front porch to wake us up to feed the cats every morning. She follows me every time I do chores, gently grabbing my pant legs with her bill so that I will pay her some attention. She likes to be talked to and held, but I had to give that up because she’d squirt down my leg every … single … time.
We were thrilled when Pretty Girl started laying eggs. I had no idea that Pekin ducks were such good layers, as she has consistently produced one egg a day since she matured. Now, she may hide the eggs (like that one time I found five eggs under the slide on the kids’ playset … they had, uh, been there for a while), but for the most part, Pretty Girl lays in the loose hay in the corner of the barn. Since this breed of duck is usually raised for meat and, and I’ve raised Pekins for that purpose before, I have always had them processed before the girls begin to lay. So, it has been a pleasant surprise and a challenge to find recipes to utilize duck eggs.
Many bakers swear by duck eggs to make rich desserts and baked goods, and I don’t disagree. That’s why I love to use Pretty Girl’s eggs for fresh bread. This no-knead bread is my everyday bread recipe because it’s easy and foolproof. True, like most bread recipes, it does take time to proof, but the actual … oh, I don’t know … interaction with the dough is minimal. This recipe is also the base for my pizza dough, focaccia, and various flavored breads (black pepper and onion being my fave). I’ve made it for years, using chicken eggs, but when I had an ah-ha moment to use duck eggs, there was no going back.
No-knead Duck Egg Braid Bread
• 2 ½ tablespoons (OR one packet) yeast
• 1 tablespoon sugar (OR honey)
• 1 cup warm water
• 1 duck egg, beaten (chicken can be substituted)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 3 cups all-purpose flour (2 ½ cups if you use a chicken egg)
1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water, and allow to bloom for 10 - 15 minutes.
2. Stir egg, oil and salt into the yeast mixture.
3. Add flour, one cup at a time, until all combined. (No need to drag out the mixer and spend an hour searching for the right dough paddle. This can be done by hand. This is a no-knead recipe, so it takes just a few minutes of stirring. You’ll survive.)
4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to proof for at least two hours by a sunny window. (I barely time this. I usually get busy doing something else, then … oh, crap! … I remember that I have dough on the table, and a couple hours have passed.)
5. When the dough has doubled in size, dump it out of the bowl onto a floured surface. With a knife, cut dough into thirds and shape into 12-inch tubes for braiding. Dust your hands and the dough with a little flour. Pinch one of the ends together and then braid the tubes. Pinch the second ends to secure, and slightly turn under the pinched ends.
6. Gently pick up and place the braided dough onto a greased sheet pan and allow to proof in a sunny window or a slightly warm oven for about 15 - 20 minutes.
7. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-ish minutes, or until the bread is a nice light, golden brown. I usually start checking at 15 minutes, but it may take another minute or two. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife. Enjoy!
Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.
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