Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How to Make Squirrel Bread - Start with One Fresh Squirrel…… (It’s Yummy!)

Fall is a great time to bake bread, and since October is National Squirrel Awareness and Appreciation Month, I thought it would be a great time to share a recipe for Squirrel Bread.

Even as someone who loves most forms of wildlife, it’s hard for me to understand why someone would feel compelled to start Squirrel Awareness Month.

Squirrels are always cleaning out our bird feeders, digging up our new plants and eating our home grown fruits and vegetables just as they are getting ripe enough to pick.

I do admit that I feel a certain bit of awe for some wildlife species, such as hummingbirds and moose and foxes. And I’ll even admit that I go so far as to talk to a lot of the critters that I see outside in my yard. Still, I’ve never had any sort of life changing encounters with a squirrel . But apparently, a gentleman by the name of Greg Bassett did. George is the one behind National Squirrel Awareness Month. Here is an excerpt from The Squirrel Lover’s Club website:
Greg Bassett founded The Squirrel Lover’s Club™ in 1995 after an experience at the Grand Canyon in Arizona. While standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and marveling at the beauty and grandeur of the worldwide attraction, Gregg Bassett was unaware that life as he knew it was about to change. The instigator, a fox squirrel, affected Gregg irrevocably when it stood up on its legs and motioned with its hands. For a few moments, tourists forgot the Grand Canyon. Instead, they gazed into the face of an endearing creature that captured their attention and the heart of at least one visitor – Gregg Bassett. How many other lives did that one squirrel affect? We will never know. Gregg, however, never forgot that squirrel when he returned to his home outside of Chicago, Illinois.

My husband and I did have a bit of a squirrel encounter when we built our home. A mother squirrel had built her nest in our house during construction and after we knocked the nest down, we ended up raising one of the tiny squirrels from infancy. It was NOT a wise decision and taught me a good lesson about not interfering with wildlife. It also taught me how to make Squirrel Bread.

To make squirrel bread, you start with one fresh squirrel……….and you study him for awhile and learn what he likes to eat.

I learned about Squirrel bread when I visited France in 1993. Bread, of course, is a staple in France and you can buy fresh loaves from merchants on the street. I didn’t speak any French, and when I looked up the words Pain écureuil in my French to English dictionary, I was a little concerned about what I was eating. (I’m still not sure whether I ate horse one day when I ordered something called cheval.)  

Pain écureuil is a hearty, dark bread that is chock full of things that squirrels like to eat, like nuts, figs, apricots and dried fruits. It does NOT include any écureuil (squirrel).

Since I returned from Paris, I’ve often looked for a recipe for Squirrel Bread and haven’t been able to find one. However, this recipe from the book Patricia Wells at Home in Provence is very similar in taste and texture. (Refer to Ms. Wells book for complete recipe details.)

Anyway, it’s a great wonderful bread for anyone who likes to eat like a squirrel. And is really yummy with sweet cream cheese. Feel free to experiment with the amounts and varieties of dried fruits and nuts. And if anyone wants to convert this to a bread machine recipe and share the steps with me, please do!

Recipe for Pain écureuil - Squirrel Bread

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ½ cups lukewarm water
10 dried apricots, quartered
½ cups golden raisins
4 dried figs, quartered
2 cup chopped walnuts
5 cups unbleached bread flour
1 cup rye flour
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon raw honey
  1. Combine yeast, sugar and water and stir to blend. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. In separate bowl, combine apricots, raisins, figs and nuts and toss with 1 tablespoon flour.
  3. Add bread flour, rye flour and salt to yeast mixture, a little at a time, mixing until dough forms a ball. Add honey and continue to mix until soft but firm, 4 to 5 minutes. Add dried fruit and nuts.
  4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until double the bulk, about 8 hours
  5. Transfer dough to floured surface and knead by hand for 2 minutes. Return to bowl, cover, and let rise at room temperature until double in bulk, 2 to 3 hours.
  6. Shape dough into large round loaf, cover with a floured cloth and let it rise again at room temperature, for 2 to 3 hours.
  7. Bake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Then lower temperature to 400 and continue baking for another 30 minutes.

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