District 11 Bread
One of the most touching and heartbreaking scenes in The Hunger Games is the death of Rue, the youngest tribute from District 11. My only disappointment in the film version was the absence of the sponsorship Katniss received from District 11 for her kindest act of humanity, holding and singing to Rue until her death, then covering her lifeless body in flowers. If you haven’t read the book I apologize for the spoiler. Katniss receives a loaf of District 11's signature bread in a parachute. It is described as crescent shaped and chalk-full of seeds.
The book doesn’t specify which kind of seeds, but gives the impression of density, and does mention that it was probably made with tesserae grain. I wanted to create something authentic. I decided on crescent rolls. I imagined the tesserae grain is probably unprocessed whole wheat, leaving it dark in color. District 11 is the second poorest district so I assumed if they were using tesserae grain, one would use tesserae oil. There is no added sugar, because as Katniss described refined sugar is exorbitantly expensive. I chose honey as my sweetener, because given the fact Rue worked in an orchard; in order to pollinate crops, bees are an absolute necessity- so I assumed residents might have some access to honey. You could really use any seeds you desire; I chose pepitas for texture as well as for their nutty flavor; poppy seeds and sesame seeds for sweetness, and roasted flax seeds for their toasty flavor.
DISTRICT 11 BREAD, RUE’S SEEDED CRESCENTS
2 ½ tsp active dry yeast
¼ tsp sugar
¼ cup warm water
1 cup milk heated to 110 degrees
2 tsp salt
¼ cup oil
1/3 cup raw Honey
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour (plus extra for kneading)
1/3 cup raw pepitas
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
3 Tbsp whole roasted flax seeds
1 egg beaten with a splash of milk
1. In the ¼ cup water (for perfect yeast-activating temp, about 12 seconds in the microwave) add your yeast and sugar. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes. It’s ready when the liquid turns to oatmeal-colored foam.
2. While the yeast is activating, mix your flour, salt and seeds in a bowl.
3. Heat the milk (cold milk for about 20-30 seconds in the microwave), if you stick your finger in the milk the temperature should just be slightly warmer than your body- think mild bath water- comfortable.
4. Add the milk, honey, oil, and yeast to the dry ingredients.
5. Stir dough just until everything is evenly moist and pulls away from the edges into a ball in the center.
6. Flour a clean flat surface.
7. Place dough on floured surface, sprinkle with flour, flour your hands and knead the dough for 6-10 minutes. This dough is sticky at first so be liberal with the flour. Kneading dough is hard work- it was no wonder Peeta was so strong.
8. After kneading form the dough into a tight ball.
9. Place the kneaded ball into a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1½ hours. To ensure the highest rise possible, at the 45-minute mark flip the dough ball over in the bowl, gently pat the top down and re cover.
10. To make the crescents, first roll out the dough as if you’re making piecrust. You want about 12” diameter circle, about a ½ inch thick.
11. Cut the dough into 12 triangles, as if you were cutting a pizza.
12. Take 1 triangle and roll it tightly from wide end to skinny point. Curl the edges inward to make a crescent.
13. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350.
14. Before baking brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash (egg beaten with milk), then sprinkle the top with sesame seeds (or whichever seeds you like).
15. Bake for 24- 27 minutes. Bread is done when you poke it with your finger and it no longer bounces back.
These rolls are delicious on their own, warm with butter, but make awesome sandwiches. I made a grilled cheese and apple sandwich with mine, thinly sliced crisp pink lady apples with Dubliner cheddar cheese. Considering Rue worked in an orchard, I thought apples were appropriate.
What I love most about the gift of bread from District 11 is how the gesture conveys the message of gratitude. The bread may have been made with tessarae, the worst quality of ingredients, but was made with sincerity. I believe food is love, “it may not be much, but what little I have I will share with you”, is always a wonderful gift to receive.