Woodwind Gourmet: Jason’s Müesli

IMG_5497I have always been hesitant to call myself a composer. Looking through scraps of manuscripts saved from my college years and my high school journals, it’s obvious I’ve always aspired to be one. Thankfully, it wasn’t some misguided pursuit of fame or fortune that drove me to compose. It was a spark of inspiration that often seemed to come out of nowhere — a brisk fall breeze, a bumpy bus ride home from school, being afraid of the dark — all of these things eventually transcribed themselves in my head as tunes needing to be written down.

As a kid, I composed tunes on my tiny Casio keyboard; I never wrote them down, I just kept them in my mental repertory. In early high school, I began creating my own staff paper — one line at a time — using a ruler, a pencil, and some typing paper. It would be an embarrassingly long time before I discovered or had opportunity to buy manuscript books (where the staves are already printed for you!). Between my slow, uneducated process and my unending obsession IMGwith perfectly parallel lines, it’s a wonder I ever committed anything to paper at all!

All of this scribbling eventually led to an event that forever changed my life. On October 23rd, 1996, one of my compositions was performed by a local university’s wind ensemble. My high school band director, who loaned me his old orchestration books (most of which flew right over my head at the time), urged me to enter a national composition contest and arranged for my piece to be recorded.

To properly set the scene, I should also mention I’d set aside my saxophone a few months earlier to start playing oboe (poorly). Nonetheless, I had great affection for the oboe and featured it rather prominently in my composition. Just days before the recording session, the conductor called my band director to inform us the university’s oboist would not be able to perform for the recording. He was wondering if I would perform with the group. Suddenly, writing that big oboe solo in the opening few measures of the piece seemed less than inspired. Did I want to perform oboe on the recording? I wasn’t sure I wanted to play oboe ever again! But, it was my oboe or no oboe, so I agreed.

The big day came and I was onstage in the massive recital hall with all of these college people. It was my music sitting on their stands (all the lines were perfectly parallel). I had my cheap oboe reed and my school’s janky student-model oboe in my lap. I was trying to keep my cool while the musicians were warming up. I could hear random bits and pieces of my composition flying all over the place.

The pianist came over to me and very politely mentioned that — for my next piece — I should be sure all the beats line up together in both staves for the piano part. I was wide-eyed IMG_8479and nodded in agreement… in time, I would also learn that dots always go to the right of the note-head and flags always fly to the right regardless of which direction the stem is pointing (or which way the wind is blowing).

Finally the conductor gave that first downbeat…

For as long as I live, I’ll never forget the feeling. It was as though the room was spinning while sound was coming from all around me — not just any sound, but a “living sound”. It was more than sound, it was colorful and vibrant — almost tangible, as if every particle in the air was vibrating, coming to life, glowing. The sound was more alive than anything I’d been able to imagine while making all those scribblings on my homemade staff paper.

When the time came, I played the oboe solo to the best of my ability… my warbly, reedy, sharp, unrefined ability. As much as I should have been afraid, there was an energy inside that swirling sound that buoyed my sunken confidence, overshadowing my worries about how unqualified and unworthy I was. Music really is a miraculous thing.

I didn’t win the competition, of course. I didn’t even get an honorable mention. It was a national competition. I was from a very small public high school (fewer than 300 students). I’d never had an opportunity to write a large-scale piece before; my high school band was never more than about 25 students. I’d never had a music theory class or used music software. I had so much to learn! Rather than being disappointed, however, I was hooked: the spark from that first downbeat forever branded me a composer.

I listened to the recording every day for a long time. I kept wanting that feeling of the initial downbeat to come rushing over me again. I quickly learned it is a very elusive feeling, one a recording cannot capture. When I listen to that cassette recording, now — almost 20 years later — that piece, that day, that oboist, all seem so distant, unreal. I also understand the biting, cringing feeling of regret and remorse that drives some composers to destroy their early compositions!

Fortunately, among the musicians of Manitou Winds, I have found an opportunity most composers would envy: IMG_8209living, breathing musicians who willingly play any scribblings I place in front of them. I have the honor of learning from their experience while getting to enjoy that elusive “living sound” far more often than I would have ever imagined.

For our Spring 2016 concert, we will be presenting a program entitled “New Voices” — highlighting new composers and music written within the past 20 years. Along with a list of very talented composers’ works, one of my pieces, Three Narratives (2014) for flute, clarinet, bassoon, and piano, will be on the program.

Today’s recipe, the final one from our series of “Notable Breakfasts”, is one of my personal favorite breakfasts. You can easily put it together the night before and then adorn it with whatever goodies you happen to have on-hand, depending on the season and your mood. No cooking required!


Serves 2

Jason's Muesli 11 cup old-fashioned oats
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup milk
a tiny pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 medium apple, diced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice* or ground cinnamon

In a medium bowl, combine the oats, honey, milk and salt; stir until combined. In a small bowl, combine the orange juice and raisins. Cover both the oat mixture and the raisin mixture; refrigerate overnight.

Divide oat mixture, soaked raisins, and any remaining orange juice into two serving bowls. Divide yogurt, apple, walnuts, vanilla, and spice between the two bowls; fold the mixture together. Serve chilled.

*Jason’s Mixed Spice
Yields about 4 tablespoons
Woodwind Gourmet
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine the spices in a small bowl or jar and keep in an airtight container. More exciting than plain cinnamon and more complex than pumpkin spice; you’ll find lots of opportunities to use this blend.


Looking for more recipes? Check out the other recent Woodwind Gourmet series:

Series I: Oboes, Oranges & Almonds

Series II: Composers & Coffee

Series III: Notable Breakfasts

Series IV: Our Virtual Potluck


Woodwind Gourmet: Jenni’s Tofu Scramble

IMG_5268My fascination with composers’ eating habits began innocently enough in my undergraduate years… now that I’m no longer a student and can study anything I choose, I’ve decided to dust off that quest and go off in search of my favorite composers’ favorite breakfasts!

While composers throughout history could often seek out the patronage of wealthy nobility, giant churches, or prominent artistic organizations to propel their careers and their musical growth forward, composers of today face a completely different reality. In our modern era, a composer is just one voice in an endless sea of voices — all struggling to hone their skills, express their ideas, and (above all else) have their music performed. With orchestras and other large ensembles across the globe struggling to keep seats filled and finances in check, there is precious little room for new names on concert programs.

Jenni Brandon (b. 1977) knows that struggle first-hand. Through hard work, dedication, and (admittedly) a Jenni-Brandonlittle luck, her compositions have already been performed all over the world — invaluable exposure that has garnered commissions from a variety of ensembles and chamber groups. She’s amassed an impressive and ever-expanding catalog of unique, original pieces for various types of ensembles. One might say she deftly navigates the “sea of voices” while maintaining a voice all her own.

With evocative titles and colorful, motivic writing, she paints landscapes using the human voice, musical instruments, and harmonic textures as her paints and canvas. In the same way a writer may go people-watching, probing the expressions and mannerisms of strangers while forming characters for their next plotline; Jenni often finds inspiration by immersing herself in nature and in the practice of Yoga.

“I do love my work and I feel blessed and content to have such joy in my life: writing music is part of my fabric, and teaching yoga has become a joyful way to serve others. I believe these are part of my jenni-triangle-fixpath,… We might stray from our path, we might seek contentment and balance outside of us, but it is that inner voice, that True Self, that whispers to us and draws us back to where we need to be.” — Jenni Brandon

While we can’t rattle off an e-mail to Mozart to ask his advice about a particular passage or pick the brain of Beethoven by leaving a comment on his Facebook wall, today’s musicians and composers have exciting, unique opportunities to collaborate — taking new music to new audiences in new ways.

Manitou Winds is presently studying two of Jenni Brandon’s works: On Holt Avenue (2006), for solo oboe and piano; and Found Objects: On the Beach (2013), for oboe, clarinet, and bassoon. Our goal is to feature these two works on a program in 2016 along with music from other new composers written within the last 20 years.

Recently, I e-mailed Jenni to congratulate her on creating these two beautiful pieces… and, of course, to ask her about her favorite breakfast. Imagine my delight when she responded! She said she was happy to take part in our series — and especially to be our vegetarian/vegan composer.

Jenni’s a big fan of getting breakfast from her juicer, but she’s also a sucker for a good sit-down breakfast like this Tofu Scramble. If you’re new to tofu scrambles, you’re sure to be hooked. They allow plenty of room for improvisation — add or take away any vegetables you’d like — and they’re easy to throw together for breakfast or even a quick dinner.


Tofu Scramble
Serves 4

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups chopped broccoli florets
Jenni's Tofu Scramble 21 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium carrot, shredded
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 chili peppers, chopped* (jalapeños or a mix of varieties)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, crumbled
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Corn or Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
Pepper Jack, Sharp Cheddar, or Vegan Cheese (optional)
Salsa (optional)

Heat two teaspoons of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook until translucent and golden. Stir in the broccoli, bell pepper, and carrot; cook until crisp-tender (3-4 minutes). Transfer the vegetables to a plate; keep warm.

To the now empty skillet add remaining oil, garlic, chili peppers, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Sauté for Jenni's Tofu Scramble 3about 30 seconds to release the flavors. Stir in turmeric and crumbled tofu; cook 2-3 minutes or until tofu has dried slightly and begun to lightly brown. Return the sautéed vegetables to the skillet; stir and cook until heated through. Serve on warmed tortillas and top with cheese and salsa if desired. Leftover scramble is delicious and easily reheated.

*If you want a milder scramble, remove the seeds and membranes from the chiles. Jenni prefers it spicy, though… and so do I!


For the perfect Jenni Brandon soundtrack to accompany your serene scramble, here’s the fourth movement, entitled “Daisies”, from On Holt Avenue:

Looking for more recipes? Check out the other recent Woodwind Gourmet series:

Series I: Oboes, Oranges & Almonds

Series II: Composers & Coffee

Series III: Notable Breakfasts

Woodwind Gourmet: Jacques’ Pain Perdu

IMG_8426My fascination with composers’ eating habits began innocently enough in my undergraduate years… now that I’m no longer a student and can study anything I choose, I’ve decided to dust off that quest and go off in search of my favorite composers’ favorite breakfasts!

It’s interesting to note the stories of composers whose parents approved of their vocation and compare them with composers whose musical pursuits went against their parents’ wishes. Jacques Ibert (1890-1962) was in the unique position of being supported endlessly by his mother while being completely disapproved of by his father.

Some say it’s a subtle theme underscoring much of his work: an underlying sense of never quite belonging. Looking over Ibert’s catalog of works, you notice he wrote for many different kinds of ensembles and for vastly different purposes. In fact, he’s most noted for being an eclectic — never aligning himself with prevalent genres or styles yet borrowing and combining all of their elements.

Ibert’s mother — an accomplished pianist — was his first music teacher. His father, a businessman, withdrew all financial support when — at age 21 — Jacques resigned from Iberthis position at his father’s company to enter the Paris Conservatoire. To provide for himself, Ibert eked out a living by working as an accompanist and writing pop songs under a pen name. Proving his prowess as an improviser, he was also employed as pianist at a silent film theater where he performed music to fit the action taking place onscreen. He went on to write over 60 film scores.

Spanning many genres and media, Ibert also composed operas, ballets, concertos, and varied forms of incidental and chamber music. Manitou Winds studies his Cinq Pièces en Trio (1935) for oboe, clarinet, and bassoon. We’re soon to delve into his Trois Pièces en Brèves (1930) for wind quintet.

Though he rose from obscurity to prominence during his lifetime (winning numerous awards), it is perhaps because of his refusal to pursue a single musical genre or form that he’s not on many “Top 10” lists of composers. Instead, audiences are often pleasantly introduced to him when one of his works graces a program. Hopefully his daring use of orchestral colors peppered with hidden musical surprises will continue to inspire musicians and audiences alike to seek out more of his music.

A composer growing up in Paris while bridging the 19th and 20th centuries probably ate some interesting breakfasts — a mix of gourmet and eating on the cheap. In homage to Ibert’s eclecticism, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight a recipe that is simultaneously simple while betraying decidedly gourmet influence. Today’s recipe is an autumn-inspired riff on classic Pain Perdu (literally “lost bread”). Dressed down, it’s just stale bread dipped in egg batter and fried up. Dressed up, it’s adorned with exotic spices and rich, complex flavors of fruit and wine.


Pain Perdu with Fruit Compote
Serves 2

Fruit Compote:
2 cups Riesling or Gewurztraminer
2 cups water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 3-inch Ceylon cinnamon stick
Pain Perdu1 star anise
2 whole cloves
8 mission figs, stems removed, quartered lengthwise
10 dried apricots, cut into strips
3/4 cup dried tart cherries

Pain Perdu:
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk or heavy cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 slices bread (brioche or challah are ideal)
Lightly Sweetened Whipped Cream

To make the Fruit Compote: In a medium saucepan combine wine, water, and sugar. Combine the cinnamon stick, anise, and cloves in a teabag or piece of cheesecloth; tie closed with kitchen string. Add spice bag to saucepan; cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture comes to boiling. Add figs and cook for 3 minutes. Add apricots and cook for 3 minutes more. Add cherries and cook for 2 more minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer fruit to a bowl. Raise the heat slightly and continue cooking liquid for 15-20 minutes or until reduced to about 1 cup. Remove spice bag and discard. Pour liquid over fruit. Allow to come to room temperature, then chill, covered, up to 4 days. (Leftover compote makes an excellent accompaniment for plain yogurt, oatmeal, or poundcake!)

To make Pain Perdu: In a shallow dish, whisk together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. Melt half of the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. While the skillet is heating, dip the bread slices into the batter, turning them and re-dipping as necessary until the batter has been absorbed. Place Woodwind Gourmettwo slices of bread in the skillet; cook approximately 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from skillet (slices can be kept warm in a low oven if desired); add remaining butter and brown remaining slices.

To serve: Warm the finished compote slightly. Divide bread slices between two plates. Top each with several scoops of the macerated fruit from the compote then drizzle each serving with several spoonfuls of the spiced syrup. Garnish each serving with a dollop of whipped cream and a dash of ground cinnamon.


For the perfect Ibert soundtrack to your whisking, dipping, and noshing, here’s one of Ibert’s best-known works: Divertissement (1929).

Looking for more recipes? Check out the other recent Woodwind Gourmet series:

Series I: Oboes, Oranges & Almonds

Series II: Composers & Coffee

Series III: Notable Breakfasts

Woodwind Gourmet: Haydn’s Cherry-Almond Tart

IMG_8429My fascination with composers’ eating habits began innocently enough in my undergraduate years… now that I’m no longer a student and can study anything I choose, I’ve decided to dust off that quest and go off in search of my favorite composers’ favorite breakfasts!

When we think of the lives of Classical music’s most storied composers, what likely comes to our minds is either stuffy, powdered wig scenery (fancy galas with wealthy people dressed in their finery) or we think of the tortured, starving artist scribbling onto scraps of manuscript paper. While both images are in some cases true, each composer’s story is unique in its own way — even when compared to composers of the same time period.

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) is one of my favorite composers — and not just because of his music. Haydn’s story is one of those classic, rags-to-riches narratives with a happy ending. Born in a small town to parents who could neither read music nor provide him with any advanced training, Haydn slowly and patiently worked his way Haydnthrough the often complicated layers of 18th century society to become one of the greatest and most prolific composers in history.

Haydn went from a nearly-starved schoolboy to a wealthy and well-connected composer who enjoyed celebrity status in his later years. While he’s regarded as the “father” of both the symphony and the string quartet, it’s amazing to realize he was neither a child prodigy nor privileged enough to receive formal instruction in composition. Thus, he was largely self-taught — privately working his way through textbooks and scores while working odd jobs as a young man.

Because of his skills as a violinist, he gradually gained the favor of aristocratic patronage. When he eventually came to be an official staff member of Hungarian nobility, he was finally in a position that would provide him with all the resources needed to hone his compositional skills. In fact, his success in composition became a vital part of staying alive!

Like any other member of staff, he wore a uniform and lived in servants’ quarters. Rather than scrubbing chamber pots and clearing out horse stables, however, he was required to write, rehearse, and conduct all of the music for the noble family and their many guests. During his time with the Esterházy family (1761-1790), he faced a mountainous workload and ever-shifting musical and non-musical demands. Thankfully, he also had daily access to his own very talented orchestra and the finest singers. This proved to be most advantageous for his artistic growth, allowing him to experiment at Esterházawill. Within the staggering musical output he created while serving the Esterházy family, one can trace the evolution of style and technique that eventually shaped all of Classical music — and he was self-taught!

The immense wealth of the Esterházy family eventually led them to construct a new palace (mainly as a summer residence) in Esterháza. It was an immense palace not only boasting 126 rooms but also containing its own church, opera house, and marionette theater. Haydn’s residence was moved each year from Eisenstadt to the Esterháza estate each time the family relocated. Though trapped in the middle of nowhere — isolated from civilization and in the middle of what was then swampland — work never slowed for Haydn.

On one occasion, after having returned once again to Esterháza, Haydn wrote in a letter to his friend Marianne von Genzinger:

Well, here I sit in my wilderness; forsaken, like some poor orphan, almost without human society, melancholy and dwelling on the memory of past glorious days… I lost twenty pounds in weight in three days, for the effects of the good fare at Vienna has disappeared on the journey back. Alas! alas! thought I to myself, when forced to eat…a tough grill instead of a Bohemian pheasant, Hungarian salad instead of good juicy oranges, and dry apple fritters instead of pastry. Here in Esterháza no one asks me, “Would you like chocolate with or without milk? Will you take coffee with or without cream? What can I offer you, my good Haydn? Will you have vanilla ice or strawberry?”

Being a man who obviously appreciated good food, Haydn would have loved today’s recipe — a slice of this Viennese-style Cherry-Almond Tart served alongside his morning coffee (with or without cream, whichever he wished).


Cherry-Almond Tart
Serves 8-12

Tart Shell:
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Woodwind Gourmet1/4 teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup cake flour

1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups pitted tart cherries – (fresh, canned, or thawed frozen)

For the shell: Whisk together the egg, egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; whisk until mixture turns a light yellow. Continuing to whisk, add softened butter one tablespoon at a time, whisking until combined. With a wooden spoon, gradually work in both flours until a smooth dough forms.

Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on work surface. Empty dough onto the plastic wrap; knead gently to incorporate any loose dry ingredients. Form dough into a disk and cover with plastic wrap; chill for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

For the filling: Add almonds and flour to the bowl of a food processor; pulse until larger pieces are more manageable and then finely grind. Add the sugar; pulse briefly. Next, add softened butter and extract; blend until smooth. Mix in egg and egg white. Transfer filling to medium bowl; cover and chill until needed.

To assemble and bake: Remove tart dough disk from refrigerator and allow to stand at room temperature for about 5-10 minutes to soften slightly. Place the dough in a removable-bottom tart pan (you may use a 9-, 10-, or 11-inch tart pan); pressing the dough, work it with your fingertips to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the shell in several places. Place unbaked shell in freezer to chill for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400-degrees. Place rack in center of oven.

Remove shell from the freezer; cover with two overlapping sheets of aluminum foil. Fill tart pan with pie weights making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Bake the shell for 20 to 25 minutes or until it is Haydn's Cherry-Almond Tart 2dry and lightly golden brown. Gently remove foil and weights; allow to cool on wire rack before filling.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Once shell has cooled, spread the chilled filling evenly into the bottom. Place cherries atop filling and bake for 40-50 minutes or until filling has puffed and browned slightly. Allow to cool completely before serving.


Want an ideal Haydn-esque soundtrack to enjoy your coffee and tart? Haydn’s Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp Minor (The “Farewell” Symphony) is entirely appropriate. The final movement was Haydn’s nudge to Prince Esterházy that it was time to pick things up, leave the swamp, and head back to Eisenstadt. During the adagio in the fourth movement, each musician stops playing, snuffs out the candle on his music stand, and leaves in turn, so that by the end, there are just two muted violins left on stage!

Looking for more recipes? Check out the other recent Woodwind Gourmet series:

Series I: Oboes, Oranges & Almonds

Series II: Composers & Coffee

Series III: Notable Breakfasts

Woodwind Gourmet: Bach’s Bread & Biersuppe

IMG_8426My fascination with composers’ eating habits began innocently enough in my undergraduate years.  Between long stints in the practice room, I would sit in the music building break room where I would invariably find myself in the company of many of my classmates. We were always in various stages of pain or ecstasy with our homework or practicing.

During one particularly long spell of analyzing the harmony and form of a Bach prelude, one of my classmates became frustrated and sighed, “I don’t care what Bach ate for breakfast, I just need to get through this assignment!” We all chuckled because we understood the sentiment; getting bogged down in the minute details of a piece was often exhausting while it was pure bliss to simply get lost in the beauty of its sound.

Later, I found myself casually wondering, “What did Bach eat for breakfast?” I carefully filed that curiosity away for a more appropriate time, since there were more pressing matters at hand. But, now that I’m no longer a student and can study anything I choose, I’ve decided to dust off that quest and go off in search of my favorite composers’ favorite breakfasts!

Which, of course, eventually leads us to Germany in the early 1700s and may involve some “dramatic interpretation” on your narrator’s part…

Johann Sebastian Bach, who had just entered his twenties, had recently been appointed organist at St. Boniface’s Church in Arnstadt. Disenchanted with the choir and his St Bonifaceresponsibilities, he applied for a one month leave of absence to visit and study with the great organist/composer, Dieterich Buxtehude in Lübeck.

While it’s fascinating that Bach was so intrigued by Buxtehude that he abandoned work and steady pay to study with him, it’s even more daunting to realize Bach made the journey from Arnstadt to Lübeck (more than 260 miles) on foot… in the winter of 1705. Now that’s what you call suffering for your art!

So enamored was Bach of Buxtehude’s music and technique, he over-stayed his leave by a few months and did not return until February of 1706. Remarkably, he also made the return journey on foot, but this time he was carrying on his back several handwritten manuscript copies he’d made of Buxtehude’s works!

Travel by foot was very common in those days unless you were very wealthy, so it’s likely Johann wouldn’t have stood out from any of the other wanderers looking for food and shelter. So, historians know very little about this entire, life-changing episode in Bach’s life. Perhaps that’s why it has always fascinated me. How many days did his journey take? What route did he use? Where did he sleep? More importantly, what did he eat?!

I like to imagine the young, carefree Johann stopping off in some wayside town. Maybe a charming little village where he was offered lodging for the evening and a simple breakfast by some adorable, matronly hausfrau. And what might this hausfrau have served him for breakfast? According to some food historians, it may have been Brot und Biersuppe (Bread and Beer Soup).

Here follows the Woodwind Gourmet’s take on this very old breakfast specialty that’s been in existence since medieval times. Baking the oaty, mellow homemade bread will make it a cozier meal, but feel free to substitute any hearty bread you might already have on-hand. For the beer, I used a Guinness Extra Stout, but any dark beer or stout that you prefer would work for the soup.


Bach’s Bread & Biersuppe

Bach’s Bread
Yields 1 loaf

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
IMG_84361 1/4 cups warm milk (100-110-degrees)
2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
3 tablespoons honey

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warmed milk. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining ingredients. Pour in the yeast mixture; stir to form a shaggy dough. Knead dough, by hand (10 minutes) or by machine (5-8 minutes) until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rest for 1 hour until doubled in size. Gently deflate the dough and transfer to a lightly oiled surface.

With your hands, press the dough into a rectangle and then tightly roll into a log, pinching the seams to seal. Place in a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan, cover the pan loosely and allow dough to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, just until it’s crested 1″ to 2″ over the rim of the pan.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. Allow to cool before slicing. This loaf can be made in advance and freezes well.

Serves 2

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 clove garlic, minced
IMG_84351/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 cup dark beer or stout
1 cup chicken or beef stock
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Sauté the shallots and garlic until softened; add the thyme, tarragon, and sage, stir for 30 seconds. Add the beer, stock, and brown sugar; cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a low boil.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and flour. While whisking, slowly pour in about half of the hot beer mixture. Pour the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan and continue cooking until mixture returns to boil and thickens sufficiently. Stir in the mace, pepper, and salt.

To serve, toast slices of bread and generously butter. Place the toast in shallow bowls and ladle soup around toast.


To accompany your stirring, kneading, whisking, and slurping, here is a signficant collection of Bach’s organ music (The Orgelbüchlein) — most of which was likely composed after his visit with Buxtehude.

Looking for more recipes? Check out the other recent Woodwind Gourmet series:

Series I: Oboes, Oranges & Almonds

Series II: Composers & Coffee

Series III: Notable Breakfasts