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Harvest Grape Bread and a Tribute to Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher


This bread is one of my favorite things to serve as an appetizer with some wine, cheese and olives.  It's a pull-apart bread that is scented with cinnamon and cardamom and is slightly sweet, made with a little milk and sugar. It's really delicious.  I got the recipe several years ago out of one of my favorite all time books, "Love by the Glass" by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, the long time wine writers for the Wall Street Journal.  Their column, which ran for twelve years, was called "Tastings" and Brian and I religiously read it.  In addition to writing about wine, John and Dottie always snuck in little bits about their own life and children and if you were a long time reader, you got to feel like you knew them a little.  After I read their book, which is really a memoir of their life together, their love of wine and some favorite recipes, I really felt like I knew them.  I've read "Love by the Glass" three times over the last few years and it's more charming and funny every time I read it.  So we were stunned this past week when we read, at the bottom of their column, these words:

"This is our 579th—and last—"Tastings" column. The past 12 years—a full case!—have been a joy, not because of the wine but because we had an opportunity to meet so many of you, both in person and virtually. Thank you."

Huh?  We couldn't believe it.  No explanation, nothing.  I haven't been able to find any information on what happened or what they are going to do now.  Their Facebook page is just full of people expressing good wishes to them, but no word from them.  Hopefully, they will resurface on the web somewhere with their excellent writing.  Until then, I think I'll curl up with their book again and reread some of their fun stories.  This bread was their most requested recipe.

Harvest Grape Bread

for a printable recipe, click here


  • 2.5 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package dry yeast (active or rapid rise)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon group nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons orange liqueur or orange juice (I used Cointreau)
  • 2 egg whites, separated
  • Poppy seeds (optional)


Combine 1-1/4 cups of the flour, the yeast, cardamom and nutmeg in a bowl.  If you have a stand mixer, like a KitchenAid, put the ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer.  It's much easier to make the bread in a stand mixer.

Heat together gently the milk, sugar, butter and salt until just warm and the butter is melted.  Be careful not to make the mixture too hot or it will kill the yeast when you add it to the dry ingredients.

Add the warm liquid, liqueur or orange juice, and one egg white to the dry ingredients.  If using a stand mixer, attach your dough hook and mix ingredients until blended.  Otherwise, use a hand electric mixer and beat on low for just a minute, scraping sides of bowl.  Beat 3 minutes at high speed.  By hand, stir in as much of the remaining flour as possible.  If using a stand mixer, add enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that does not stick to the bowl.  Mix, using dough hook, until smooth.  If making this by hand, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead in enough remaining flour until dough is not sticky any more and knead until smooth, about 5-8 minutes.

Place dough in a greased bowl; turn once to grease surface, clover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, one to two hours.  

Punch dough down; let dough rest 10 minutes.  Remove one fourth of the dough (or a little less), cover and set aside.  Using remaining dough, shape it into about 30 inch balls, about the size of a walnut.  

Arrange balls on a greased baking sheet (I used baking parchment) in the shape of a bunch of grapes.  Brush with mixture of remaining egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon of water; sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired. On lightly floured surface, roll the reserved dough to a rectangle and cut triangular shapes for leaves.  Position shaped leaves atop the widest end of the bunch of "grapes". Brush the leaves with the egg white mixture and sprinkle with sugar, if desired.  Let rise in a warm place till nearly doubled (about 40 minutes). With a very sharp knife, slash ribs in the leaves.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until bread is just golden.  Remove to wooden board or serving platter.  Serve warm and let your guests serve themselves by pulling off pieces of bread.

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Reader Comments (23)

That is so SUPER fun is that!

January 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdawn

I like so much this bread, and you're right, with cheese an wine, wonderfull !

January 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchapot

WOW! What a beautiful bread!

January 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLucia

This is special. We are having an open house for work later this month. I think the gang would enjoy this as an appetizer. How many servings do you think I could get out of it?
I appreciate the story behind the recipe.

January 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

This book sounds right up my alley - just ordered it through your amazon store. Can you point me to where I can set up a similar amazon store for my blog readers? Right now I only have the "favorites" widgets on the side bar of my blog, but I love this store format. THX!

January 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCooking with Michele

What a beautiful presentation...I am going to do this when I host my book club.

January 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudy F.

What a gorgeous bread Elaine! We are having a family reunion in two weeks, and this will clearly be served. Thx for sharing it!

January 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterYankeeSoaper

Oh my gosh Elaine, looks beautiful and has to be delicious! Will you make it next time we visit?! I'll have to get the book.

January 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeta

This is perfect exactly what I have been looking for. Found you on Tastespotting, so happy that I did. Will write back when I have baked this and let you know how it turned out. Thank you.

January 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShawndra

Sounds yummy. I love the idea of making it shaped like grapes. Definitely a great appetizer or snack!

January 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

What a beautiful post, Elaine. Gorgeous photos and the bread was definitely made by the hand of an artist. Very nice.

January 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatrice

Elaine,Elaine, Elaine, I just love your posts! I can't wait to try this.

January 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarie

You have inspired me to make bread, its been too long as soon as I read cardamon in the recipe that was it for me. My aunt would make bread every night for dinner I don't know how she did it and it had a key ingredient that gave it that unique taste. I will forward this recipe to her as well Fantastic!

Ciao Bella!

January 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatural selection

What a terrific picture! So creative, and the bread looks delish!

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristi Rimkus

Great bread recipe. I love the addition of cardomom and nutmeg. Thanks!

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSortachef

Thank you for posting this! I tried it for a cocktail party this weekend, and not only was it really easy (I am a bread-making novice!) but it came out perfectly! It looks so impressive and tastes so good - it will become a go-to recipe for all my future parties. (I did swap cinnamon for cardamom, and it was amazing.)

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJaime

OMG, that is just gorgeous! What a great bread to make for a wine & cheese tasting.

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

What a fun idea! Love it! Saving this recipe for my next dinner party...

January 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternicole

Such a beautiful presentation - amazing idea, love it and will use it for the next party! Thanks so much.

January 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCooking Rookie

Elaine, I just have to tell you that I made this beautiful bread.......Everyone thought it was just a centerpiece; I had to begin to break the "grapes" apart to convince them that it was edible. It was as tasty as it was beautiful and so artistic.

Thank you.............I'll keep waiting for more of your marvelous recipes and photos!

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDolores

From The Italian Dish:

Dolores: I'm so glad you liked it! Thank you!

May 17, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Can this bread by made a day ahead? looking to do it for my daughter's first communion.... thank you!

January 29, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterabby

From The Italian Dish:

Abby: I've never made this bread the day before - I wouldn't highly recommend it - it's best fresh. If you do make it ahead, gently reheat it in the oven before serving to soften it up.

January 29, 2016 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

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