Green Peppercorn Bread and Not Yet Dead Chickens

Don’t worry, Betty White is still with us. My husband has an uncanny gift for bird watching. We have narrowly missed horrific car accidents because instead of the road, Karl-Peter’s eyes follow the skies for unusual fowl. For years I made fun of Karl-Peter for his obsession with birds, until this weekend, when his bird savvy saved Betty White’s fluffed up life. We were sitting on the couch eating breakfast when KP’s neck straightened at something out our front window. “That bird doesn’t belong here,” he said. I smirked and went back to eating my scrambled eggs. There was a large bird on our neighbor’s front lawn. Big deal, I thought. Then KP ran out the front door. Confused, I chased him once around the house into our backyard, where I witnessed a scene that will give me nightmares for months to come—an angry-beaked hawk swooping toward Betty with murderous intent. KP threw his arms in the air and screamed, I screamed too, and the hawk nearly missed Betty’s scurrying little grey fluff by inches. We herded the girls into the coop, and there they remain, cooped up—but safe.

What to do going forward? We used to be the kind of people who were smug to say, Our chickens are free-range. Now the chickens have a tight curfew and are only free-range with chaperones. There must be some analogy to parenting here. Here is KP keeping watch over the flock. I think he should get a Chicken Lifeguard red tank top for his birthday, and a high chair with a blow horn.

kp watching the chicks

All the websites I read for hawk-protection advice said, “Get a dog.” Izzy, unfortunately, sides more with the hawks. I think I have been naïve all this time to the many predators licking their chops at our chickens from above, and for all I know, below. I’ve been told I can’t shoot at hawks in town. So for now, I’m looking to invest in some chicken helmets.

 chicken helmet

And meanwhile, some sassy chicken claw heels. Thanks for the tip, Ralph.

chicken heels


Pane al Pepe Verde, or Green Peppercorn Bread

Adapted from The Italian Baker

2 3/4 – 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup sourdough starter

1 t. salt

2 t. olive oil

1 c. water

1 1/4 – 1 1/2 T. green peppercorns, mashed into the olive oil

green peppercorn


Whisk flour, sourdough, and salt in mixing bowl with the olive oil-soaked peppercorns. I found mine at Penzeys Spices in Minneapolis, and good luck finding these at your average grocery store, unless you live in a thriving, multicultural metropolis. Rochester failed me on the green peppercorn front, but never Penzeys.

Knead dough by hand on floured counter briefly, and put in covered oiled bowl.

When dough has doubled, about two hours, put on floured counter and shape it into a boule. Cover with saran and a towel and let double again, about one hour.

green peppercorn dough

Preheat oven to 500, put baking stone on lowest rack.

When dough has risen, make several  squiggly slashes and put in oven. Spray three times with water in the first ten minutes of baking.

Immediately lower heat to 400. Bake about 35 minutes. Cool on rack. Beautiful, beautiful loaf.

green peppercorn bread green pepper bread1 green pepper bread

3 thoughts on “Green Peppercorn Bread and Not Yet Dead Chickens

  1. This is quite possibly the best blog post you have ever written. That picture you took of me makes it look like I am a senile old man who spends all of his time sitting and talking with chickens. Thank you for the credit, Rachel.

    1. Why thank you, Chicken Purple Heart. I married you because I could see you had an old man heart, even at seventeen.

  2. KP, you’re a true hero! Ha, I had a similar reaction to yours upon seeing Rach’s photo of you in your role as free-range chicken chaperone. If she makes good on the lifeguard gear for your birthday gift, you’ll transform into a badass tough guy lifeguard…or perhaps Baywatch throwback, hmm 😉 Maybe you two can get some elderly neighbors to chicken-sit! 🙂

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