Wednesday, November 10, 2010

That bread

I am up to my eyeballs in projects. There are the expected 60 pounds of walnuts and the who knows how much pecans to shell (the walnuts shell nicely, the pecans take about 15 minutes per handful at this point). There are the similarly expected bushel of apples I was sure we needed from the u-pick apple orchard at Willow Pond Organic Farm. But then, there is also the artist's easel, the ridiculous amount of half-used paint, the hard to lift portfolio of paper all waiting to be used, all of the sudden. The latter project is now a project (or series of projects) because I just bought it all off a retiring artist. I obviously have way too much spare time and money, so I just had to let myself be convinced by this well-meaning, enthusiastic painter that I was on the verge of a fabulous life-long art career. What is more truth is that I was apparently compelled, all of the sudden, to relive my high school days and make mass amounts of art that no one will buy (again).

Sheesh. These are just a few more examples of my tendency to love everything a little to actively. These are the signs that the last of the fall harvest are still rolling in, and those of us who missed out on most of summer's bounty for preservation still have a chance to store up something fruity for winter (oh, the quince, the apple, and soon, the persimmon).

I want to remind myself and anyone who will listen, to keep grounded through such projects. In the spirit of insanity, add another. Add two--maybe a couple books to work on, and a couple loaves of bread to rise while you write. As for me, I will cling, white knuckled, to a bit of a stable daily life as intensely as I will cling to my creative craziness. In this spirit, (last week) I baked the inaugural batch of bread, the first of many loaves I hope to regularly bake for my wee family. Because I can. Because it is the edible proof for myself that even in the midst of possibly too much frolicking about, I can also, sometimes, be simultaneously productive and maybe even practical.

The bread I baked is that bread I told you about a long time ago, the one with two or three different capitalized names, the one which some anonymous commenter asked so politely for me to post the recipe, and I said something awful like, "give me a week," and it has taken me no less than nine months to do it. That one. So, my sheepish apologies. For it is the perfect everyday bread: practical, delicious, and, for some reason that is yet beyond me, easy to make. Maybe the recipe has a bit of Christy in it. She is incredibly grounded, manages three kids, a llama, four sheep, two goats, a few cats, and about a million dogs, and still figures out how to make this bread (doubled) regularly. She is a reminder to us all that life can actually be crazy and grounded at the same time. Christy, I am forever in awe. Thanks for the recipe.

Christy's Whole Wheat Bread

This version of Christy's recipe is only slightly different from the original. I specifically used white and whole wheat bread flour instead of all-purpose and regular whole wheat. Also, I traded butter for olive oil. The latter was just my gut preference, the former was an experiment. It seemed about the same anyway.

4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water (110-115 degrees Fahrenheit)

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon salt

5 cups whole wheat bread flour
2-3 cups white bread flour

Combine water and a small dollop of honey in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the sweet water and let sit for 5-10 minutes. If it gets bubbly and foamy, you've done your job. If not, the yeast died. Try again.

Add the sugar, butter, honey, and salt to the yeast mixture. Add all the whole wheat flour (with one hand or a spoon until it gets to thick). Then, kneading (on a board, counter, or like Christy, in the bowl), incorporate more and more of the white flour until you get a good texture. As soon as it is firm enough to knead, go slowly on the flour. Knead for about ten minutes. (If kneading by hand, it is hard to knead too long. The dough should be stretchy and like an earlobe when you pull on a bit of it.)

Put in a greased bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm, cozy spot for about an hour, or until dough doubles.

Punch down, divide into 2 loaves, shape into logs, and then place in greased pans. Let rise another 30-45 minutes, or until they fill the pans and are doubled in bulk.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove immediately to cool. Enjoy!


  1. I love baking experiments and bread adventures Amanda...those loaves look great!

  2. oh my gosh girl, I just read this and am totally honored and humbled that I'm published by you dear friend. I can't believe how beautiful your bread turned out..mine gets so dark on top. what an inspiration you are to not just make it, but to write such beautiful things about making it and taking such pretty pictures. I feel like your post hugged me. and a hug back to you. hope we get to live closer dear girl