The 2015 holiday season was quite wonderful. I hope yours was nice and fun and inspiring and fulfilling and all you wanted. Seriously. I realize as I write this, 2015 was the Year Of Others for me. I took some time the other day to sit for a considerable period and think and reminisce back over the past 12 months. About an hour or so, roughly. I sipped coffee and took a note here and there for future reference; I let the hour be mine and mine alone. It’s an exercise I highly recommend. You will feel like the hour was more like 4. No phone, no TV, no radio, no interruptions of any kind. Just a silent, well-lit room, a chair, the coffee and my thoughts. Wowser.
Yes, I said ‘wowser’.
I discovered I truly did more for others than I did for myself this year, and it made me even more grateful for the satisfying yet simple life I lead these days. I have my work and my wife and our boys (two super-fun adult male cats) and our quiet, beautiful home and our Wisconsin cabin and my writing…and I can’t remember a time I’ve felt more comfortable in my own skin and grateful to be drawing breath each day. Maybe that’s why my gratitude has overflowed my own cup and I’m so willing to share it with others. And that in itself fuels the spirit as well as anything I’ve ever known. So I’ve got that going for me…which is nice.
And now, a recipe for you.
As part of my new Michael Pollan-influenced eating regimen, I’m baking my own whole wheat bread. The commercially made bread we get at the store – even the supposedly healthy “whole wheat” versions – are nothing but crap. Our white flour is stripped of the bran and the germ (the good parts) and it’s nothing but carbohydrate-laden filler. There is next to no nutritional value in white flour. There’s niacin and a few other nutrients that are thrown in to lessen guilt, I suppose, but our ground white bleached flours in no way resemble the hearty (and healthy) staples our ancestors ate before 1900. Around 1910 is when Pillsbury started giving us a white flour that is close to today’s flour, which as I said, was filler and not much more. Yes, they had greed back in 1910, too.
100% Whole Wheat Bread – makes 1 loaf
2 1/3 cups whole wheat flour….NOT WHITE! (Don’t you dare add any white flour to this…)
1 tsp salt
3 tablespoons honey – no sugar, just honey. 🙂
1 scant tablespoon of yeast (scant = not quite 1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup warm water (no higher than 110 degrees)
1/2 cup tepid milk
I use a Cuisinart food processor with a steel blade. Add the dry ingredients, pulse for a couple seconds to combine, than keep the machine going and pour in the water/milk mixture. I combine both in a pourable measuring cup and then add to the mix. You may not need to add all of the water/milk. If you see the flour ball starting to stick to the sides, it’s too wet. Watch it closely and when it pulls nicely off the sides and spins around inside as a nice ball, let it blow around like that for a minute. If you’re using a Kitchenaid, use the dough hook and let it work for 5-7 minutes on number 2 speed. You’ll see when you’re starting to get good gluten formation – the dough will start wanting to stick to the sides again. Don’t let it. Stop the machine and get the dough out of there.
Ideally, your dough should be just a little wet. Pull it out of the bowl and set it on a little bed of flour on the counter and cover with a towel for 10 minutes to rest. After that, put it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic and a towel and set it in a warm corner for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size. Transfer to a greased bread pan for another 2 hours to rise, then bake it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Put a cake pan below the shelf your bread is on and when you put the bread in, splash a cup of hot tap water in the cake pan and quickly close the door to trap the steam.
When you eat this bread, you’ll get nutty, robust flavor along with a noticeable mouth feel. No worries – the crumb is tender and moist. It’s more…substantial…than the bread you’ve been eating up to now. It toasts beautifully and it’s a super sturdy bread that will make your sandwiches a hearty meal. Plus, you will enjoy a satisfaction that you are most definitely eating healthier. Better, you’re invoking the same bread that your great, great grandparents ate nearly each day. They ate and they discussed the events of the day – perhaps it was the Farmer’s Almanac and what was going to be the best time to plant potatoes? Or is Benjamin Harrison a satisfactory President of the United States? I guess times don’t really change after all, do they?
Now, go eat something! -J