There’s hardly a more rewarding form of exercise than kneading dough in the dark of evening, for all that hard work is the prelude to a morning of fresh bread. After the first three minutes, my arms begin to tire but that’s when the shaping becomes rhythmic meditation: thoughts saturated with the scent of fermenting yeast and binding strands of elastic gluten. My short stature makes kneading much more difficult as I have to stand on my tippy toes. I use a timer so there’s no cheating – adding a few extra minutes to ensure that the dough gets worked extra hard. It is much easier to use a bread machine, but where’s the fun in that? Hand kneading is an imperfect art, like Wabi-Sabi.
Undertaking bread baking was the first step to absorbing the vast quantities of preserves I’ve accumulated, a residue of the season’s work – not to mention clearing out last year’s preserves to make room for new ones. The ratio of bread to preserves requires a lot of carb consumption. I can’t complain…
Then, there’s the dogged pursuit of artisanal bread on mornings when you wake up feeling famished from a night of heavy dreaming, the kind of soul-seeping hunger that devours a silo’s worth of grain if only that silo was bedside. It is the promise of bread that coaxes my sleep-heavy body out of bed towards the expectant loaf that ballooned in volume while I slept: I heat the oven and bake the bread as I shower, and by the time I’m dressed there’s a hot loaf coming from the oven, warming the kitchen with its comforting aromas of whole grain goodness. The first few slices are always euphoric, but for days I take intermittent pleasures in private Eleusinian celebrations, feasts of bread and butter accompanied by fresh berries and creature cups.
Suggested Literary Accompaniment: Six Thousand Years of Bread by H.E. Jacob. I’ve been slowly savoring this volume, and it’s nothing short of amazing. Then again, I’m a book fiend when it comes to culinary history.
Beer adds a light sweetness and a beautiful brewery aroma to this loaf. It’s a sandwich bread but I like the flavor so much i’ve been eating it with my latest fruit butter.
3/4 c. amber ale/mild beer
1/4 c. orange juice
3 TB honey
4 TB butter, cut into small chunks
1 3/4 c. whole wheat bread flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 ts. salt
2 1/4 ts. instant yeast*
+Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for at least 10-12 minutes or until dough feels smooth, elastic, and holds its shape. This is a sticky dough, so if you don’t like to knead by hand, by all means, use a bread machine.
+ Placed kneaded dough into an oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size (typically 2.5 hours). Gently, squeeze dough and deflate with oiled hands… there’s no punching needed. Shape dough into a bread pan and cover until doubled in size (another 2.5 hours).
+ Bake bread in a 350 °F oven until internal temperature reaches 190°F (about 30 -35 minutes, tent your bread halfway through to prevent overcooking the top).
*If you have active dry yeast, it must be proofed prior to mixing. Just heat up the OJ and honey until it’s warm to the touch (110-115 °F ) and pour the yeast into the liquid while you measure and mix together the dry ingredients. The yeast should start to bubble after 5 minutes. If it is not visibly bubbly, dump the liquids and use different yeast – old yeast will not proof and therefore should not be used.
Recipe for Ginger Peach Butter: http://bklynfoodie.com/?p=3120
I didn’t think this recipe was solid enough for a butter, but the flavor is beautiful. The boyfriend approves. I plan on making it into teeny bite-size hand pies with some fresh peaches.