Easy Little Bread

I might be the only college student who likes to wake up early on Saturday mornings. I’m definitely the only one in my apartment. In the fall, more than any other season, there’s something beautiful in the stillness of those mornings that I just can’t seem to miss out on, even if it means missing out on a couple hours of sleep. It might be the bright sun shining through canopies of colorful leaves. Or the crisp air or the brilliant blue sky. Or it could be the farmers’ market.

While I adore the juicy peaches, kaleidoscopic heirloom tomatoes, crunchy sweet corn, and general plethora of fresh produce that the spring and summer farmers’ markets yield, the fall farmers’ markets happen to be my favorites. I think my love lies in their unexpected harvests. Come late September Chicagoans begin their dooms day preparations, pulling out think wool socks, cable knit sweaters, and fleece lined winter jackets. Down comforters emerge from closets and stew begins to find its place on the stove. We might be a little paranoid and a trip to the farmers’ market will prove just that. From apples and pears to butternut squash and pumpkins – not to mention the kale, cauliflower, leeks, grapes, Brussels sprouts, and cranberries – these farmers’ markets tell a story not of the impending winter days but rather of fall bounty.

So, with the farmers’ market calling my name, I woke up early last Saturday morning to purchase leeks for a leek pesto pasta, cauliflower for roasting, apples to toss in my lunches, and goat cheese to throw on top of anything that needs an extra splash of flavor. (I love goat cheese, but I’ll save that spiel for later.) And when I got home I threw together this charmingly simple bread and had it baked up before my roommates even emerged from their rooms.

This bread is not a light, fluffy sandwich bread but rather a dense loaf served best with a pat of butter or a spoonful of jam. The preparation is, as its name suggests, easy, requiring only eight ingredients and a mere half an hour for rising. For first time yeast users this is the recipe to try. (If you, like me, don’t happen have a thermometer to gauge the temperature of your water I highly recommend my very scientific method. Heat the water on a stove in a small saucepan. Occasionally dip your finger in to the water and ask yourself, “Is this roughly the temperature of a little too hot hot tub water?”. When the answer is yes remove the water from the stove, pour it in a bowl, and sprinkle in the yeast. Voilà!)

I’d make another loaf this weekend but my Halloween party is begging for pumpkin cookies. And sadly midterms mean I’m a one time a week baker for now. Maybe you should make a loaf instead. And then invite me over. (Check this out for inspiration: http://elmlid.com/the-bread-exchange/).

Easy Little Bread

from Gran’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Notebooks of Dulcie by May Booker via 101 Cookbooks

Makes 1 loaf 

1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115F)

1 packet active dry yeast

1 tablespoon runny honey

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the honey and set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit – 5 – 10 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the flours, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir very well.

Brush a 8-cup loaf pan generously with some of the melted butter. Turn the dough into the tin, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 30 minutes, to rise.

Preheat the oven to 350F, with a rack in the middle. When ready, bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. I finish things up by leaving the bread under the broiler for just a heartbeat – to give the top a bit deeper color. Remove from oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn’t steam in the pan. Serve warm, slathered with butter.


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