Bread has always been the ultimate temptation for me. Whether swathed with melting butter, creamy peanut butter, toasted with cheese or redolent with garlic and tossed in a salad, I cannot resist. Growing up with a mother who barely cooked we were always hungry. But bread, albeit it “brown bread” as it was called back then, was our reliable safety. And we loved our bread. For breakfast Mama prepared soft-boiled eggs with a slice of brown bread on the side and split in half, to dip into the sunny, runny yolks. With a pinch of salt and pepper this was our version of heaven. My little brother, Tommy, bless his heart, was always hungry. Skinny as a rail, he’d wake up in the middle of the night from hunger pains in his stomach. That boy would crawl on his stomach across the house, grab seven or eight slices of bread from the refrigerator and crawl back to his bed undetected by Mama. He said those late night trips to the kitchen were what kept him alive. I knew when I was hungry I could always find the fixins’ for a lettuce and butter sandwich. Actually it was margarine as we never had real butter. The “brown bread” was Roman Meal brand and the lettuce was iceberg but the combination made for a cool, crunchy and satisfying snack that, as a child, held me in good stead. As I grew up I learned of the further glories of bread. At a grade school friend’s house I first tasted real butter on toast. Whoa! I’ll never forget THAT experience. Third or fourth grade brought Susie next door as a new neighbor. That, Gentle Reader, was the exacta of culinary discoveries. We had been playing outside, probably our version of Man From Uncle, we were hot and hungry. Susie casually turned to me and asked if I wanted a toasted English muffin. I had never had a muffin, never mind an English muffin, but I thought if she wanted one I’d have one, too. I mean, how bad could they be? Well. She toasted one for each of us, buttered them, then slathered some bright, glossy, ruby-colored stuff on each round. “What’s THAT?” I asked. Susie looked at me incredulously. Neither one of us said anything for a few seconds. She quietly answered with the slightest hint of disdain for me, “It’s strawberry jam. Haven’t you ever had that before?” I had read in one of my many books that strawberries were sweet and tasted good. Feeling fearless and, let me remind you, hungry, I took a bite. The warm muffin with the melted butter in all the little nooks and crannies was like nothing I had ever had, all salty and creamy. How could something be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside all at the same time? But the jam…oh, the jam! I was swept away by the feel in my mouth, sweet and clean, at the same time tart. I imagined that was what perfume should taste like if you drank it. I just about swooned over this ordinary snack and I’m pretty much certain Susie lost a little respect for me judging from the “you loser” look she gave me. I’ve got to say, though, it was worth it. Today bread is still my Achilles heal. Garlic rolls, pizza, croutons, I love it all. But as I’ve gotten older and my waistline has expanded I’ve had to cut back drastically on my bread intake and, now that there is always food in my house, I’m super picky when it comes to the quality and nutritional value. Since figuring out this recipe we no longer buy bread, quite a savings for us as we were paying upwards of $10.00 at Whole Foods and Fresh Market for a high fiber organic loaf. I now bake bread at least once a week, sometimes twice, and have a thin, toasted slice every morning as part of my breakfast. Whether I have an egg white omelette prepared by my husband and delivered to our bed or avocado toast with tomato slices and red pepper flakes, breakfast keeps me energized until 2:00 in the afternoon. Not only is this bread a nutritional powerhouse but it’s life-changing for your insides, if you catch my drift. It calls for only one rising so you’re not chained to the kitchen for what seems to be a lifetime. I urge you to try it. Really. A weekend day when the weather begs you to stay indoors is the golden opportunity. And won’t you just be the happy camper when, say, some morning, you’re running more than a few minutes late and you grab a slice of this gorgeous, whole grain bread, baked by your capable hands, topped with a generous slather of peanut or almond butter to munch on while you drive into work? Aren’t you the cleverkins!
Whole Grain Power Bread
This bread is dark and heavy as many European breads are. It can be made by hand, which turns out to be a great upper body workout, or with a stand-up mixer, which makes the kneading process supremely easy. I’ve done both and I have to say I lean towards the stand-up mixer. The dough requires only one rising (yay!) and the recipe is forgiving enough that you can substitute the sunflower and flax seeds for any seeds you like. I use Bob’s Red Mill 8 Grain Hot Cereal and 5 Grain Hot Cereal as well as Quaker Multigrain hot cereals interchangeably depending on what’s in my cabinet. This recipe doubles beautifully however, as it calls for a large amount of flour, check first prior to doubling to make sure your mixing bowl is big enough to hold and mix the dough. I have a standard KitchenAid mixer, which I hate and everyday I pray it dies, and it barely holds one recipe. If you’d like really tall loaves shape three loaves instead of four. It’s great with breakfast, toasted plain or with butter, jam and almond or peanut butter. Because of its denseness it doesn’t hold up well as sandwich bread but since I’ve sworn off sandwiches that’s okay by me. Well-wrapped it freezes beautifully. I bake this bread for my family, my father and my girl, Andrea, so we only have two loaves at the most in my house. Therefore, I can’t tell you how long it keeps in the freezer but tightly wrapped it should be fine for at least two weeks.
- 4 cups water, divided
- 1 cup multigrain hot cereal
- 1/2 cup canola, vegetable or olive oil
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon yeast
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3/4 cup flax seeds
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 9 cups whole wheat flour, preferably organic
- Spray 3 or 4 1.5 quarts loaf pans with non stick cooking spray and set aside.
- In a small bowl, pour one cup boiling water over hot cereal and set aside for 30 minutes.
- When hot cereal has cooled, heat remaining 3 cups of water to 120°-130° and pour into standup mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment.
- To the mixer bowl add 2 cups flour, cooled cereal, oil, honey, molasses, yeast, salt, flax seeds and sunflower seeds.
- Mix until incorporated.
- Slowly add remaining flour adding just one cup at a time to avoid the flour from flying all over.
- When flour has mixed in, change the attachment from paddle to dough hook and knead dough for 5 minutes.
- Depending on the number of loaves you wish to bake, divide dough into 3 or 4 equal parts and place in prepared pans making certain the dough covers the bottom and all corners of the pans.
- Cover pans with a clean dish towel or loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise in pans for 1 1/2 hours or until double in size.
- Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or bottom, sides and tops are golden brown.
- Cool pans on racks for 10 minutes.
- Remove bread from pans and return to racks until completely cool.
- Do not slice or store bread until completely cooled.