Never underestimate the power of fresh baked bread, candles, and a table set for two. The simple act of setting the table and turning dinner into a meal can turn a grumpy married couple into newlyweds again. The smell of freshly baked bread filling the house doesn’t hurt either.
I often bake, but I don’t often bake bread. I have several reputable cookbooks on the subject and have tried time and again to create that perfect loaf with crusty crust and the perfect crumb and the nice big air bubbles and the chewy flavorful insides. But, it never turns out quite right and always takes way to long. So, I’ve left the task to more qualified and more patient bakers. Instead I stick to the kind of bread that can be made in a day and baked in a loaf pan. I’ve been making this recipe all week and absolutely love it. It’s simple to make ( I promise) and so versatile. It’s great fresh out of the oven with a simple dinner, it’s even better toasted and slathered with salted butter and jam, and I keep daydreaming about how ridiculously good it would be as french toast. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Before you rush off to make this bread and eat the entire loaf, here’s a little story about the kitchen table to get you thinking before the holidays:
Perhaps the World Ends Here
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live. The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on. We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it. It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women. At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers. Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table. The table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun. Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory. We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here. At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks. Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
*Note: I used poppy seeds, but any other seed would make a great topping for this bread…(caraway anyone?)
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
Makes 1 loaf
3 tablespoons coarse ground, yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons rolled oats
2 tablespoons wheat germ
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/4 cups warm water
poppy seeds for topping
Combine the cornmeal, oats and wheat germ in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water and set aside.
Combine the flour, brown sugar, salt, yeast and honey in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the soaked cornmeal, oats and wheat germ and the warm water. Stir to combine, or mix on low, until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes or mix the dough in the stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment for 5 minutes. The dough should be shiny and a little wet.
Oil a large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl coating it with oil. Cover loosely with a clean dish towel and let rise for 60-90 minutes or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, oil a loaf pan.
Turn the dough out onto a well floured work surface and press it into a rectangle about 6 inches wide by 10 inches long.
Working from the short end, roll the dough one segment at a time, using your fingers to pinch each crease before continuing to roll.
Transfer the dough to the prepared loaf pan with the seam on the bottom. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for another 60-90 minutes or until slightly domed on top.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Brush the top of the loaf with oil and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. An instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the loaf should read 185-190 degrees.