It was a weekend of celebrations.
My oldest daughter’s high school commencement was on Friday night. It’s probably the latest commencement of any school in the city, but it gave her and her friends the chance to see each other and share stories from university. And if I may be permitted to boast a little, she won a General Proficiency award (third-highest average in her graduating class of 260), as well as an award for School Leadership and Citizenship, and highest marks in her English, Writer’s Craft, Philosophy and Chemistry courses. I was so happy for her; she worked very hard in high school and it was wonderful to see that effort pay off.
We also celebrated my birthday on Saturday, as neither she nor my mother will be here on my actual birthday. I thought about how lucky I was to be surrounded by my loved ones as I prepare to turn a year older. I truly couldn’t be more blessed.
Today in church, we marked All Saints’ Sunday by remembering loved ones who have died. I couldn’t help but think how proud my father, Paul Baker, and Andrew’s parents, Gwyneth and Roy Pollock, would have been – not only of her academic achievements, but of what kind and caring girls both of our daughters are.
There isn’t really a link between that story and this week’s recipe, other than to say that my daughter has asked for a loaf of this whole wheat bread to take back to university the next time she’s home. I’ll be happy to do that, especially if it brings her home again soon! This bread was surprisingly easy and delicious, and I’ll be happy to bake two loaves next time, one for her and one for us. The recipe says to wait until the loaf is completely cool before slicing, but try to enjoy at least one slice while it’s warm – it’s absolutely amazing. Make this loaf of bread for your family, and you too may be reminded of your blessings.
All-Purpose Whole Wheat Bread
(from Kneadlessly Simple, by Nancy Baggett)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour (first amount)
4 Tbsp granulated sugar
Generous 1 3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp instant, fast-rising or bread machine yeast
3 Tbsp canola oil or corn oil (plus extra for coating dough top and baking pan)
2 cups plus 1 Tbsp ice water, plus more if needed
1 Tbsp whole wheat flour (second amount)
First rise: In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the white flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, salt and yeast. In another bowl or measuring cup, whisk the oil into the water. Then vigorously stir the mixture into the bowl with the flour, scraping down the sides and mixing until thoroughly blended. If too dry to mix together, add just enough additional water to facilitate mixing but don’t over-moisten, as the dough should be stiff. If necessary, stir in enough additional flour to stiffen it. Brush or spray the top with oil. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap. If desired, for best flavour or for convenience, refrigerate the dough for 3 to 10 hours. Then let rise at cool room temperature for 12 to 18 hours; if convenient, vigorously stir once during the rise.
Second rise: Vigorously stir the dough. If it is not stiff, stir in enough additional white flour to yield a hard-to-stir dough. Using an oiled rubber spatula, gently lift and fold the dough in towards the centre all the way around. (This organizes the gluten for shaping the dough into a loaf.) Invert it into a very well-greased 9” x 5” loaf pan. Using an oiled rubber spatula or fingertips, smooth out the top and press the dough out into the pan. Brush or pray the dough top with oil. Evenly sprinkle the top with 1 Tbsp whole wheat flour. Using a well-oiled serrated knife or kitchen shears, make 3 to 4 evenly spaced diagonal ½-inch-deep slashes down the loaf. Cover the pan with nonstick spray-coated plastic wrap.
Let rise: For a 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hour regular rise, let stand at warm room temperature. (Alternately, for a 1 to 1 1/2 hour accelerated rise, let stand in a turned-off microwave along with 1 cup of boiling hot water.) When the dough nears the plastic, remove it and continue the rise until the dough extends 1/8 inch above the pan rim or doubles from its deflated size.
Baking: 15 minutes before baking time, preheat oven to 375 degrees. When oven is heated, bake loaf for 50 to 60 minutes; as necessary cover with foil to prevent over-browning. Bake for 10 to 20 minutes more, until a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few particles on the end. Then bake for 5 minutes longer to make sure the centre is done. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn the loaf onto a rack and cool thoroughly.
Serving and storing: Serve warm, cool or toasted; the bread slices best when cool. Cool thoroughly before storing in plastic or foil. Keeps at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. May be frozen, airtight for up to 2 months.