Listen: “Us and Them”- Pink Floyd
Christmas brought me a shiny new Dark Side of the Moon vinyl! I am living the dream–I blasted the record after breakfast (twice), when I woke up this morning, and while I was getting dressed today. Dark Side of the Moon is an expensive record (especially because, although it is a piece of art, I intend to continuously run over it with a needle), so I never expected to own it, and I am ecstatic that I now do. Listening to Pink Floyd is a practice in reverence.
The other thing that I revere, of course, is bread. Baking bread is wonderful because it is such a sensory process, and because it is a time intensive one; baking bread requires a day of dedication. I appreciate this time-out from my life–it gives me a chance to listen to music (Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire, “Lullaby classics…” but more on that later) and be meditative (really, this bread takes approximately 5 hours to make).
I think of this raisin-cinnamon-walnut bread as a breakfast bread, because I baked it for breakfast on Christmas morning, but I also ate it for lunch today and I imagine that it would make a rockin’ cracker.
Here is what I used:
20-30 minutes before you start, put the raisins and oats in separate bowls and soak them in warm water. Let them soak up the water until they appear plump (for the raisins, the photo on the right)–this way, they will integrate better into the dough.
Next, combine all of your dry ingredients (flours, oats, cinnamon, and salt) in a large bowl, and then add the yeast (if you are not using instant yeast, you will need to activate your yeast). Combine wet ingredients (water, milk, oil, and honey) in an additional bowl. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing as you go–this is (apparently) called hydrating your bread. Imagine that the flours are post-marathon, and give them some water. Not too much though–nobody can handle very much hydration directly after 26.6 miles (come on).
As you mix the wet ingredients into the dry, it should form a firm consistency. When it seems like the dry ingredients have handled all that they can of the wet, it is time to knead the dough. Make sure to coat the surface you are kneading on, and your hands in flour before kneading, lest you end up with (scary) dough hands:
Knead the dough 5-10 minutes, or until it has formed a smooth, springy consistency. If there is too much water, add more flour. If you can’t integrate all of the flour, add more water–you’ve got this, champ. As you knead, knead the raisins and walnuts into the dough. After kneading, it is time for the bread to rise for the first time. Butter a ceramic bowl, then shape the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, covering it with a heavy cloth. Let the dough rest for an hour–time to listen to that Pink Floyd album!*
After an hour has passed, the dough should have doubled in size. Now, take the dough out from the bowl, flour your hands and counter again, and punch your dough! That’s right–baking bread is better than therapy–meditative, relaxing, and violent! Punch the middle of the risen dough down, and continue to push down on the dough until it again forms a smooth, elastic round.
Next, flatten the dough a bit, and then fold it up into thirds (it will look like a cannoli!).
It’s time for your yeasty friends living with the dough to rest again! Place the folded dough back into its buttery home (bowl) and cover with a heavy cloth for another hour, or until it has doubled in size. Then press down or punch on the risen dough again; let the dough rest about fifteen minutes (or while you listen to Sufjan Steven’s “Christmas Unicorn”), then shape into a loaf. Place into a buttered loaf pan, then wet the top with water and sprinkle with oats. It’s time for the final rest! Cover the loaf pan with a cloth and wait until the dough has risen to the top of the pan–approximately 90 minutes.
After the dough has risen to the top of the pan, it’s yo time to shine (and bake)! Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Situate your loaf in its toasty vacation spot and bake for 5 minutes; then, turn the heat down to 375 and bake for 15 more. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees, then bake for 25 more minutes. Serve warm, drizzled with butter and honey, or any way that you choose (I had a lovely lunch of thin, toasted slices drizzled with a touch of olive oil and topped with mashed avocado, salt and pepper, and very sharp cheddar). I’m not in a position to dictate your life choices (secret: nobody is! W0w!!).
I baked two loaves of bread with my lovely friend Reyna, and we had a ball (of bread). While the bread was rising, we giggled, listened to Sufjan Stevens albums, and baked snickerdoodles (pictured below, recipe here). We also discovered the dark side of spotify (not the moon…this time)–spotify original playlists. With titles like “happy hipster,” “better off without you,” and “digster indie chill,” what isn’t there to adore? We also explored the many lullaby covers lurking in spotify–if you want your baby to go to sleep to xylophone covers of Nickleback, Lou Reed, and Carrie Underwood, check it out!
MFK Fisher says that baking bread is “one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with peace, and the house filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells. But it takes a lot of time. If you can find that, the rest is easy. And if you cannot rightly find it, make it, for probably there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”**
CINNAMON-RAISIN-WALNUT OATMEAL BREAD (modified from The Fresh Loaf)
Makes 2 loaves
3 & 2/3 cups bread flour
1 & 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 Tbsp + 1/3 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cinnamon
1.5 packets instant yeast
2 Tbsp honey
3 & 2/3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk (I used non-fat)
1 & 2/3 cups water (approximately)
1 & 1/3 cups raisins
1 & 1/3 cups walnuts, shelled and broken up
Place raisins and walnuts in separate bowls and soak for 20-30 minutes. Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl, then mix together wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Integrate the wet ingredients into the dry, then place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth (5-10 minutes). Knead in the raisins and walnuts into the dough, then shape dough into a ball and place in a buttered bowl under a heavy cloth to rise for an hour. After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, fold into thirds, re-shape, and let it rise for another hour. When the dough has doubled in size again, let it rest for about 15 minutes, then shape into a loaf, sprinkle with water and top with oats, and place into a buttered loaf pan. Cover with a cloth and let the dough rise to the top of the pan (90 minutes). Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the loaf for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees and bake until the crust is browned (25 minutes).
*Or whatever activity you choose. Listening to Dark Side of the Moon is certainly an activity that we promote on The Cooking College students, but if you prefer to do something else, that is totally understandable, ya life-hating child of satan.
**I’ve been taking quick breaks from the personal Pink Floyd pants-free dance party that is my life to read How To Cook A Wolf by MFK Fisher. Fisher is exceedingly (but gracefully) clever and funny, and How To Cook A Wolf is wonderfully confessional.