Monday, April 9, 2012

Bread & Honey

 Having just regained my appetite after a week of being sick and recovering from same, I had to do some real baking yesterday, for the family holiday dinner.

 I know you know I'm no believer; but my mother is, some of my family are, and anyway, Easter is a lovely rite of Spring that I enjoy celebrating in some form. We used to invite friends to our home nearly every Easter, and I had a standard menu of Spring foods down pat. It's easy to feel in tune with the earth on Easter, with breezy weather and more sunshine and the fertile symbolism that abounds. Those seasonal hot cross buns have a Pagan origin, as does every part of the feast, really, and although I don't make them each year, I do make like to some kind of yeast bread.

 Yesterday, I baked two types of rolls, using old favorite breads instead of the fancy buttery roll recipes that I'd first considered. I needed a non-dairy bread for my sister's current diet, and this one, a rich, tender bread sweetened with honey and studded with dried fruit, fit the bill. It's a luv of a dough to work with, silky and pleasurable to handle once it has absorbed all the flour it wants.

 This was my first successful bread, from when I decided to start baking all my own loaves, 23 or so  years ago. It's a blonde raisin bread from Marilyn Moore's Wooden Spoon Bread Book, and I've been tweaking and adapting it since the first loaf, when I found I didn't have enough golden raisins (but did have apricots) and didn't have any ginger (but cumin subbed nicely, and gave it a special touch it didn't have before).

 Now I purposely make it with different flours, different dried fruits, different oil. It's adaptable to your needs, and could easily go vegan with the use of agave or maple or even brown rice syrup in place of the honey. It might be stickier, though, so in that case, be careful not to add too much flour when kneading-- it WILL smooth out, and get silky, with a little handling. And once baked, it's lightly sweet and tender and hard to stop eating-- everyone likes it, even the sister that doesn't like the flavor of honey. Maple will give a slightly  different sweetness, of course, but good anyhow.

 As given, it makes two average loaves, but I got about 17/18 good-sized rolls out of it. You could make them slightly smaller, but don't go too much bigger-- it's a high-riser of a dough, and too big rolls just won't work as well, for dinner or breakfast. Of course, you could make half into rolls, half into the best bread for breakfast you'd ever want. This braids nicely if you want to go that route. It keeps well from the honey, freezes incredibly well, and tastes fresh, fresh, fresh.

Apricot-Honey Bread, from The Wooden Spoon Bread Book, adapted quite a bit by Mari

In a large mixing bowl, combine:

 2 cups warm water
 2 scant tablespoons active dry yeast (or 2 packets)
1/4 tsp ground cumin, ginger or coriander

Allow yeast to proof about ten minutes, or till foamy. Stir in:

 1/2 cup oil (I use olive oil)
 1/2 cup honey
 1 1/2 tsp salt
 grated rind of 1 lemon
 2 1/2 cups unbleached or bread flour
 1 cup white whole wheat, or whole wheat flour

 Beat well. Stir in:

 1 cup of chopped dried apricots, or a mixture of apricots and golden raisins or craisins

 To make a soft dough, gradually add:

 3-4 cups unbleached or bread flour

 Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. It will be a little sticky at first, but trust me, it becomes silky and wonderful to knead in a couple of moments or so. When dough is smooth, place in a greased bowl to rise, tunring once to grease the top. Cover bowl with a clean dish towel and let sit in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes-1 hour.

 Knead dough down in bowl and divide in half. Shape into two loaves or 16-18 rolls, and place in greased baking pans (leaving a half-inch of space between rolls, if making). Preheat oven while dough rises-- 375 degrees F. Let loaves rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 30-45 minutes. Rolls will take 15-25 minutes to rise. It's risen properly when you can press a finger into the dough and the depression stays. Slash the tops of the loaves or rolls slightly, slashing crosswise with a very sharp knife; three slashes per loaf, one or two (I use a cross shape) for rolls.

 Bake loaves at 375 F for 35-40 minutes, rolls for 18-35 minutes. The bread should be somewhat browned all over, and pulled away from the sides of the pan when finished. Cool in pans ten minutes, then cool completely on wire racks.* Store at room temp in a plastic bag, or freeze for later use. Keeps frozen 4-6 weeks.

*To gild the lily, while the bread is cooling on its racks, brush the tops of the loaves with melted butter, then sprinkle with a half & half mixture of sugar and cumin or ginger. Or, you can brush the risen, slashed bread with a beaten egg and sprinkle with the spice mixture before putting it into the oven.

  Enjoy this super-easy, simply delicious bread sometime soon. It could make your Spring morning.

   Peace, Mari


  1. This bread sounds wonderful! I love the addition of lemon rind.



  2. I think the touch of lemon kinda "makes" it.