Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Brown Bread with Raisins and Cardamom

The original, plain version of this recipe is from a worn and tattered hardback titled "Bread Winners: More than 200 Superior Bread Recipes and Their Remarkable Bakers". Originally belonging to my mother, this book, written by film producer Mel London and published by Rodale Press in 1979, is one of my favorites. My mom's handwritten notes and various blotches and stains decorate the volume, whose worn binding barely holds the two covers together. After more than 20 years of experimentation, my mother, having settled on her own bread recipe which she bakes religiously every week, passed the book on to me. I am glad to have it. (Thanks Mom!).

Bread Winners' recipes are grouped by author-back to the land hippies, flight attendants who bake bread on 747s, film directors, writers, teachers, homemakers-all of whom kept up a constant flow of communication and exchange of recipes with Mr. London in the pre-internet era. Reading about the people behind the breads is almost as much fun as baking them and makes one wonder where they all are now. But despite the enthralling characters, this book is first and foremost a cookbook-and a good one. Quick breads, yeast breads, sourdough breads, even the esoteric salt-raising bread, all are tackled here in an easy to understand way. Biscuits, rolls, buns, muffins, tortillas, roti, Lebanese flat bread, pizza dough, even pancakes are at your fingertips if you have this book around.

So it comes as no surprise that the other day, after baking two loaves of a spectacular honey rye bread, I decided, hey, the oven is still warm, lets whip up a quick bread too! And I had just the one in mind. After trying Heidi's sticky teff loaves I was on a roll with my blackstrap molasses and wanted more, so I turned to page 303 to try out Linda Waggy's Brown Bread. But of course I just couldn't leave well enough alone so I had to make some changes. Here is the recipe below-with the real credit going to Linda Waggy, who in 1979 lived in a cabin in the woods of upstate New York and baked on a wood stove.

Brown Bread (with Raisins and Cardamom)

Makes two 9x5 loaves.
51/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt ( I used 1)
1 quart buttermilk ( I used low fat yogurt)
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/2-3/4 cup raisins
1/2-3/4 tsp ground cardamom seed (best if fresh ground)
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Note: For plain brown bread, omit the last three ingredients and proceed as usual.

Mix the flour, soda, salt, cardamom and nutmeg in a large bowl. Combine the milk, honey, molasses and raisins and let sit for about 20 minutes or until the raisins plump up a bit. Add to dry ingredients, stirring quickly to combine. The soda will react rather explosively-get the batter into your 2 greased 9x5 bread pans as quickly as possible! Bake at 350% for 50-60 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes before attempting to turn out, and run a knife along the edges of the pan to ease that task if necessary. This bread is outstanding toasted and spread with labneh, a Turkish yogurt cheese-if you don't have any lying around just use sour cream and you wont know the difference. One loaf yields about 16 medium slices, which are about 160 calories a piece.


molly said...

Hey Lyra! Thanks for your comment on my blog. I'm going to have to try this bread recipe. And your salmon recipe too! and... ;-)

Lyra said...

Yay a comment:)! Im so excited he he. Your pics of the berries are beautiful-hopefully mine will improve quickly, Im trying to get the hang of my macro lens after a long separation.