The last few days have been bittersweet, as a very important member of our family passed away on the 26th. My father-in-law, known to us lovingly as Grandpa Joe, left us quietly on Monday morning. A smart, interesting, funny guy who loved a good laugh, he was also distinctive in appearance--large in frame, with a nice face and a snowy white mustache and beard. Meeting him for the first time 20 years ago, I inevitably thought of Santa Claus. He did a lot of smiling that day, and I recall feeling that he was very warm and welcoming to me.
A long-time high school biology teacher and then a counselor, Grandpa Joe never lost his willingness to share knowledge. Just for fun, he enjoyed posing little trivia questions to family members out of the blue. I remember how he'd focus his gaze on me and say very pointedly, "Jane, this one's for you . . ." then he'd let loose with an arcane query on a topic about which I may or may not have had the slightest inkling. If I managed to respond correctly, he'd acknowledge that with a grin and comment, "Not bad, Jane. Not bad."
Oh sure, he'd had a few grouchy moments over the last couple of years as his energy diminished. But now those moments just seem like isolated stitches in the broad colorful fabric of who he was. This is my favorite line excerpted from his obituary, which was written by my husband: "He loved singing, a good meal, was known to bake bread, and had a wonderful sense of humor." Yeah, the man even liked baking bread. He greatly appreciated well prepared food, loved watching cooking shows, and he read cookbooks. How many fathers-in-law do those things?
And the guy did love to sing. Last Saturday evening, from his hospice bed, he gifted us in a quavering voice with the melody from a couple of old tunes. When asked about his favorite music, he exclaimed over the obvious pre-eminence of Frank Sinatra. What wasn't to love about a man like that? J.R.R. Tolkien said, "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." Well, the world will be a little less merry now without Grandpa Joe in it and, somehow, we'll have to pick up the slack.
When I made this loaf of fresh bread the other day, I was thinking of him. I believe he would have liked it.
Love you, Grandpa Joe. See you again someday.
About this recipe . . .
Besides honey and oats, this yeast bread also includes whole wheat- and white flour. It's a dense, moist loaf with a slight and pleasant sweetness. Very easy to make, and probably very difficult to screw up, this a good uncomplicated recipe from the excellent book, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. I've made at least half a dozen items from this book with fine results each time.
The only change I made to the recipe was to omit nuts from the dough, and I reworded the instructions, throwing in my own two cents here and there. I hope you like this hearty loaf of bread. It's tasty toasted and buttered, but also awfully good untoasted and topped with a little peanut butter. Really satisfying.
Lightly grease a standard size loaf pan (9" x 5") and a medium size bowl.
1 and 1/4 cups boiling water
1 cup old-fashioned oats (I only had quick oats on hand so I used those instead)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces (okay if it's cold)
1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup honey (I used clover honey)
1 cup traditional whole wheat flour
1 and 2/3 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk (if yours isn't fine and powdery, crush it before adding it in)
2 tsp. instant yeast
In the bowl of your mixer, stir together the water, oats, salt, butter, and honey. Let this cool.
In an ungreased bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, white flour, dry milk, and yeast. Pour this into the mixer bowl with the water-oat-honey mixture.
Put the mixer bowl onto the mixer. Using the dough hook, knead until a smooth dough forms (I mixed mine on the lowest speed for about 4 minutes; you may also choose to do this by hand, if you prefer).
Put the dough into the lightly greased medium-size bowl and cover it (I used a clear plastic food-safe box turned upside down to help create a warm moist environment) for about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.
Once doubled, oil your hands, and thenn deflate the dough gently. (You won't need to do this on a floured surface, believe it or not.)
Shape it into a 9" log, and nestle it into the greased loaf pan.
Cover it with greased plastic wrap, and put it again in a nice proofing environment--someplace kind of warm and not too dry. Let it rise again for at least an hour or more, until it's crowned about 1.5" above the sides of the pan. About half an hour into the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Uncover the risen bread carefully, put it in the oven on the middle rack, and bake it for approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Put a foil tent over the loaf about 20 minutes into baking to prevent overbrowning. Test the bread for doneness by poking it with an instant read thermometer; when the middle of the loaf reads 190 degrees, the loaf is done.
Remove the bread from the oven, and take it out of the pan after 1 minute; put it on a rack to cool. If you like, brush melted butter lightly on the top of the loaf when you remove it from the pan; this will help the top crust stay nice and soft. Cool it on the rack completely before trying to slice it.
P.S. Did I forget to mention that Grandpa Joe used to keep honey bees? I would give anything to have a picture of him in his bee-keeper suit.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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Visit the PBS site to reminisce about 2013's best food trends. They've assembled an entertaining look at what we foodies focused on--what we ate, cooked, read, watched, and blogged about--throughout the year. Click here!
Interesting article in the Los Angeles Timeson the resurgence in demand for the skills of professional pastry chefs. (It seems we still need them after all . . .but you and I have always known that, haven't we?)
The IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) announced winners of its 2013 IACP Food Writing Awards. Have a look at the list. (No surprise that the gorgeous Bouchon Bakery cookbook won for photography and styling; took about a dream of a book! It's gorgeous.)
Food journalist and cookbook reviewer T. Susan Chang, writing for Publisher's Weekly, shared her thoughts in the article "10 Things Every Cookbook Publisher Should Know." Chang clarifies, in a nutshell, what differentiates a great cookbook from an awful dud. I found myself nodding in agreement with every point she made.
An interesting variation on cherries jubilee . . .
. . . made with Grand Marnier, sweet black cherries, pomegranate juice, and homemade vanilla ice cream.
Dutch apple cake . . .
. . . it's divine!
What We Talk About . . .
. . . When We Talk About Banana Cake!
JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (one in high school and one in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do freelance editorial work, something that I also really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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