A Cold Spring

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"A cold spring:
the violet was flawed on the lawn.
For two weeks or more the trees hesitated;
the little leaves waited
carefully indicating their characteristics."

- from "A Cold Spring" by Elizabeth Bishop

"Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth."
- Philip Larkin

We thought spring was here a few weeks ago, but we may have been jumping the gun. Our May long weekend is usually considered the unofficial beginning of summer fun, but this weekend has been chilly, just like so much of the spring. Too cold to plant the annuals, too cold to take a long walk by the Humber river - and it's been close to freezing at night.

Some of us are particularly eager for the the warm weather. My daughter's friend told her in excitement that next week would start warm, and get one degree (Celsius) warmer every day. "Look!" she said. "It's going to be 19 degrees on Monday, 20 on Tuesday, and by Friday they're calling for 23!" Upon re-examining her iPhone, though, she said, "Oh, sorry, I wasn't looking at the temperatures, I was looking at the dates."

If the warmer weather never does come, you can warm up your kitchen by baking a loaf of bread. I tried another recipe from my favourite bread cookbook, Kneadlessly Simple, and the results were as great as always. Although I found this loaf a bit sweet to use as sandwich bread, it was perfect buttered lightly and eaten as is. And the directions say to cool it thoroughly before slicing, but I bypassed that step and was rewarded with a blissfully warm and delicious slice shortly after it came out of the oven. Warm enough to forget for just a few minutes that we're still waiting for spring.

Four Grain-Honey Bread
(from Kneadlessly Simple, by Nancy Baggett)

2 cups unbleached white bread flour, plus more as needed
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup yellow or white cornmeal, preferably stone-ground, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup rolled oats, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup cooked and cooled brown rice
Generous 1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp instant, fast-rising, or bread machine yeast
1/2 cup mild honey
1 1/4 cups ice water, plus more if needed
Canola oil or other flavourless vegetable oil for coating dough top and baking pan

First rise: In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the bread flour, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, oats, brown rice, salt and yeast. In another bowl or measuring cup, thoroughly whisk the honey into the ice water. Vigorously stir the mixture into the bowl with the flours, scraping down the bowl sides and mixing just until the dough is thoroughly blended. If the ingredients are too dry to mix together, gradually add in just enough more ice water to facilitate mixing; don't over-moisten, as the dough should be stiff. If necessary, mix in more bread 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 - 10 hours. Then let rise at cool room temperature for 12 to 18 hours; if convenient, stir once during the rise.

Second rise: Vigorously stir the dough. Using a well-oiled rubber spatula, fold the dough in toward the centre, all the way around the bowl. Dust an oiled 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with 1 Tbsp each cornmeal and rolled oats, tipping it back and forth to coat the pan sides. Turn out the dough into the pan. Brush or spray the top with oil. Smooth out the top and press the dough into the pan with oiled fingertips or a rubber spatula. Sprinkle 1/2 Tbsp each cornmeal and rolled oats over the top. Press down to imbed. Cut four or five 3-inch long, 1/4 inch evenly spaced slashes diagonally across the loaf top. Cover the pan with plastic wrap that's been brushed with oil.

Let rise: For a 2 to 4 hour regular rise, let stand at warm room temperature. (Alternatively, for a 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hour accelerated rise, let stand in a turned-off microwave along with 1 cup of boiling-hot water.) Remove the plastic when the dough nears it, then continue the rise until the dough extends 1/2 inch above the pan rim.

15 minutes before baking time, put a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees.

Bake on the lower rack for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the loaf is well-browned and firm on top. Cover with foil if necessary to prevent over-browning. Continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes longer, testing until a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few particles on the end. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes more to ensure the centre is done. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn the loaf onto the rack to cool thoroughly.


Unknown said...

Very nice, Beth! Love that crust and these grains...never thought you could put cooked rice in it.
:) ela@GrayApron

Catherine said...

Dear Beth, It has been real chilly and rainy too this spring. Oh, I forgot to mention foggy too! Well, I a not complaining at least it isn't snow!
The bread is a beautiful way to warm up the house and enjoy! Blessings, Catherine

Valerie Gamine said...

I am so thrown by the weather we've been having (since March?). I fear that by the time it does get warm, autumn will be upon us all too quickly. Again.

Thank goodness for cosy, homemade bread. :D

scrambledhenfruit said...

Love it! I bet this would be great toasted, with a little honey butter spread on top. Our weather is all over the place- It was in the 90s last week, but today it was cold. I have a feeling I'll be wishing for these cooler temps before too long though! :)

Unknown said...

Nothing beats a homemade warm bread.

Angie's Recipes said...

The weather here finally gets warmer and better...last weeks were just rainy and cold. Your multi-grain bread looks beautiful, Beth.
Hope you have a beach weather soon!

Anonymous said...

The bread looks and sounds delicious! We had lovely weather this weekend, but you never know if it will last.

Jemi Fraser said...

That's so funny! I'll take the dates as temperatures for the next few days too! My hubby is out fishing this weekend and they were forecasting snow for where he headed!!!

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Looks delicious. Warm bread is the best!
Hah! Love the temperature/date confusion. So funny =D

Anonymous said...

I laughed so hard at the story of your daughter's friend!! It has been a little chilly here in Pittsburgh, too. Hopefully it starts to warm up more as we get further into May! I love the bread recipe. It sounds and looks so delicious. Baking bread is so satisfying, isn't it?!

grace said...

that bread may be full of grains, but it also seems to be so moist! marvelous loaf!

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

What a cute story! She'll never live down her goof :) Your bread looks amazing. I love that it has brown rice in it...so hearty!

Barbara said...

All my northern friends and family are anxiously awaiting spring...it just seems to be hiding right now.
Your grain bread looks delicious, Beth. My biggest fault is cutting into things while their still warm! I did it with an angel food cake recently and got a big dent in the cake for my trouble. :) Your bread held up nicely...bet it's wonderful toasted.

nancy at good food matters said...

we had a cold snap here in Tennessee too, known as "Blackberry Winter" this time of year. (in April, that cold snap is called "Dogwood Winter.") Your bread looks delicious any time of year--I have found that rolled oats really added a wonderful texture to whole grain breads. It would be easy to just cut back on the amount of honey to make it less sweet.

Unknown said...

Love homemade bread and don't make it enough! We had a short but hot heatwave last week but returned to our cooler fog at the coast 'natural air conditioning' we normally enjoy. But, I get what you mean about wanting warm weather-it is so nice to warm up after a cold Winter/Spring and bread baking is a good way to get through the cold while waiting for the warm to arrive ;-)

Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said...

If anything will force Spring to come sooner, it will be this gorgeous bread!
And not going to lie, I was laughing at that story :P

Choc Chip Uru

Anonymous said...

The bread looks delicious and I love Elizabeth Bishop. Hope you get some warm weather soon, but for now, enjoy your bread.

Kitchen Riffs said...

I love that story with the temperature/date confusion! Very amusing. And this bread would certainly entertain my taste buds! I don't often use corn meal or oats in bread, and they can add such nice flavor. This is wonderful -- thanks.

Andrea_TheKitchenLioness said...

Beth, bread baking is certainly a wonderful way to combat the "cool spring weather blues" and your fabulous homemade loaf of bread looks so delicious - I am particularly taken by the addition of cooked and cooled brown rice to the batter - sounds like a great idea to add texture to the bread. Hope the weather will be warmer soon - around these parts, we seem to be in the midst of a tiny heat wave.

Inger @ Art of Natural Living said...

What a great combination of lots of different grains. I wouldn't have been able to wait for it to cool either!

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