short days, long minutes. And a nice sandwich bread recipe too.

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Rejoice!  The temperature spiked at a balmy 25F yesterday!  Big, fat, wet snowflakes stuck to our eyelashes rather than the tiny, frosty cold variety that creates mounds of dust all around.  We took the warm sunshiny day to head to VINS raptor center, where we hadn’t ventured in quite some time.  We were, perhaps, the only visitors of the day, and that was all right- the birds had plenty to say to their only company.

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Though the hours of sunlight are so very short, the days still seem insurmountably long sometimes.  The boys seem to be learning their strength against one another more and more, and my patience is wearing thin.  My tactic of separate and give love is starting to look like separate and stuff my face in a pillow.  We need more of these warming days to get us through.  Or at least another room available to play in (you may remember our flooding left us stranded in our upstairs).  Yesterdays many hours outdoors certainly made a dent in the -need to run and jump and explore- deficit.  But, it also left us hoping for more, which can be a dangerous thing in late January in Vermont.

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Thank goodness for hot cocoa and warm home-made bread.  They bring a well deserved comfort to prepare for a long day ahead.  Now that warm things don’t make me sick (what a cruel punishment that was… oh first trimester… I am so glad to be passed you!), I have been indulging in rich hot chocolate’s on the daily.  I sink a few pieces of dark chocolate into mine when no one is looking and it is the secret treat that feeds my soul.  Next time you or your troop is weary from the cold give it a try, you will see.

Country White Bread

(adapted from Beard on Bread)

Heat 2 cups of whole milk on the stove top with a 1/4 cup of honey and a tablespoon of salt until the edges form little bubbles.  Turn off heat and cool to body temperature.

Proof 4 teaspoons of yeast in a touch of the warmed milk until light and frothy.  Mix in the rest of the milk along with 5 cups of unbleached flour.  Knead with more flour until satiny and smooth and not sticky to the touch.  About 5 minutes.

At this point you can place your bread in an oiled bowl with plastic wrap over the top to proof overnight in the fridge or you can proof it right away.  I like to make this at night and bring it out with the sun, letting it warm up and rise for the first few hours of the day.  When it is doubled, split it in half and place in two loaf pans (well greased).  Let the dough rise until it reaches the pans edges, brush with an egg wash (egg and a tablespoon of water).  Place in a preheated 400F oven for 40 minutes until you knock and it sounds hollow, or until it registers at 190F.

Cool, slice, and slather with mascarpone and strawberry jam.  Serve with a cup of hot cocoa after a morning walk through the cold winter air.  I promise, everyone’s spirits will improve.

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bread #8 light wheat

Fifteen full minutes.  That is exactly the “work-time” it took to make this loaf of bread.  I think I have stared at the massive selection of sliced and packaged bread in the grocery for longer than that.  Ok, not longer, but pretty long!  You see, what I am getting at is that I have time.  I have time to make something worth while in just a quarter of an hour.  NPR had a weekend edition segment that obviously sparked my attention being that the title was “white bread”.  I listened intently in my car droning out relentless screams of “mama! mama! I want to get out NOW!”  for a solid ten minutes.  After listening I discovered that the only way for a lady on a budget to indulge in eating 8 grain breads or crusty wheats is to make them herself.  Ahh… I gave myself a little pat on the back for this one.  One point he makes is that the white bread companies hope and pray that the cheap prices will be enough to make consumers buy them.  But you see, we can take a stab back!   We don’t need your five dollar loaf of mediocre bread here!   We can whip it up in less time than it takes to go through the check out line most days.  Take that.

Light wheat bread (he uses powdered milk instead of regular milk… but this is what I had on hand)

Mix 2.5 cups bread flour, 1.5 cups whole wheat flour, 1.5 tbs. sugar, 1.5 tsp. salt, and 1.5 tsp. yeast.

Mix in 2 tbs. butter at room temperature, 1.25 cups water, 1 ounce of whole milk

Knead for about 15 minutes until you can stretch a chunk of it so thin it is see through (window pane test)

Let it rise in an oiled bowl about 90 minutes

Punch it down and shape it into a 8 x 10 rectangle

Roll it into a log while pinching each roll down.  Fit it into an oiled bread pan.  Let rise for 90 more minutes.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes until it registers 190 degrees.

Let it cool for at least an hour and there you have it.  Some sandwich bread.  Simple as can be.