At our farmer’s market booth, we produce a wide variety of baked goods. My daughter Amalia bakes mile-high muffins and quick breads, mostly. My mom makes raised donuts, pies and her locally-famous cookies. I make bread and bring lots of veg and flowers and herbs from my garden. Our good customers ask lots of good questions. I don’t blame them. It’s good to be an informed consumer. But sometimes we are rendered incoherent by a guileless question like this one:
Pleasant-faced lady: (studying a plate of angel food cake that my mom just made that morning, containing egg whites from my own spoiled chickens, and a strawberry cream cheese frosting that has ripe crushed strawberries whipped into it, a recipe that she formulated herself, over time, until it was just perfect)
“Is this from a box?”
We’ll stare at the customer mutely, searching for words. But. There are no words. Yes. The unthinkable has happened: Mom, the girls and I are rendered speechless.
I just wanna smack her. There’s a smack for that kind of question. But no words. 😉
Oh, Gentle Reader. I’m just joking. I’m trying to make you laugh. Did I? Or did I go over that line of decency and decorum that I dance around quite frequently? Tell me. I won’t take it too hard. Maybe. I’d never actually smack a customer, that much is true. And I certainly wouldn’t smack you.
It’s just that this angel food cake . . . this cake . . . it’s just so special. It’s fluffy and white but not too fluffy, you know what I’m saying? It has got a nice chew to it, too. There’s just no possible way that it could come from a box! If you ask me really nicely, I could probably get my mom’s recipe for you. I’ve never actually made the cake myself, since Mom’s is so spectacular. She makes it, so I don’t have to.
Other questions that drive us ’round the bend:
- “Do you bake all this stuff yourselves?” and
- “Do you make these pies from scratch?” and
- “How many days old is this bread?” and
- “Do you use canned pie filling?”
- Um, Yes, we make it all ourselves.
- Yes, of course the pies are made from scratch . . .
- The bread was all made this morning: I got up at 5:00.
- No, we don’t use canned anything. And no, we don’t use boxed mixes. (NITWIT.)
We make everything from scratch, with freshly-ground flour, real butter, local honey, and other wholesome ingredients. We all learned how to do this from Mom. The only time that I remember buying food in a box was when we were camping, and then we would buy Hamburger Helper. It was a real treat, though not as good as Mom’s homemade hamburger dishes, natch. We use herbs and veg and fruit from our own gardens and orchards. We make everything for our customers just the way we make it for our own families. I’m not bragging. Just stating the facts, ma’am. Or sir.
“Basically . . . we do it the hard way . . . so you don’t have to!” That’s what I should have said to the pleasant-faced lady. Hey. That could be a great advertising slogan. The visual image would be . . . hmm . . . I don’t think there should be a visual, actually. Stacks of dirty pots and pans? A flour-dusted kitchen? A greasy mess at the end of an afternoon of frying donuts? Us dropping our dead-tired bodies into bed at the end of market day? Nahhhh . . . maybe we’ll just go with something different. Something cute and cuddly. Like a puppy, or a basket full of kittens. I’ve already used the baby gerbil photo enough times, I think.
Although it is very sweet.
Here we go . . .
There. That is perfect. I think that ought to be our new slogan. But actually I was going to share a bread recipe with you, wasn’t I? Do you actually read all this silly rambling that I put you through, Gentle Reader, or do you just cut to the chase—?? I’d appreciate knowing this. I would.
On to the bread recipe. One of my favorite “traditional” breads that I make (i.e. non-artisan) is this Chewy, Crunchy 9-Grain Bread. It’s makes excellent toast and sandwiches. I kinda made the recipe up . . . (wait for it) . . . so you don’t have to. I’ve fiddled and tweaked it over the years (like my mom does) and it makes a great bread. The recipe involves a pre-step. You’ve got to first mix up a 9-grain mix, first. But then you’re good to go.
So. Without further ado, here’s my recipe.
- First, for the 9-grain mix, stir together:
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup millet
- 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup poppyseeds
- 2 cups wheat bran
- 2 cups flax seeds, crushed (in blender)
- 2 cups white sesame seeds
- 2 cups rye flour
- And now for the bread:
- 3 cups of (above) 9-grain mix
- 4 cups whole wheat flour (I use white wheat)
- 4 cups unbleached flour
- 2 tablespoons yeast
- 5 cups warm water
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup molasses or raw honey
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- First, mix together well the nine grains listed. You’ll store whatever you don’t use today in your freezer. Yes, you will. Now don’t argue. You don’t want those seeds to go rancid, do you? You don’t want me to smack you, do you? 😉
- Then, mix 3 cups of 9-grain mix and 4 cups whole wheat flour, yeast, and water, and mix for 1 minute, in a mixer bowl equipped with a kneading arm.
- Turn off mixer, cover bowl, and let dough sponge for 10 minutes.
- Add oil, honey and salt. Mix well.
- Add unbleached flour 1 cup at a time, while your mixer is running, until dough cleans the side of the bowl.
- Knead 5 minutes with mixer. Or, knead by hand if you prefer. Get yourself a cup of coffee, say, or read the front page of the paper while your mixer does the work.
- Lightly oil hands. Shape into 4 large loaves, and put into greased loaf pans, sprinkled with your 9-grain mix.
- Let rise until double, about 30 to 40 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown and firm on the sides and bottom.
- Remove from pans and cool on racks.
Got your bread made? Now all you have to do is make sure that your butter is soft. Enjoy your bread!
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