Warning: this post contains far too many italics, because bread.
I love to bake bread. I have this great bread recipe book: The New Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton. It is one of my favorites — not only does Clayton write clear and precise instructions, and include steps for food processors/mixers for those who don’t like to thrust their hands into the dough*, but he also includes a lovely little paragraph or two under each bread’s header, about the bread’s origin and the people who made it. The Christmas breads section alone is worth the price of purchase, for taste and history. I’ve bookmarked tons of recipes, but have only made about ten or fifteen so far.
Having a sweet baby who is also a special-needy soul has diminished my bread-making time. In December he was still napping all right, so I was able to make some Christmas breads for gifts. Now he’s down and up again almost immediately, so even finding ten minutes for kneading time is tough. It’s enough…okay, almost enough, to make me want to purchase a stand mixer and knead by machine. Almost. Argh.
However, as Baby E. napped on my shoulder yesterday, I got an urge to page through Breads and look again at stuff I’d bookmarked. And I felt like such a fool, because, come on. QUICK BREADS.
Now, a lot of what I like about making bread is left out of quick breads. I like the kneading and the smell of rising bread and even the waiting, all of that. But what I like most of all is the eating of the breads. And while quick breads miss most of the other bits, they deliver on the eating. The recipe that caught my eye was for Loyalist Bread. Clayton writes this about its history:
During the American Revolution, families loyal to George III fled to Nova Scotia. More than 30,000 were exiled to Canada and lost everything except their loyalty to the crown and whatever they could carry with them. Women escaped with their recipes.
Loyalist Bread is one of the recipes they saved[…]
It is a handsome loaf with a craggy crust, and, when cut, pools of blueberries. Because this bread is so simple to make by hand I have not included instructions for mixer or food processor. Also the blades would chop the blueberries into bits–and the berry left whole is dramatic when the loaf is sliced.
(From The New Complete Book of Breads, page 452, (c) 2006)
“So simple to make by hand!” I was sold. But I must confess here first: I committed the cardinal yet characteristic recipe internet-commenter sin. I substituted, and I’m going to tell you about it.
I did not have blueberries. I am sorry, my Loyalist northern neighbors. So I subbed some currants (soaked in water) I had left over from my Christmas bread-making extravaganza. I also subbed sour whole milk for the buttermilk. What an American! Thank heavens we can navigate our politics in the kitchen, eh?
The bread is, like some quick breads, very thick and cake-like. The recipe warns that you should mix it like you do muffins, only a very little and only till it is mixed. I could absolutely see the texture becoming rubbery if overmixed. The currants were delicious, but blueberries would be better.
I don’t know if I agree with “craggy” to describe the crust, but I’m also baking at high altitudes with an old finicky oven, so your crusts may vary.
My ultimate takeaway: the finished loaf was delicious and hit both my cravings for making and eating fresh bread. And though I had to put Baby E. down to pour the batter into the bread pans, he was, for a moment, content. Probably hoping for a bit himself.
* Yes, I am a proud hand-mixer and kneader. I love the heavy warmth of fresh bread dough in and around and under my hands. (If I handle Baby E. with any faculty at all, I credit bread-making. I was never a big babysitter, but I could handle dough with reverence.)