Sunday, May 3, 2015

Homey Brown Sugar Bread

Where we love is home - home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Life is strange, even at its best. Life is also not a spectator sport. You have to muck in.

You will have noticed, dear readers, that it has been an ungodly long time since my last post. March 19, to be exact. No I haven’t died, but my mother-in-law has. We received some extremely bad news at the end of January. The “C” word. It took only two months for her to leave us.

Instantly upon hearing the news, my husband withdrew from college and moved back home to be with, support and care for her. He did an amazing job, and I could not be more proud of him.

I also helped out the best I could at every opportunity. A functioning “office” was set up in her home so I could work as comfortably from there as I did from my other two offices. You do what you must when circumstances are thrust upon you, and there was no way in hell I would not be there for both her and my husband.

Her other son, who lives with his family out west, also did the best he could – coming home twice in close succession. It was hard for us, and must have been equally hard for him being so far away.

But, at the end of her days, she knew she was loved, is loved, and will be missed terribly. In her own quiet way she was an incredible woman, and I feel honoured to have gotten to know her better, even under the circumstances.

Now we have moved beyond the traumatic shock that caring for a dying parent brings, on to the practical matters of closing up house, and setting affairs in order. Life is still, if you will pardon the colloquialism, a shit show.

Out of all of this I have learned a very valuable lesson. Home actually IS where the heart is. It’s not bricks or mortar or a plot of land. Home is wherever you are, where you are surrounded by those you love and who love you. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a short-sighted fool.

What does this have to do with bread? Probably not much, but it seems I always give you a recipe, so why not, eh? I could go on at length about home and homeyness and memories and  such. But you know all that.

So here it is. This is not a sweet bread, but a toast and sandwich bread. With four buns there's plenty of "fluffy bits" for people to fight over. You could just as easily do three, two or even just one. 

Think of this bread as a pale, winter-weary version of Maritime Brown Bread. Anyone experiencing this year's spring in Nova Scotia knows exactly what I mean. (link here)

Brown Sugar Bread
Prep: 20 min  |  Rise: 3 hrs  |  Bake: 30-35 min  |  Yield: 1 big-ass loaf

2 cups water, 110°F
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp yeast
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1-1/2 tsp salt
5 cups flour

Place the warm water and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the yeast and allow to proof until bubbly and creamy, about 15 minutes.

Add the egg, butter, salt and flour. Knead for 5 minutes on the counter. The dough should be slightly wet feeling to the touch, but fairly firm and soft.

Wash and butter the bowl you brought the dough together in. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise for 2 hours, or until doubled.

Punch the dough down, knead briefly and divide into four equal balls. Line the balls up in a buttered high-sided 5”x9” baking dish. Let rise until doubled again, about 1 hour.

Just before the dough is finished rising, preheat the oven to 425°F. Place a shallow dish with a cup or so of water in it on the bottom rack. This hydrates the oven and gives the bread an initial “push” as its baking.

Bake on the middle rack for 30-35 minutes, until browned on top and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped with your fingers. Let cool, if you can wait.

Have butter and your favourite jam very close by...


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  1. I like the recipe for this brown bread. It sounds like my grandmother's recipe. I plan to try it very soon.

  2. Really delicious !!