The first time I ever baked a loaf of bread was in the village. More of that industriousness to stave off Peace Corps boredom. But I quickly discovered that I loved baking bread, and I had a knack for it. I mean, in all honesty, to be able to bake a loaf of bread in a tiny, tabletop oven that never heated evenly and was better at heating the house than the contents inside, well this feat requires true talent.
Bread is such a basic and wonderful thing. It's peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It's cinnamon toast. It's a sponge for the last drops of sauce. It's hot buttery rolls and cream cheese smeared bagels. It's breakfast, lunch, dinner and a midnight snack. Bread feels and smells and tastes like home. It's part of our cultural psyche, a physical and sensational symbol of our traditions and heritage. Tortillas. Na'an. Unleavened bread. Baguettes. Sourdough. Flatbread. Ciabatta. Each type of bread tells a cultural story connecting us together as we gather around tables to break bread.
Jesus said to the crowd, "I am the bread of life;" I am what keeps you from going hungry. I am what connects you around your dinner tables. I am what brings you together. Because I am here, you no longer need manna or tortillas or brown bread or any bread. I am here to sustain you.
As you celebrate Easter Sunday and remember a risen Lord, remember this bread, broken and shared. Remember what was given so that you could have the sustenance of life. And if you are looking for something more filling, more life-sustaining, consider tasting a bite of the Bread of Life and sharing in His body broken for you.
Whole Wheat Bread:
- 1 1/2c of warm water (about 110 ° F / 45 ° C)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 envelopes of dry yeast
- 2c all-purpose (cake) flour
- 4c whole wheat (brown bread) flour
- 1/3c packed brown sugar
- 2 tsp of salt
- 1/2c of vegetable (sunflower) oil
- 1/2c of milk at room temperature (I usually use low fat or skim)
- Measure warm water into a large bowl. Stir in 1tbsp of brown sugar. Sprinkle yeast over the top. Leave until foamy (about 10 minutes). (If the yeast sinks or does not foam, the yeast is inactive and will not rise. Yeast lasts longer if it is kept in a cool dry place. I usually just keep mine in the refrigerator.)
- Add 1c of all-purpose flour and 3c of whole wheat flour to the bowl with brown sugar, salt, oil and milk. Blend ingredients. Continue to mix, adding the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time. (You may not need to add all the flour.) Mix until the dough clings. Knead dough for 10min. (If you are using an electric mixer instead of mixing by hand, mix at medium speed for 5min.) Oil the bowl and coat the dough. Cover loosely and leave to rise (about 1hr or until doubled).
- Punch dough down and place of floured surface. Split dough into two even halves and shape the halves into loaves. Be sure not to not leave any air pockets in the dough.
- Place loaves into greased loaf pans. Cut slits into the top of loaves. Set aside to rise until your finger leaves a dimple (30 to 45min). Preheat the oven to 400 ° F / 200 ° C.
- Bake loaves for 15 minutes in preheated oven then reduce the temperature to 350 ° F / 175 ° C. Bake for another 30 minutes or until loaves are deep brown. Remove from pans to cool on a wire rack.