Bread for the People

The distance between what I’d like to give the people on my Christmas list and what I’m able to give these same people is a huge, yawning chasm.  And for a solution to crossing this divide, every year I turn to the same trusty source: a group of folks fundamentally capable of making a mean set of table-and-chairs in their backyard woodshop while preserving a whole pantry full of vegetables  in the kitchen.  Yes, that’s right.  I’m talking about the Mennonites.  Connected to their Amish cousins in a theological and anthropological tangle that is far beyond the scope of this blog, Mennonites have generally been way ahead of the curve (or so far behind they’re ahead) when it comes to eating local, consuming less, and a consciousness of such phrases as social justice.   I have a spiral-bound Mennonite cookbook I received from a gen-u-wine Mennonite as a wedding present called “More-with-less”.  My copy is dog-eared and spattered and generally beloved, and each Christmas I make the oatmeal bread, as sanctioned by generations of Mennonites, for everyone on my list.

This bread, dense and soft, has enough traction to hold its own as sandwich bread.  But really, its stardom becomes undeniable when you cut it up into thick slices and use it to make toast or grilled cheese sandwiches.  It tastes so good you’ll consider the theological implications of your eating habits, though you might be happy to know that one doesn’t have to be a Mennonite to gain access to this very practical gem of a cookbook, first printed in 1976 (which accounts for the liberal use of margarine throughout the recipes, which I replace with butter).

In fact, the Oatmeal Bread recipe allows me to look at my Christmas list and see, not so much a chasm between what I give and what I’d like to give, as much as a true expression of my love and regard for all the people at the receiving end of every loaf I make.

Oatmeal Bread

  • 1 c. quick oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (I use honey)
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Pour over:

  • 2 cups boiling water

Stir until thoroughly combined.

  • Dissolve 1 package dry yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.  When batter is cooled to lukewarm, add yeast.

Stir in:

  • 5 cups white flour

When dough is stiff enough to handle, turn onto floured board and knead 5 – 10 minutes.  Place in greased bowl, over, and let rise until doubled.  Punch down and let rise again.  Shape into 2 loaves and place in greased 9x5x3″ pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes.  Cool on rack, brushing loaves with butter for a soft crust.

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