Out With the Old
Last year, after decluttering the house with many rounds of "Ten Things", I was able to apply still another layer of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Finally, I cast a more critical eye on not only my kitchen cabinets but my pantry as well. I started by tossing a few items that were out of date or past their prime. Next I shared spices and other ingredients I wasn't likely to use up while they were in their prime. Then I challenged myself to cook through food I had purchased in moments of inspiration that waned shortly after I unpacked them at home.
By September both my pantry and my freezer were neat and spare. I enjoyed the newfound sense of space. I could create a shopping list with a minimum of sorting through what was on hand. I could find what I needed with a glance. Then came the holidays.
No regrets! I enjoyed stocking up and baking through the season. Now, though, it is time to deal with my pantry again. Luckily I learned a lot last year and have some great new recipes that use up the bits and pieces that tend to linger into the New Year.
Today I will be baking Whole Wheat Molasses Bread from a Mark Bittman recipe I discovered at Cookie + Kate. This recipe is super simple to put together. It requires a minimum of ingredients and measuring tools. It is also wonderfully adaptable: a recipe that works well with a variety of flours and sweeteners. It will use up the rest of that jar of molasses left on my shelf after trying a new recipe for Gingerbread Cookies. If I don’t have enough I’ll throw in some honey or maple syrup to round out the ½ cup measurement. It will also use up some miscellaneous bits of flour left over from Christmas baking. All-purpose flour, bread flour, whole wheat flour or a combination, all work well here. A little cornmeal adds texture if you have it in your pantry. If not, you can use a little more flour instead.
This is a January–style quick bread. It has a rugged sweetness, maybe even an acquired savor. My husband didn’t care for it. Even I didn’t love it at first bite. It wasn’t until I sliced it and stored it in the freezer that I came to fully appreciate it’s character. From the freezer, slice by slice, I happily munched through several loaves within a few weeks. For breakfast I toasted it, twice, to bring out its endearing rustic qualities.
Warm from the toaster, this bread is quick to invite a few more leftovers to the table. It is delicious topped with what you have on hand. Kate suggests almond butter, cream cheese or Homemade Citrus Curd. I will use the rest of the chunky peanut butter that I bought to make Aunt Hen's Peanut Butter Fudge for Christmas, and top it with a few cocao nibs to add crunch, bring out a bittersweet edge and complement a satisfying finish.
1 2/3 cup buttermilk (or plain yogurt, or 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar stirred into 1½ cups milk)
2½ cups whole wheat flour ( or white, white whole wheat, or bread flour)
½ cup cornmeal (or more flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup molasses (or honey, maple syrup, or combination)
Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.
If using buttermilk or yogurt, skip this step. If using regular milk, sour it by warming the milk gently (1 minute in microwave should do it) and stirring in the vinegar. Set aside for at least 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking soda.
In a small bowl, stir together the molasses (or other sweetener) and buttermilk, soured milk or yogurt.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir together with a wooden spoon, just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake at 325F until the loaf is firm and a toothpick inserted just off center comes out clean, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Allow the bread to cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and allow to fully cool on a wire rack.
Slice and Enjoy!