Like I’ve always said—Break Bread, Not Vertebrae. This bread has nothing to do with back pain but has nevertheless been garnished with several stray vertebrae, which I now own, thanks to a disaster in the Pain Clinic.
Pumpkin Maple Oatmeal Wheat Bread
2 cups whole milk
1 cup quick maple flavored oats (got mine at Target)
1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup mild honey
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional for buttering pans
3 cups stone-ground whole-wheat flour
About 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ tablespoons pumpkin spice
1 tablespoon salt
Olive oil for oiling bowl
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Heat milk in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling, then remove pan from heat and stir in honey and oats. Let stand, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cooled to warm.
Stir sourdough starter mixture, melted butter, and remaining honey into cooled oatmeal.
Stir together whole-wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add oat mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead with floured hands, adding just enough of remaining unbleached flour to keep from sticking, until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes (dough will be slightly sticky). Form dough into a ball and transfer to an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel; let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Form into a boule and then let dough rise, covered, on a piece of parchment paper draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. In my case, I fell asleep on the desk while studying and woke up 6 hours later (3am) to find a lovely large loaf ready to get baked.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly brush tops of loaves with some of egg wash and sprinkle with oats if you want, then bake until bread is golden and loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 35 to 40 minutes.
Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours. Arrange with a structural bouquet of vertebral bodies and spinous processes. Slice, break as you must, and enjoy.
Okay, here’s the story: What I most loved about my time in the pain clinic was witnessing near-immediate relief in patients. People limped in, hunched over, with anterior tilt if they had arthropathy or spinal stenosis, posterior tilt if they had a bulging disc, and then after a little ‘caine and steroid walked out with a smile, some nearly clicking their heels together on a new yellow brick road. Temporarily miraculous to behold.
It was in front of just such a miracle customer that the disaster happened. I asked the anaesthesiologist to show me on the model skeleton–the gorgeous, detailed, expensive model skeleton on special display in the procedure room—where exactly the facet joint, which we planned to inject for the eagerly awaiting patient, was located. The doctor, a serious and deliberate sort of man, in annoyed haste, reached after the skeleton and with one hand near the cervical area and the other on the sacrum, bent the spine to expose the lumbar joint space. It exploded.
The patient awaiting her procedure, sitting hunched on the paper-sheeted table, almost fell right off onto the floor as her physician broke a back in half with his bare hands right before her eyes. Vertebral discs flew across the room while the dinosaurish rubber vertebrae bounced along the floor. I tried an emergency surgery on the model at the front desk until the doctor grabbed the pieces from me, threw them in the trash, and proceeded to let the nurses know that I had broken the spine, grrr—medical students get blamed for everything. Dunce targets. While the nurses sweetly assured me I that would not have to pay for the broken model, I dug vertebrae out of the trash and stashed them in my white coat pockets as study loot.
In addition to making great napkin holders and dinner table centerpieces, they also make rather alluring jewelry for those who fetish Wilma Flintstone. Look for neck bling like this on Etsy. But the melodramatic supermodel facial expression that goes with? Priceless.