Making a loaf of bread a day in 2013, okay, almost every day, was the best exposure therapy for my kitchen phobia. What began as desensitization to recipe-reading and basic ingredient identification has blossomed into near-foodie-ism. I now crave new culinary challenge. I now miss the kitchen when I’ve been out of it for several days. As we just arrived home from our 30-hour road trip return to Minnesota, the year’s first issue of Food and Wine was waiting in the mailbox, (thank you Mom for the subscription), and I tore into it the way I used to tear into Chekov.
For 2014, my Resolution is inspired by Aki Shibata, a local artist who made possible my NPR debut. Her exhibit at the Rochester Art Center is experiential art featuring “blind dates.” As a participant in her exhibit, I joined her at a table with a meal she had prepared. We knew nothing of one another, and yet we talked for over two hours. I want to exercise this art in my own home, once a month. New Years Resolution 2014: Each month, I will invite a total stranger to the house, I will cook a meal for the guest, and we will enjoy improvisation and newfound, unlikely friendship. Food and hospitality really are Art– high time they found their way into a proper museum. Too bad you can only do a true blind date once.
New Years Resolution Oatmeal Wheat Bread
2 cups whole milk
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking) plus additional for topping
1/2 cup warm water (105-115°F)
2 cups 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 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 oats. Let stand, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cooled to warm.
Stir together water, sourdough starter, and 1 teaspoon honey in a small bowl. Mix in melted butter, and remaining honey into cooled oatmeal and sourdough slurry.
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.
Shape dough into whatever you like—boule, batard, put it in a loaf pan. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
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, 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.
This loaf was lovely and large—much like the boulder that fell from a butte just outside of Bozeman, Montana, sparing the car, and our lives, by mere yards. Thanks be to God for safe travels—over 60 hours of picturesque and catastrophy-free cross-country freeway miles. Great to be back home, even if our pipes are frozen (forgot to leave the heat on—toilet bowl water was an ice rink, whoa).