The popularity of backyard gardens, it seems, has skipped a generation. Â I am now thrilled to drive around town and see so many vegetable gardens all over town (more this year than I have ever seen). Â And I have been even more pleased to see how many young families are getting into gardening — from a small plot with some tomatoes and herbs to entire front yards devoted to beans, corn, broccoli, and peppers. Â All of a sudden, it seems like the local food and community farms message is catching on.
But clearly this is not such an impressive feat. Â My great grandparents’ generation saw the backyard garden as a necessity for feeding their families. Â My grandparents’ generation had more luxuries when they were in young family mode (in the form of more easily available groceries and produce), but many of them continued with gardening for necessity or for hobby. Â But somewhere in our search for convenience — and probably because of major prosperity — my parents’ generation never thought much about the idea of a vegetable garden.
In my family, both sets of grandparents maintained beautiful gardens. Â And my grandmother, at 95 years old, still asks me every time I see her what goodies were in our CSA box that week. Â We Â talk about what she was successful growing and what she remembers eating as a child — everything from clabbered raw milk to plum jam. Â We have so much to learn about food from this generation. Â I truly believe we have been wandering around like nomads buying processed groceries from all over the planet and avoiding eggs or carbs or butter or whatever the bad food of the year is. Â Our grandparents knew that we needed to eat whole foods, with the seasons and, quite simply, not so much. Â (I should add that my grandmother graduated from college with a degree in nutrition. Â When eggs became unwelcome on our plates because of cholesterol, she protested QUITE loudly. Â And she was correct in the end.)
She has some wonderful recipes and what I am sharing with you today is one of them. Â It’s a well-known recipe, but when a friend reminded me of it the other day, Â I had to share because I haven’t heard it talked about in years. Â I remember eating toasted english muffin bread at her house throughout my childhood. Â With some butter and homemade strawberry jam, I couldn’t think of a better breakfast. Â I have vivid memories of her toasting and buttering entire loaves to put on a platter — because we always had a seated breakfast in the dining room.
This is a super easy bread that combines both yeast and baking soda which gives you a slight “nook and cranny” texture when sliced and toasted. Â It’s an easy stir together recipe with only one rise and no kneading. Â My kids absolutely LOVED it. Â And it freezes beautifully after it is baked. Â My version uses white whole wheat flour (either all WW or half WW/half all purpose flour), but feel free to make it with entirely all purpose flour if you want the original.
I’m going to make a batch with all purpose flour sometime soon to see if I can replicate my exact memories, but I think I will fail because I can’t replicate the surroundings that made it all so wonderful. Â What I wouldn’t give to be able to take my kids back to those places — to those houses with barns and cousins and berry patches and rows of corn, all begging to be eaten and explored.
Whole Grain English Muffin Bread
Makes two loaves
2 1/2 cups of white/all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour
2 packages of active dry yeast
1 T sugar
2 t fine sea salt
1/4 t baking powder
2 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup of water
1. Â In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of white AP flour, 1 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
2. Â Heat milk and water in a small saucepan until very warm (about 120-130 degrees F).
3. Â Stir liquids into flour mixture with a whisk.
4. Â Add one additional cup of white AP flour and one additional cup of white whole wheat flour and stir in well with a wooden spoon. Â You will end up with a very thick batter (or a loose dough, however you want to look at it). (Alternatively, you can use all white whole wheat flour or all white AP flour if you like — 5 cups total. Â If you use all white AP flour, you may need an additional 1/2 cup).
5. Â Butter two metal loaf pans and sprinkle all over with cornmeal. Â Tap out excess. Â Divide dough into two equal portions and pat into prepared pans. Â Sprinkle tops of loaves with additional cornmeal.
6. Â Cover pans with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes in a warm place. (I use the proofing setting on my oven).
7. Â Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Â Bake loaves for 20 minutes until golden.
8. Â Loosen loaves from pans and remove immediately to cool on racks. Â Slice and serve toasted. Â (Loaves can be tightly wrapped and frozen.)