Something unusual happened on Sunday evening. As is my custom at the start of the week, I moseyed over to the large calendar that’s posted on the side of the fridge to find out what was going to be happening the following week. And then I gasped. Because there was nothing on the calendar. Nothing. As in, not a thing.
Five blank days. Totally blank. Not a church meeting, not a doctor’s appointment, not a book due, not a baby to be sat.
This never happens to me. I’m a homebody for sure, but usually there is something on the calendar, if only a note to place a grocery order for the co-op or reminding me that my period is due.
Granted, a blank calendar doesn’t mean nothing will happen. Life is full with kids and cooking and cleaning and impromptu trips to town and walks and writing and gardening and phone calls and bills to be paid and laundry and rest time, and, and, and....
But still, nothing scheduled.
This freak phenomenon might make some people panic and for others it’s completely incomprehensible. But for me it’s like a breath of fresh air. Open space and freedom. I love it.
So I called up my friend to see if she needed me to watch her kids this week.
Maybe blank days do sort of make me nervous after all?
Anyway, it’s a good thing that I have had a free schedule this week. My head has been screwed on backwards lately and I’ve been trying to twist it back around to the way it should go. Last week I flopped two cakes. I undercooked a batch of bread (and refrained from jumping on it). Then I made it again, but without the salt. Darn.
This week, I’ve been working to straighten all that out. I took the time to set up my online filing system (thanks, Simplebites dearies!) (I have high hopes for this system—it will clear out my head so I can bake straight ... or else), and then I made the bread for the third time. And I got it right! (All of the mistake loaves got eaten, even the unsalted ones—either the bread is very forgiving or else we were starving.)
This bread is old-fashioned. The recipe comes from Mr. Handsome’s grandfather and grandmother. Grandpa Papp used to make it all the time. He was very particular about his bread. He had a marble slab for kneading the dough. I doubt he ever forgot the salt. If you have a marble slab then you are a serious baker, incapable of commiting brainless errors.
Mr. Handsome and I (and Mr. Handsome’s sister Sarah and her boyfriend) visited Grandpa Papp when we were dating. On evening Grandpa Papp loaded us up in his enormous Cadillac and drove us to a fancy restaurant where there were roses on the table and we could order anything we wanted. Sarah’s was having trouble with her ears not popping, so she entertained us for the whole meal by opening and closing her mouth like a guppy. She tried to be discreet, but you can’t really imitate a fish and be discreet.
Grandpa Papp didn’t serve us any of this bread (that I remember) on that visit, but he did sing to us and tell us stories. He was a character, that’s for sure.
Anyway, this bread is his (or his wife’s, but since I never met her, I think of it as all his). It’s unbelievably soft and tender; Sweetsie calls it donut bread. It reminds me of good-quality store-bought whole wheat bread, in a respectable way.
Shredded Wheat Bread
From Grandpa Papp
I’ve added some whole wheat, but other than that, this recipe is true to the original.
Make sure you bake it long enough. And don’t forget the salt!
2 shredded wheat biscuits
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon yeast dissolved in ½ cup lukewarm water
2 cups whole wheat flour
5-6 cups bread flour
Put the shredded wheat, butter, sugar, molasses, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the boiling water. Once the butter has melted and the water has cooled, add the whole wheat flour and the dissolved yeast and stir to combine. Add the remaining flour. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead till it is elastic and smooth. It’s a soft dough, so just add enough flour to keep it from sticking to your fingers, but not too much so that it gets tough.
Return the dough to the bowl (lightly flour it first), cover it with a cloth, and allow it to rise till double.
Cut the dough into two pieces and shape into loaves. Tuck the loaves into loaf pans, cover with the cloth again, and let rise till nearly double.
Bake the loaves at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. The bread darkens quickly, but don’t be alarmed—it’s not burning (most likely).
Turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack. Bag and freeze any leftovers.
(I’m submitting this recipe to yeastspottings.)
P.S. How we eat shredded wheat:
Spread it with peanut butter.
Drizzle it with honey.
Pour milk over all and eat. The kids go nutso-happy over this breakfast.
About one year ago: Rhubarb Jam