When all else fails, I cook.
Some people go out after a god-awful day and slam a tennis ball around or jog their joints to pieces on a fitness course. I had a friend in Coral Gables who would escape to the beach with her folding chair and burn off her stress with sun and a slightly pornographic romance she wouldn't have been caught dead reading in her professional world—she was a district court judge. Many of the cops I know wash away their miseries with beer at the FOP lounge.
I've never been particularly athletic, and there wasn't a decent beach within reasonable driving distance. Getting drunk never solved anything. Cooking was an indulgence I didn't have time for most days, and though Italian cuisine isn't my only love, it has always been what I do best.
Even if I identify completely with the idea, these aren't my words. In fact they belong to a literature character, not a real person - although I suspect Patricia Cornwell lends a bit of her soul when she gives voice to Dr. Kay Scarpetta in her first novel, Postmortem. Scarpetta is a Chief Medical Examiner with a great love for food. And believe me, the lady can cook! I became hooked on Scarpetta's series not long ago because of these 6 words - When all else fails, I cook. Rephrasing slightly and it couldn't describe my feelings better - When everything fails, I bake some bread.
Hearty Seven-Grain Bread
Lightly adapted from Patricia Cornwell and Marlene Brown, Food to Die For - Secrets from Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen
Makes 2 loafs
1/2 cup (50 grams) rye flour
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup (40 grams) quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup (15 grams) toasted wheat germ
3 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
2 1/2 cups (325 grams) bread flour, extra to dust
1 1/2 cup (180 grams) whole wheat flour
2 tsp dry yeast
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) honey
1/4 cup (50 grams) salted butter
2 tsp salt
for the crust:
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp water
Sesame seeds and/or sunflower seeds for sprinkling
In a small bowl, mix together the rye flour, walnuts, oats, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, and sesame seeds. Set aside.
In a saucepan, heat milk, butter, and honey until slightly melted and combined. Remove from heat. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the bread flour and the whole wheat flour with the yeast. Make a hole in the middle. Add the milk mixture mixing with a fork (if using a stand mixer, pour the milk slowly and steadily while mixing, with the hook attachment). Add the rye flour mixture. Work the dough for 10 minutes or until it's elastic and smooth. Add extra warm milk or water if the dough is too dry (1 tablespoon at a time). Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm, dry place for 1 hour or until not quite doubled in size. Turn the dough onto a lightly dusted surface, and punch it. Set aside for a couple of minutes to rest. Work the dough for another 5 minutes. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape the dough into 2 rounded loafs. Place each ball on a greased baking sheet or a silicone mat. In a small bowl, beat lightly the egg with the water. Brush the loafs, and sprinkle with the seeds. Cover, and let rise again for 35-45 minutes, until not quite doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 180ºC (375ºF). Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve the bread warm or at room temperature with butter or olive oil.
Today is the World Bread Day, a fantastic initiative to celebrate the best food in the entire world - bread! This is my contribute to this lovely day. The World Bread Day 2009 is brilliantly organized by Zorra.
Stay tuned for the roundup, I'll post the link here.