So what can we do to make sure we have good bread at home? Keep your own sourdough starter, use quality flours ( if you're in New England, I recommend Maine Grains ), add herbs to the dough, or top it with some sauteed dandelion greens, saurkraut and Greek yogurt. I admit that due to my ever wandering lifestyle, I haven't been able to make my own starter, but I incorporate whatever medicinal herbs I have on hand or in some cases, I add flower essences. Flower essences are herbal infusions, typically made with the flowering part of a plant. They capture the energetic qualities of the plant that focus on aiding the emotional aspect of healing. They are gentle yet powerful and a great way to add some extra oomph to your bread. The essence that I'm using here is Self-Heal, Prunella vulgaris, a plant whose name bares the action. The medieval herbalist, Gerard once said, "The decoction of Prunell made with wine and water, doth join together and make whole and sound all wounds, both inward and outward". An incredible ally for healing deeply rooted internal wounds associated with with grief, sadness, hopelessness and anger. I add the flower essence to to most of my herbal formulations and my water whenever possible.
Last spring, while living in Oakland, CA, I found myself spritzing loaves with flower essences and incorporating herbs not typically found in bread. I don't know what directed me to that, perhaps my need to feel rooted while living in an urban scape, but I know it helped. For me, baking bread is the foundation of a well lived life. The act of spending time in a kitchen, shaping, kneading and peeking under the cloth as the dough rises, brings me such joy and a sense of accomplishment. It's a good check in and provides me a moment of purpose if I'm having a somewhat senseless week.
This bread is inspired by Phoebe Wahl's recipe in the Bread issue of Taptoot Magazine.
3 cups white flour (or bread flour)
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tbs yeast
1 1/2 tbs salt
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 heaping tbs honey
3 cups lukewarm water
optional : 6 - 8 drops flower essence of your choice
Note: this makes a BIG loaf so make sure your pan is on the larger end or halve the dough and make two loaves.
Combine water and honey till honey has dissolved, drop in your flower essence, add your yeast and let stand for 2 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients. Strip thyme leaves from stem and stir into flour mixture. Add your water and yeast and stir until sticky. Cover with a cloth and let rise for 4 hours ( I often leave mine overnight and bake in the morning ) in a warm spot. Flour your hands and surface and knead the dough till slightly stiff. Oil your pan ( I like using a large cast iron pan, but anything will do ) and place your lil dough ball in the center, giving it more time to rise as the oven preheats to 450. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. You can also tell if a bread is done if there's a hollow sound when tapped.
Eat warm slathered with ghee, herbed butter or dandelion jelly