On Sundays, Claire and I like to bake her favorite sandwich bread for the coming week’s school lunches. It’s a sweet routine. We mix up the dough right away in the morning. During the first two-hour rising, we all go to the neighborhood farmer’s market. (We’re fortunate to have a year-round market here in West Seattle, and I love the winter fare–calmer than in the summer, the stalls are fewer and full of quiet things like cheeses, cider, and chard. I figure if the farmers are nice enough to stand there in the freezing cold Seattle drizzle, the least we can do is turn up and buy a squash.) We get home just in time to pan the bread, letting it rise a second time while we eat lunch.
There are times, of course, when we just can’t be around to hover over the lovely pattern of rising-panning-rising-baking. But my daughter seems to have become spoiled on home-baked bread, and declares any store-bought sandwich bread to taste “like chicken feed.” (How does she know what chicken feed tastes like? She won’t say…). For such occasions, we have been enjoying a whole wheat quick bread adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking that, while not quite as good as our favorite yeasted breads, is still pretty darn tasty. This bread keeps well, and though there is a little brown sugar and molasses in it, it’s not too sweet, and has a rustic, old-fashioned flavor–it tastes just as good with a nutty cheddar as it does with our homemade peanut butter and blackberry jam.
Yummy Quick Molasses Nut Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour (traditional whole wheat, or white wheat both work beautifully)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup molasses
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons orange juice
1-1 1/4 cups chopped nuts (walnuts are yummy in this recipe, but go ahead and experiment)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, soda, and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat in the molasses. Add 1/2 the flour mixture, then about half the milk, then the rest of the flour, then the last of the milk and the orange juice, mixing until moistened after each addition. If using a stand mixer, scrape the sides of the bowl as needed throughout the entire process. Stir in the nuts.
Transfer the batter to a buttered or oiled 9 x 5 loaf pan. Bake in a 300 degree oven for an hour and 10-15 minutes. Check the bread in an hour–if it seems to be too dark on top, cover it lightly with foil for the last bit of baking. Let the finished bread sit 20 minutes before removing it from the pan, then allow it to cool completely before slicing.
The long baking time at this lower temperature allows the bran to become thoroughly moistened by the wet ingredients, making a wonderful, tender bread. I love a hunk of this bread toasted plain with my morning coffee. It’s dense, so slice thinly for sandwiches. Enjoy!