Maple Wheat Sandwich Bread

This summer has been a roller coaster and a half, my goodness.  And honestly, I haven't posted in a few weeks since, well, I haven't done much cooking.  I really need to get back to it.  I don't meditate or pray, I can't do yoga (no headstands, thanks), and I don't go on food cleanses or juice diets (someone please shoot me if I ever try to juice).  I've been coming to the realization that I'm not the type of person who can refuel by crawling into my own personal bat cave and surfing the Internet, playing video games, or watching TV for hours.  By refuel I mean destress, decompress, center myself, bottle up all the crazy, et cetera.

On the one hand, I need to spend time with people - and I don't mean doing all sorts of activities, I mean sitting around talking or enjoying a show together with a couple friends.  And then on the other hand, I do need quiet Holly time alone, but I need to be doing something: kneading a mound of bread dough (hence the post today), tending to a pot of simmering sauce on the stove, or pounding piles of fresh basil into a fragrant paste with my mortar and pestle.  I can let myself get caught up in the food, the textures and flavors and steam washing over my face, and in the motions of my body stirring, folding, pressing, pushing.  I can let my mind wander, but only so far.  This is the most crucial aspect of my refueling, because when my mind wanders too far, I can't reel it back in, and it can go to some pretty dark and depressing places.

I've been spending so much of my time in my own head this summer, for various reasons, but all of them culminating in my inability to prevent these rumination-depression cycles.  My thoughtfulness turns into unhealthy rumination, which sends me further and further down the unhappy thoughts rabbit hole.  I mean, I used to do this a lot in middle and high school, as I'm sure a lot of young women do, with body image.  You see the picture of the beautiful, flawless model in the magazine, or the movie star on TV, and soon you're thinking too hard about how perfect she is, and how not perfect you are, and then down you go, pointing out all of your imperfections to yourself, dwelling on them, hating your body.  It doesn't have to become clinical to be painful.  And as a caveat, this isn't limited to young women either, I'm just using that cohort as an example.  At some point, though, this body image cycle seems to matter less, whether for acceptance or love of your body, or for some other reason, the more you mature.  

Yeah, this is a huge generalization, but all I'm trying to say is that this general obsession with body image is usually a teenage phase.  And one that I've experienced.  So I'm sure that this too is a phase, spurred by the normal growing pains of being a twenty-something and by recent events specific to my own life.  It just took me a while to realize it is all.  It's nice having a name, too, the rumination-depression cycle.  It makes it easier to identify, which makes it easier for me to consciously divert my attention away from those thoughts.

Aside from a little self-exploration in these past weeks, I spent a too short weekend on the Cape earlier in August.  I haven't been that happy in a long time.  Being with John was a large part of that happiness, but I also just felt so full of joy to be in New England again, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean - oh, salt water, I missed you - and feeling so at home.  My mom, dad, brother, and I, along with my Auntie Carol, Uncle Jonathan, and their daughter Sydney, used to spend a couple weeks on the Cape every summer.  Those were always the best weeks, my hair tangled with salt water and sand, and my hands sticky from Sundae School ice cream.  We would spend a day in Province Town, where I'd swoon over pretty polished sea shells and salt water taffy and Cuffy's sweatshirts, and where I bought my favorite perfume so many years ago.  We'd play mini golf and raced go-carts.  We'd eat to our hearts' content, lobster rolls and steamers, hot dogs and corn on the cob, and so, so much ice cream, and finished bins full of art projects.  My mom and Auntie Carol would always finish [or at least attempt] a puzzle, too.  Maybe sometime I'll write more about my Cape Cod summers for you, but now, I'm not in a place to reflect on them fully without being overwhelmed by nostalgia.  Suffice it to say that even though I've only spent a handful of weeks in the grand scheme of my life on the Cape, I'd sooner call it home than anywhere in Chicago.

Maple Wheat Sandwich Bread
adapted from Florence Fabricant via The Wednesday Chef

1 c milk
1/4 c plus 1-2 tablespoons grade B maple syrup, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 c warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg beaten
2-3 c whole wheat flour
2 c unbleached bread flour

Place the milk, 1/4 c maple syrup, butter, and salt in a saucepan over low heat.  Bring to a boil, being sure to stir frequently to prevent burning on the bottom of the saucepan, then set aside to cool until lukewarm.

Dissolve the yeast in the water and sugar in a large bowl.  Once frothy, ~5 minutes, stir in the egg, and then the milk mixture.  Add in the unbleached bread flour, stirring to combine, then begin adding the whole wheat flour 1/2 c at a time until the dough comes together in a ball.  Dust a clean work surface with more whole wheat flour and knead the dough ~8 minutes until the dough is smooth and tacky, but not sticky, adding more flour as necessary.  Place in an oiled bowl, turn in the oil to coat all of the dough, and cover with a clean towel.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, ~1 hour.

Punch down the dough, then turn out onto a clean, lightly floured surface.  Roll out the dough into a 9x12 inch rectangle (it doesn't need to be exact, don't worry about it), then, starting from the narrower side, roll up tightly like a jelly roll/cinnamon bun.  Fit seam-side down into an oiled loaf pan, then let rise once more, ~45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Using a pastry brush (or just your fingers if you don't have one), glaze the exposed dough with 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup.  Bake ~45 minutes until the top is golden brown, and when you rap on the top of the bread with your knuckles, it's firm and sounds hollow inside.  Cool completely before slicing and making the best PB&J of your life, or slathering on some Nutella.  If it starts going stale before you can eat it all, this would be great for some french toast.