Alaska Bread + WWOOFing

The past few days here in the Central Valley, where I am recouping from the holidays before I head back to Tahoe, have been dreary. All I want to do is sit by the fire, drink coffee, and think about all the baked goodies I will create this year. One thing I have been craving is bread, fresh from the oven, so I have decided to share a recipe I learned while I was in Alaska this spring.

This past spring I was fortunate enough to embark on an adventure to Homer, Alaska to WWOOF for a month with one of my closest friends, Cody. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and is essentially work trade. A WWOOFer works about 6 hours a day to earn room and board. It is a great way to travel because the host family typically shows you around. In Homer, Cody and I stayed with an incredible family that taught us about gardening, building, chickens, ducks, and so much more.  I fully recommend every young person to do this because it shows how food grows and how much hard work goes into each piece of produce. 

bread

While in Alaska, I allowed my passion for food and cooking to consume me. I decided to change my path in life towards food and the culinary world. I am so happy I did. I have not regretted that decision yet. It did help, however, that my family was very supportive of me.

One of the many things I took away from the experience was my first scratch bread. This recipe is forgiving and great for someone who is new to kneading dough, as I was at the time. It does not hold up well for a sandwich but works great for toast or with soup.

The great thing about this bread is the customization of it. Throw in a handful of nuts or dried fruit for perfect morning toast. For a savory side of things, try roasted garlic or kalamata olives. Want to use a different kind of gluten flour? Go for it. Spelt works, more all purpose works!

alaska loaf

My favorite thing about this bread? The intoxicating aroma that fills the house as it bakes.

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Alaska Bread
A wholesome, hearty family loaf for everyday use.
Ingredients
  • 2 C milk
  • 1 packet dry yeast
  • 3 eggs (save 1 for egg wash)
  • 1 T honey
  • 4 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1 t coarse salt
  • 1.5 C all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • Oil/Shortening
  • 2 T poppy seeds (plus more to sprinkle on top), optional
Instructions
1. Heat one cup milk to warm, not hot, in a small pot over medium heat. Remove from heat. Sprinkle yeast onto milk, stir. Cover with a kitchen towel and wait 5-10 minutes until foamy.  2. Warm another one cup milk and add to mixing bowl with yeast mixture. Whisk. 3. Add 2 eggs and whisk. 4. Add honey and whisk. 5. Whisk in two cups whole-wheat flour and salt. If choosing to add poppy seeds, add two tablespoons now.  6. Place mixture in standing mixer with a bread hook. Add 1.5 cups all-purpose flour in half-cup increments with the mixer at the lowest speed, waiting for dough to fully absorb flour before adding next half cup. 7. Add the final two cups of whole-wheat flour in half-cup increments until the hook struggles and the dough is pulling itself off the sides. NOTE: the full two cups might be too much or not enough since the dough is not exactly the same. Adjust as necessary. 8. Oil a large bowl and place dough into it (dough will still be slightly sticky). Cover with a kitchen towel and let sit in a warm place* to double in size, approximately 1 hour. 9. Preheat oven to 350 F. Put dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 5 minutes. Form into a ball. If adding any other nuts, seeds, or dried fruit, add at this step.9. Place in shallow, oiled bread pan, skillet, or ovenproof bowl. I used Crisco but any flavorless oil will work. The more shallow the container, the more quickly it will cook. 10. Mix the final egg with one tablespoon of water and brush onto top of loaf. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired. 11. Bake until hollow sounding, 30-45 minutes, after 30 minutes, check every 5 minutes. Another way to check doneness is looking for a brown bottom on the loaf. Lightly cover with foil if the top browns too quickly. 12. Take out of pan immediately to cool. Wait at least a few minutes before slicing. *a good warm place is an oven heated for about 5 minutes and then turned off.
Details
Yield: 1 large loaf
alaska bread

Ways to enjoy this bread:

  • toasted and slathered with good, salted butter
  • a delicately made grilled cheese
  • toasted and then covered with your favorite preserve or spread
  • as an egg in the hole toast
  • dunked into a hearty soup
  • toasted, buttered, and sprinkled liberally with cinnamon sugar* – this is my personal favorite preparation
  • toasted, spread with a ripe avocado, sprinkled with salt and a squeeze of lemon

*Cinnamon Sugar is a pantry staple for me and can easily be made with 1 cup or granulated sugar mixed with 1 T cinnamon. Store in a jar or other airtight container for future use. 

alaska loaf

 Listening to: Little Neon Limelight album by Houndmouth