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Bread, Honey

January 12, 2010

February 19, 2009

Bread making seems like an ancient, time tested outlet for frustration. Man-handling the hapless lump of dough – folding and turning and pounding it over and over – gives one time to think and plenty of opportunity to apply force with the weight and musculature of the hungry arms, shoulders and back. After cooling off for a couple of hours, the breadmaker gets to punch down the soft, risen dough and knead it all over again.

Cautionary stories in the glossy pages of health magazines warn women of the dangers of suppressing their anger and stress. A healthy release is recommended. Are modern women missing out on the benefits of kneading dough, scrubbing dirty clothes on a washboard, or even decapitating chickens for the dinner table? Somehow a jog through town or a session on the stairmaster seem pale in comparison to the workouts of our female predecessors.

In truth, I don’t believe in taking out anger on food. Maybe Like Water for Chocolate ruined me for stirring domestic dissent into my sopa de tortilla. Call it superstition, but a part of me believes arguing over a simmering broth could spell some subtle disaster for dinner guests. I don’t want to mess with the mojo of a great meal, and funneling despair into the mixing bowl seems a good way to spread the misery around.

So we have rich honey oatmeal loaves crafted with vigor, not violence. If you’ve noticed a striking sweetness in your store-bought loaves, check out the ingredients. Most cheap breads list high fructose corn syrup in the top five. More expensive brands list sugars a little further down. Our homemade bread contains a small amount of sweetener in the form of honey. The rest of the ingredients are poverty-friendly; flour, water, salt, yeast, butter and oats.

We enjoy slices of toast with crystallized, or “creamed” honey. Most honey will naturally crystallize. Honey is a supersaturated solution, holding more sugar than can easily be retained in solution. The rate of crystallization is dependent upon the ratio of water to dextrose in the solution and also the temperature.  Honey with too much water will ferment, rather than crystallize. This is why most beekeepers extract honey in a dry room, to prevent excess moisture in the atmosphere from being absorbed by the honey as it spins in the centrifuge and drains through filter cloths. Honey that has begun to form crystals can be slowly heated in a water bath to return it to a fully liquid state, although any heating of honey risks destroying enzymes. I avoid cooking the crystals out of our honey. The creamy variety is easier to spread and dissolves beautifully in cups of tea, homebrew wort and bread dough.

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