It's fun to tinker with recipes that have proven practically foolproof in their printed version. One gets far more cocky, canny and creative with the confidence that our little modifications will be as successful as its mother. And in this case, it worked.
Ever since I watched Mark Bittman whip up the savory dark loaf, leavened with the unique chemical reaction of baking soda meeting the acidity of buttermilk, I've been making light and dark loaves for myself and for gift giving.
The dark bread gets its deep color from molasses which also provides some sweetness to offset the robust whole wheat flour and corn meal. The molasses also assures a moist crumb. The light bread is made with white whole wheat flour. An egg and honey replace the molasses.
I recently baked a dark loaf for a neighbor's birthday, adding a dish of raspberry butter* to go with it. That was a hit. With another birthday to celebrate, I decided to experiment with the lighter version. I added a half cup of mini chocolate chips, a half cup of slivered almonds and a 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract. The sensuous almond flavor intensified as the loaf baked and the kitchen sooned smelled better than any commercial room deodorizer could offer. Natural's always better.
Both breads freeze well and toast beautifully in a wide slotted toaster. The dark bread is delicious with an herbed cream cheese and both are a treat with fruited compound butter.
* Raspberry butter. Cream together a quarter pound of soft(room temperature) unsalted butter with a half cup of defrosted frozen raspberries and a tablespoon of raw, unfiltered orange blossom honey. Once blended, works beautifully in a food processor, either scoop the pretty pink butter into a ramekin and chill or form into a roll using waxed paper, then chill. Once cold and solid, the roll makes slicing little pats simple and gives the servings a professional finish. Either way, the butter tastes the same—delicious.
Next gift giving time, think about giving a gift from the kitchen. It's much appreciated and sends the message that you care.
Till next time . . . keep on cooking.