Trailer Park Bread.
I recently moved from Vermont to Florida. It was a multi-day process, but I took fewer days than I probably should have and forgot a few things that definitely would have come in handy down here. I simply ran out of time in New England and couldn’t organize myself well enough.
I hate stopping for food on the road, for a couple of reasons, so I minimized stops on my two-day drive. I don’t like to stop if I’m going to be traveling all day, because I’d rather get to my destination faster and get the trip over with. I also don’t like to eat crappy food, and I really don’t like to spend money on crappy food. So usually, I pack plenty of snacks to keep me well-fed and happy while I’m driving.
I had planned on making bread during my one day in New Hampshire before I started to drive, but one thing led to another and I didn’t. First I got an alignment for my car, which took almost two hours. Then I went skiing with a friend. Finally, I spent three hours drinking tea with another friend and got home around 7 p.m. I hadn’t packed yet, and I wanted to have a nice last dinner with my parents.
At about 8:30, I started swearing.
“What’s wrong?” my parents asked.
“I was going to make bread…..”
Luckily for me, my mom really loves me, so she offered to make bread for me. At first, the offer was merely to mix it up if I could do the second kneading and bake it. But it turned out that we were all up so late that she took care of the whole process.
And what bread that was. I made sandwiches with it for my first few days of fieldwork down here, and they were perfect. It was hearty brown bread, loaded with pumpkin seeds and I think also a few walnut pieces. I’m eating on a budget, but that bread filled me up. It was delicious. It was the best bread for fieldwork that I could imagine, and I’m sure it was much better than anything the other people in our trailer park were eating.
So when the bread ran out, I knew I had to make some more. I wanted to make a similar bread but wasn’t sure what my mother had put in hers. I was left to wing it.
In more ways than one, it turns out: the tiny oven in our FEMA trailer doesn’t have a light telling you whether it’s preheated or not, and we didn’t have a thermometer, so I had to just guess on oven temperature. We also didn’t have a mixing bowl, so I was left to mix up my bread in the only large, round vessel I had brought: a wok.
(You’ll note from the top photo that I also don’t have a bread knife, so I’ve been using my leatherman to slice my bread, cut vegetables, etc etc etc.)
Luckily, I was able to find King Arthur flour in the Publix – hallelujah! It’s comforting to at least have reliable, familiar materials to work with.
In the end, my bread ended up very little like my mothers. But it was still good, and my first sandwich with it today was just as satisfying. Filling and tasty, mmm! This bread is filled with seeds and, unlike my mom’s, a faint sourdough flavor, too.
Meanwhile, my co-worker and “trailermate” was pretty impressed. First she asked whether making bread was “a New England thing”; I assured her that people all over the country, nay, the world, also made their own bread. Then she asked whether I had just thrown a bunch of stuff in a bowl and it had worked out. I told her that actually, yeah, that was kind of what I had done.
“I want to learn to make bread!” she said.
I’m calling this Trailer Park Bread, and I plan on making more as soon as I run out.
For the first time in months, I’m submitting this one to YeastSpotting!
Trailer Park Bread – A Flaxseed-rich Semi-Sourdough
2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups white bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
5 or more or less cups of white bread flour
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 to 3/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sliced almonds
So first you need to make the sponge – just mix all of the ingredients together and leave them, covered in plastic, in a bowl for 12 or so hours. Down here in the heat, I found that 10 hours were plenty. If you work with sponges often, you will learn to tell when they are “ripe”. Here’s a little description of it at The Fresh Loaf, if you’re interested. Or, just wing it, it usually works out!
When your sponge is ready, mix up the full dough. Add the water first, and stir the dough together so that its structure gets broken up a bit. Then add the yeast, sugar, salt, whole wheat flour, rye flour, cornmeal, seeds, and almonds. Mix all this goodness together; the dough should resemble a sloppy batter. This is the easiest time to make sure that the sponge is evenly incorporated into your dough mass. Finally, add four cups of the white flour, and then as much more as you need to get a coherent, kneadable piece of dough. Knead away for a few minutes and then place the dough in a greased bowl (or wok!) to rise, covered by plastic wrap.
After an hour and a half or so – or when your dough appears to have nearly doubled in size – press the air out of it. While I like punching dough down, it’s not the most effective way to get air out of a ball of dough. Instead, I use both hands and evenly press down until the dough deflates. Then divide it into two, shape both pieces into rough loaves, and place them in greased loaf pans. Let rise for another hour. Finally, bake at 450 degrees for 50 or so minutes. I can’t be more specific here because I have no confidence about what our stove was doing when my bread was inside it!