Honey Whole Wheat Bread from Scratch

I’ll limit my thoughts on politics, because you’ve come here to read about something else, but I have just a couple of comments, as an American living overseas who voted in the election:

First, little did I know how appropriate a Bloody Mary drink would be for Tuesday's election night party. 
Second, maybe for some Americans, moving overseas, the way my family has, looks a little more appealing. 

This morning, I woke up and felt, again, like someone had died. 

My husband wisely pointed out that it was an exaggeration. But, I argued, only slightly. I’m not saying I felt those extreme depths of despair, but I’m in that state where my mind is still grappling with a reality that it’s vehemently trying to deny. After sleeping fairly peacefully through the night, I woke up and there it was. First thing in the morning, his bright orange face popped into my head. Anger ("Why, why, why?") and denial ("It can't be!") followed.

One of my favorite grieving books is Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking. We’re going to need four years of it. 

We’re also going to need a good breakfast routine. To get through the coming mornings while my brain is still trying to adjust to this new reality, I am going to be relying more on Cuban coffee and my whole wheat bread. 

It says a lot that it’s actually easier to find and stockpile all of the below ingredients than to find reliably good, fresh bread in Cuba. I previously wrote about my capers at the local bodega with my two-year-old son, after which I decided to bake my own bread. 

Aside from the actual bread maker, which is very difficult to find in Cuba, you can locate almost everything else the recipe calls for on the island, with some effort. The one ingredient you can't find is bread flour, but it turns out there is a workaround for it. Lately, butter and yeast have been plentiful in Havana. I try to keep at least twenty pounds each of all-purpose and wheat flour in our home, just for my peace of mind. The honey comes from a stand at a wholesale farmer’s market that’s quite a drive from my home, but I like to go there anyway to stock up on inexpensive limes, ground cumin, and tamarind paste. The honey comes in a container that looks radioactive (because of the unfortunate logo that the stated-owned company picked), but my Cuban friends all insist that it’s perfectly safe. There is one ingredient I have to bring back from the U.S.: vital wheat gluten, because Cuban stores don’t sell bread flour. The gluten gives the bread a springier consistency. 

 My whole wheat bread with one of my favorite toppings: avocado.

My whole wheat bread with one of my favorite toppings: avocado.

Wherever you happen to be making bread, it’s worthwhile to use the “Delay Start” timer on the bread maker, so that you can wake up with a fresh loaf. Slice and freeze the bread that you won’t eat in the next 24 hours. 

Bread makers are so easy to use that it’s a stretch to call it baking. But even so, you get that sense of achievement when out comes a fresh loaf, impregnating the air of your kitchen with that undeniable, unique scent of yeast and flour magically doing their thing.

That scent alone will help me begin to heal.  

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Special equipment: bread maker

1 1/4 cup water
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/4 cups bread flour (or 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry or bread machine yeast 

Place all the ingredients in the order listed in the bread pan with the kneading paddle. Secure the bread pan in the bread maker. Follow your bread maker’s instructions for making whole wheat bread and use the delay start timer so that your bread is ready about 15-30 minutes before you want to eat it. Come back to your bread maker around the designated time, remove the bread, and allow it to cool on a rack before slicing. Slice the entire loaf, leaving only what you will eat today and tomorrow, and store the rest in the freezer.