One of my readers got in touch last week to say that they had started baking bread using recipes from my book and blog, and that it helped immensely with their anxiety. I totally get that ? I find if I?m having a wobbly day, or week, a good session of kneading dough helps to work through it somewhat. It?s not a catch-all solution, but it is one of the rare moments in my week where I can stand still and rhythmically bash something, both well recommended for calming the soul.
Today I decided to do that thing, still not sleeping brilliantly after a fortnight of madness and a little jittery around the edges, and in the beautiful synchronicity of the universe, we had also run out of bread. I like how life works out sometimes.
I was a bit worried when I pulled this out of the oven, the peanuts and high wholemeal ratio had made it a rich, dark brown; exactly the way I like it, but sure to be greeted with abject suspicion from the 5 year old and 4 year old. I got round it by smearing it with honey and telling them it was honey cake toast (my honey cakes are legend among the two smallest people in the house, and how the recipe has never made it on this blog is beyond me, I?ve easily made them ten times this year alone. I?ll have to fix that?)
And so, without further ado, honey cake toast, as christened by the two Smalls, both blissfully unaware that they were asking for seconds of Super Healthy Bread. Aha!
Makes 1 large loaf, serves 8-10, for 62p.
200g white plain flour, 7p (Basics, 55p/1.5kg)
200g wholemeal flour, 15p (£1.10/1.5kg)
100g peanuts, 35p (Basics salted peanuts, 70p/200g)
1 tsp dried active yeast, 3p (5g), (Allinsons, 65p/100g)
1 tbsp oil, 2p (Sunflower oil £4/3l)
300ml warm water
First soak your peanuts in cold water for half an hour and rinse thoroughly to remove any excess salt, then shake them in a clean tea towel or kitchen paper to dry them. If you want to speed the process up and don?t mind using the energy, pop them in a dry pan on the heat and blast them, stirring, for a minute or two.
Then pop your peanuts in a blender (you?ll have to pulse them a few times and give the jug a shake to loosen any bits that get stuck around the blade), or food processor if you have a fancy whizzy one, or bash them in a pestle and mortar if you have one of those, or if you?re low-tech fling them in a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin. Whatever floats your nut-boat, you just need to crush them into smithereens.
Tip them into a large mixing bowl, and add both kinds of flour and the yeast and the salt (salt can be omitted if you are cooking for children or are watching your intake, I don?t add it to much but do the occasional bread and usually a little to stocks and sauces). Mix the dry ingredients to evenly distribute them.
Make a well (like a big deep almost-hole) in the centre of the dry ingredients. Add the oil, then most of the water ? it should be just warm to touch, if it?s too hot it murders the poor living yeast and then your bread won?t work!) Mix it in well to form a soft dough, adding the rest of the water if it needs it. Your dough should collect all of the flour from around the bowl, but not be too tacky ? it shouldn?t leave a residue on your hands. If it?s too dry and cracking, add a splash more water. If you overdo the water, shake a little more flour in.
Tip it onto a well-floured work surface and knead well for a few minutes until it is soft and springy. Kneading is basically stretching it out with your palm and knuckles, folding it in half, giving it a quarter-turn and repeating. And repeating. And repeating, until it is bouncy. Don?t throw it on the floor to test, just gently prod it with your finger to make an indent ? it should slowly poof back out again.
Tip it back into the bowl and cover with cling film or a plate or a tea towel, and pop it somewhere warm for an hour to rise. If your home is chilly, or you can?t find a warm place, pop a few tea towels in the microwave for a minute then wrap them around your bowl to give it a big warm cuddle.
When it?s risen, almost doubled in size, pop the oven on to heat at 180C. Tip your dough out onto your floured worktop again and shape into a loaf ? this will help knock some of the extra air out, but don?t fiddle with it too much, that air will contribute to a nice light loaf with a wonderful texture. Flour its bottom and place on a baking tray. Cut down the middle half an inch deep with a knife (to let the baking fairies out, according to Irish folklore), and bake for 40 minutes. You?ll know it?s done when it feels light to hold, warm, hollow sounding when you tap the bottom, and your home smells like freshly baked bread.
My family love it spread thickly with honey, hence the title (although that then doesn?t make it vegan, obviously), CakeyGoodness Bread. One day I might tell them, but until then, I?m enjoying cramming them with unbeknown goodness. Good for grownups too ? I like mine with butter and marmite and strong cheese, and Allegra had hers with marmalade?
Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter & Instagram @MsJackMonroe and find my book online at the tax-paying local-bookshop-supporting Hive Stores: http://www.hive.co.uk/book/a-girl-called-jack-100-delicious-budget-recipes/18105011/