Monday Pumpernickel (The Vegetarian Epicure)

When I was 18 and a member of my college choir, I was invited to a dinner party, joining with a group of my fellow singers at one member’s house. We sat around the table, and when the basket of warm bread was passed around, I took a piece and ate it with butter. It was really good. I asked someone to pass the bread basket back. Several slices of crunchy, tasty, toothsome whole-grain bread later, I said to our host, “This is wonderful! Where did you get this bread?” “I baked it,” our host replied, smiling and happy someone had asked. “It’s from a cookbook.”

It was The Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas, and I soon bought a copy. It was the first cookbook I ever bought. The author’s intent seems to be for cooks to make vegetarian cuisine not as simply an absence of meat, but as the presence of delightful flavor. And she encourages people who may not have cooked much that cooking itself, and feeding your family and friends is a celebration of life.

The one I have is a large-format paperback, published in 1972. The binding is a bit cracked, a bit fragile, and the pages, once an even, easy-on-the-eyes beige, are yellowed, and getting all brown around the edges, like an overdone sugar cookie. But I love this book, and I am happy to still have it on my bookshelf. The book is divided into chapters based on type of food to be cooked. If you have never before baked yeast bread, some of the directions may seem mysterious, but they are explained in the introduction of the chapter, ‘Breads’.

1 packet dry yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon caraway seed
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons molasses
1/3 cup currants
2 cups milk
2 cups rye flour
2 cups whole wheat flour, divided
1 cup pure, flaked wheat bran
½ cup wheat germ
½ cup gluten flour

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Set aside. Into a large mixing bowl put butter, caraway seed, lemon peel, salt, molasses, and currants. Scald the milk and add it to the mixture. When butter is melted and milk cooled to lukewarm, mix in the yeast mixture, the rye flour, and 1 cup whole wheat flour. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the bran, wheat germ and gluten flour, and stir again. The dough should be very stiff now. Pour out some of the remaining whole wheat flour on a large board and turn the dough out onto it. Dust it with more flour and knead, using the rest of the flour to keep it from sticking.

When it is smooth and elastic, form it into a bowl and place in a large buttered bowl; turn over once (to butter both sides of the ball), cover with a towel and leave in a warm place to rise until almost double , about 1 ½ – 2 hours. Punch down the dough and form into two loaves. Place seam-side down on a lightly floured baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise until almost double, about 1 hour. Brush loaves with cold water and bake in a preheated 375° oven, 50 min.

Each loaf contains approximately 83 g of protein.


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