This past weekend was, well, let’s just say a bit unexpected. On Friday afternoon, at about 4:00 (2 hours before we were having friends over for dinner), I went upstairs to do something…I don’t even remember what it was at this point because it was, for obvious reasons, soon forgotten. I looked down the hall and saw a little wet spot on the carpet and rolled my eyes because one of the animals had had an accident. But when I bent down with a paper towel to blot it up, water dripped on to my head. And looking up, the entire globe of our hall light was filled with water (our fire-fighter friend’s comforting comment was that we were lucky our house didn’t catch on fire). And down from the light there was a strip of damp ceiling and then another water spot.
Oh yay. Needless to say, Gerrit was of course not answering his phone, the light bulb in the attic had burnt out and with only a flashlight I couldn’t pinpoint the problem or even find a place to put a towel, and I still had to finish getting food ready for our dinner group. It was a bit…stressful, especially for Gerrit I believe when he finally rushed in the door late and ran right up into the attic as our friends were arriving.
And I tell you all of this not to complain, but really because everything was wonderful. Once our friends arrived, all of the guys followed Gerrit up to the attic and helped him hold hoses and pumps in just the right places so that they could drain the water out of the pan under the HVAC unit, and then, I’m sure, stand around and talk about all the technicalities of why the leak might had happened.
On Friday night, we turned our air-conditioner off because we still hadn’t quite pinpointed the problem. So we slept with our windows cracked just a bit to the sounds of low cars late at the night and the neighborhood porch lights and just a bit of cricket chirping. And even though Gerrit likes to say I complained a lot (hey, it is a realistic possibility that the cat could break the screen and fall out the window), I have to admit it was actually lovely and kind of what to do it again sometime on purpose.
And on Saturday, because we still didn’t have a solution, my parents came over for an impromptu dinner and while my dad and Gerrit went to buy PVC pipe and caulk and various other things that mean our ceiling won’t leak anymore, my mom and I went on a walk and sat on the porch and talked.
And in the midst of all this, on Saturday morning, I turned some music on and baked this bread. And it was so needed. Not just to make my perfect breakfast dreams come a little bit more true, but because I needed this haven of a quiet morning with some fancy French music and stirring together a bread that wouldn’t be done until it was almost lunch time and not being concerned because I wasn’t making this for breakfast necessarily. I was making it just because. Because it looked delicious, and with Gerrit playing golf on a Saturday morning and a long list of things to do like the piles of laundry covering out bedroom floor and a still unsolved leaky ceiling mystery, I needed to just ignore it all and get down into the grainy process of making a quick breakfast bread.
I love the idea that any muffin can really be turned into a breakfast bread. Don’t have time to carefully divide your batter into proportionate muffin tins? No problem, just pour it all into a loaf pan. As Dorie Greenspan claims in her cookbook (from which this bread came), so many of her favorite breakfast breads have come from her just running out of time to actually put everything in the muffin pan. And I love that.
And I love this bread, because it is thick and crumbly and moist and has the lightest warmest flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg. And I even love the pecans on top because they are perfectly toasted and perfectly sweet. And I love that when my mom tried a piece on Saturday evening, her eyes got wide and she kept saying how good it was. And I love that I was able to send half it home with them, not because I was looking for an excuse to get rid of any of it (oh, goodness no), but because it means that they were close and they were here and they were helping us out.
And I also love the fact that our problem is solved, our air is back on, and our ceiling only needs minimal repair.
Oatmeal Breakfast Bread
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Wait Time: 35 minutes
Serves about 12
For the topping:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the bread:
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup flavorless oil (canola or vegetable, etc.)
1/4 cup buttermilk (or whole milk)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves*
1/2 cup diced dried fruit (figs, apples, apricots, etc.) (optional)
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and dust with flour, shaking the excess flour out of the pan. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon for the topping. Stir together (using your fingers is best) until all the nuts are coated. Set aside.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the eggs, applesauce, oil, and buttermilk. Whisk together until well blended and set aside.
4. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir together until well blended. Then, if you’re using fruit, take 1/2 teaspoon of this dry mixture and mix it together with the fruit in a small bowl and set it aside. Then add the oats to the dry ingredients, stirring to combine.
5. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir together just until blended (be careful not to over mix).
6. If you are using the fruit, gently fold it into the batter.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, making sure that is spreads out evenly. Sprinkle the topping over the batter evenly, pressing it down slightly with the tips of your fingers so that it adheres.
8. Bake bread for 55-65 minutes (perhaps a little bit less if you’re not using fruit), until the bread is brown and a knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
9. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, and then remove the bread from the pan (run a knife along the edges of it to loosen it from the sides) and continue to cool it on a wire rack, about 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.**
*As a substitution for cloves I used a bit of allspice.
**Dorie explains, and I would agree, that the bread should be served at room temperature because it is too soft when it’s warm. And honestly I’m not sure it tastes quite as good.