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So, this was a collaborative project that I worked on with my mom and husband, that my grandparents started. They had this huge three ring binder full of photos and stories and ephemera collected over the years. There are all of these great stories from the lives of my grandparents- growing up on farms during the depression, experiences they had while stationed with the Air Force in various foreign countries, as well as many stories of people they met. The problem was that there was only one copy of this cumbersome treasure. My mom had the idea to have it bound, and to have a few copies made, so that each grandchild could have a copy, as well as one for my grandparents. So she sent me to ubuildabook.com to see if I was interested in helping her make it happen. And I was! Here’s the final product:

We are all so happy with the books. My grandparents especially- they were so touched and amazed that we organized their memories in such a permanent way, and made it so that they can share them with others- there is an option with ubuildabook to order more copies without an extra fee, with a few reasonable restrictions. And the turnaround time was surprisingly fast! We received the books within a week of placing the order. It was amazing!
Making the book itself was pretty easy. We decided to scan the pages as they were found in the book, instead of re-typing and editing them; I didn’t feel that it was our place, and my grandfather had spent a lot of time working on his own layout (and page numbering system!) that we felt it was charming the way it was. Basically, you download the layout software from the ubuildabook website, and start at it! My mom and husband did all of the scanning- there were about 120 pages in all. Then I uploaded each image (page) into the program, and made each double page spread using those images. Making the pages themselves was really pretty easy… perhaps more so because I was on my high school’s award-winning yearbook staff, but I think that most people could figure out what to do. If not, you can call them, and they are quite helpful (I had a question after I placed my order). There are so many options for the layout and design of your book, which I didn’t really use, other than for the cover. It makes me want to go back and design a baby book, or perhaps compile my favorite recipes! Really the options are endless.
Here are a few of my favorite pages:

Those are my Great Grandparents Mary and Pete. Included in the book is a recipe for bread that she would make often- we called it G’Mary Bread. I was pretty excited to try out the recipe, and made it within the first 24 hours of having the printed book in my hot little hands. Now, you might remember that I’m not an experienced bread baker. Let’s just say I need a few more tries. Here’s what came out of it:

G’Mary Bread

1 qt (4 c) potato water
2 tbsp shortening
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp dark molasses
1 tbsp anise seed
1 pkg granulated yeast soaked in a little water with sugar
1 c rye meal
white flour

Stir everything but the flours together, add the rye meal. Keep adding white flour to the right consistency, and until it loosens from hands.

Let it rise until it raises double in bulk.

Punch down and let rise a second time.

Make into loaves and let rise.

Bake on a hot cookie sheet for 1 hour at 375F.

Perhaps you can see where and why I ran into trouble. The recipe is just a little vague. First off, potato water?!? I boiled some potatoes to mash up for my daughter, and was pleased to not have to waste that good potato water… but I was a little uncertain when I got to the yeast-water-sugar action. I ended up putting the yeast in a little dish, adding about a 1/4 teaspoon sugar, and 2 tablespoons warm water. I stirred it let it sit for a few minutes, and it got bubbly and thick so I figured I was off to a good start. I added the rest of the ingredients up to the rye flour, and then I got a little worried. It was so watery! Shouldn’t there be more rye flour? I remember this being a very savory bread… I started adding the white flour. Things got really sticky really fast, and about 3 cups in I abandoned the wooden spoon and started kneading with my hands. By the time I got to cup 5 or 6, I lost count. The dough just wasn’t pulling away from my hands, and I had no idea what the “right consistency” looked or felt like. I think there ended up being about 8 cups of white flour total in there! The dough was DENSE. Good thing I ran out of flour. Who knows how many more cups I would have added, before deciding it was never going to pull away from my hands? I put it in a warm oven that I’d turned off, in a bowl covered with a towel.
Then I went to bed.
I got up at 4:30 the next morning and gave it a few good punches (should I only have punched it once?), and went back to bed.
Then, at 9, my daughter supervised with a critical face as I divided the dough into two huge and heavy balls to let rise once more, for about an hour. (There was no moving those loaves to the preheated cookie sheet, but I think that would’ve been too much because the loaves were a bit brown on the underside anyway.) Then we baked! The bread smelled delicious and at the end of the hour, my mouth was so ready for some fresh bread action, and I was so curious as to how I did. I sawed at one of the hot loaves- the crust was really hard- but got a nice thick (and yes, dense) slice.  Oh my. Much heavier than I remembered, but really good!
I took the uncut loaf over to my grandparents to see how it measured up to the bread in their memories, and they admitted that mine was much heavier, but that “it’s hard to get the amount of flour right,” said my grandma. Fair enough. My mom said that we’d make the next batch together when we’ve got my great aunt on the phone, who’s made it several times before. I can’t wait, because I think that it would make a really tasty grilled Daiya and Fieldroast sandwich! Here are my warm slices, covered in Earth Balance:

I discovered with the next slice that olive oil makes an even better topper! I’m really happy that we were able to give this gift to my grandparents, and that I now have this recipe to work on my bread skills with. My great grandma was a true animal lover, and I’m so happy that I was able to keep that spirit alive with some tasty vegan bread. If you try this recipe, let me know how it goes.
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from Shutterbean, originally from The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey

3 c bread flour
1/2 c raisins
1 1/4 tsp table salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c walnuts
1 1/2 c water
1/2 tsp instant or active dry yeast
pinch of fresh ground pepper
wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour for dusting (I just used extra flour)

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, raisins, walnuts, salt, cinnamon, yeast, and pepper, mixing thoroughly. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. If it’s not really sticky to the touch, mix in another tablespoon or two of water. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.

When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, lift the edges of the dough in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.

Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third, and place the covered 4 1/2 – to 5 1/2 -quart heavy pot in the center of the rack.

Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue baking until bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more (It took me and Shutterbean about 15). Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to gently lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly.

I love bread, and I love baking (like you couldn’t tell), but for some reason I’m really intimidated by recipes that call for yeast. What if I don’t get the water temperature right? What if it doesn’t rise? What if I hurt the bread when I’m kneading it? Well, this recipe was such a super intro to breadmaking for me, and it is SO TASTY. I would consider doubling the walnuts next time I make this (and that will be soon, you can count on it), as I’m a total nut fiend. Biting into the bread for the first time was lovely indeed, but when I came to a bite with a walnut, I finally understood the raves that Shutterbean gave it. Such a delightful chew-crunch!
I also must thank Shutterbean for her advice on rising. I was so afraid that our house wasn’t warm enough for the dough action we needed, and I was also concerned about the cats getting into it. She suggested that I heat my oven to 200 degrees F and turn it off. Once it’s cooled a bit, you can put the bowl in there to rise. Perfect! This solved both of my problems. It worked like a charm for both rises.
I started the dough at 9pm, and had the bread out of the oven by 1pm the following day… and promptly gave half of the loaf to my mother in-law, as I knew from that first bite that this bread was trouble! Note to self: do not make this bread before your husband has to work late at night. You will regret it.