Sunday, November 27, 2016

Peanut Bread

My very good neighbor had a question for me.  He was at my house, God bless him, for the second time in a week working on my central heating; and, for the second time, he had to move the little yellow stool that lives in my kitchen hallway.  He wanted to know why there were books under it.

The answer was really pretty simple:  I've run out of cookbook space, even though shelves line the entire kitchen hall.  And I have to admit that there are yet more cookbooks on the little shelf in the central hall as well.  (You'd think that a small [not Tiny] house wouldn't need to have two hallways but this one, curiously, has two, want them or not.  By the way, for "small" think maybe 800 square feet.) 

I could make space by moving the CDs but it makes sense to keep them where they are by the player and it's only a half-a-shelf anyway.  (My musical taste may be a little odd:  there is lots of Arashi, quite a bit of Jim Byrnes, with a dash of Tish Hinojosa, Mark Collie, Enya, and Putumayo.)

My house is chockablock with books and, of course, I still want more.  In fact, thanks to an interesting radio interview that aired this afternoon, I have added another book to my very long wish list just today.  (If you really want to know, it's a true story.  Lincoln Beachey:  The Man Who Owned the Sky.  [You can find more about him on Wikipedia; interesting guy, well-deserving of being remembered.]  I read a lot of history and biography but have very little patience for fiction so you'll find nearly none of that in my house.)   So there are books in the hallways, books in the dining room, books in the living room, books in the blue room, books in the office (but those are mainly books I have listed for sale), and books in the bedroom (but only just a few; I have asthma and books are dusty). 

What does any of this have to do with Peanut Bread?  Well, very little, except that when I got inspired to make it today, I had to go hunting for the book because I couldn't remember where I had put it when I re-organized some shelves a few weeks ago.

Anyway, I love my old reprint of the 1917 cookbook classic A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband by Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron.  I've made a variety of very good things from the recipes in its pages but I had never made Peanut Bread, and the idea of it intrigued me because it seemed like it would make tasty toast.  You see, I bought a can of mixed nuts to enjoy at Thanksgiving but it was less "mixed" and more peanuts than I had anticipated.  Hence, the need to do something with them other than endlessly nibbling. 

I shall risk burning in copyright Hades to share the original recipe:

Peanut Bread (12 slices)
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons  baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons "C" sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
3/4 cup milk
Mix thoroughly the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and peanuts.  Add the egg and milk.  Stir vigorously two minutes.  Place in a well-buttered bread pan, and bake 35 minutes in a moderate oven.

Now, I am aware that "moderate" means approximately 350 F but, for the life of me, I cannot identify "C" sugar so I just used granulated.  And we should remember that the book is from pre-electric-mixer days; it really isn't necessary to stir vigorously when half a minute with the mixer will do.  The batter is fairly thick--though not so thick as to climb the beaters.  I prepared a large bread pan but when I scraped the dough in, it barely filled halfway up and I wondered if I should have chosen a smaller pan--however, no worries, the dough rose to fit the occasion.

The loaf has no shortening, so it's thick-textured and crispy round the edges.  It is faintly sweet, and the peanuts add a nice undertone without being overwhelming.  This is the very bread that I hoped it would be:  something that will slice nicely and make tasty toast to have with jam and a mug of tea.  The recipe says it makes twelve slices, and indeed it does because it's the sort of loaf that you want to cut into fairly thick slabs rather than thin tidy slices.  It makes toast that is crispy on the outside but still soft on the inside with surprising little bits of peanut in every bite.  Very satisfactory.

However, I believe that I will reduce the amount of baking powder next time.  (Next time?  Yes, I surely liked it well enough to make it again.)  Perhaps the modern variety of baking powder is a bit different; I notice a slight bitter aftertaste.  It's not bad but it's worth noting.

Now I've just gotta figure out where I can fit some more bookshelves.  To tell the truth, I have several boxes of books hiding behind a chair in the living room.  I have ideas.....Anything can happen.

Life is good.
Go get cooking!

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