Cornell bread was developed during the 1930's as a way to make American bread both more palatable and more nutritious. As such, it's a success on both counts, having more protein than ground beef and utterly wicked toothsome. Developed by Professor McCay of Cornell University and wife, it's well worth baking, especially if you can't get it in your area (a few bakeries in New England, especially southwestern Connecticut, put out a few loaves, now and then, and Pepperidge Farm and Arnold's make a type of it, but it's just not the same). John Kenneth Galbraith was a fan, and eating it makes me think comforting, wholesome thoughts about cattle, warm tweeds on a cold day, whisky and how The System is not out to get me. It's worth knowing that even though the thought of artisan bread from a nutrition lab sounds oxymoronic, McCay was such a kindly man that he dedicated one page of his cookbook to memorialize the rats who sickened and died (mostly in his control group) during his experiments. This is truly righteous bread, and should be treated with respect.
Its drawbacks, however, take a little getting used to: it's not especially white, being a kind of golden ivory with tan flecks (OK, it's yellowish. Satisfied?) and more than a little dense and chewy with hauntingly sweet/savory overtones to the flavor. In time, however, these will seem less like bugs than features -- this is how bread is supposed to be, it's Wonder Bread that's weird!
With this in mind, most people, upon seeing a loaf, will politely ask for a half-slice when offered. Don't be fooled. These people must be carefully watched, since they will be most susceptible to the sudden gluttony that this bread will provoke: you'll end up with them eating half the loaf, then begging to take the rest home with them. This bread is best with some good soup to partner it, or a small steak layered in between halves of a half-size loaf, but is just as good with butter or by itself. It was claimed at one time, that, with a multivitamin daily, you could live on it. Try it and you'll seriously contemplate doing so.
(Adapted from the original recipe, with liberal interpolations by the author.)
PLACE in a large mixing bowl, and LET STAND:
3 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F.)
2 packages or 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/4 c. white sugar or 2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
3 teaspoons salt, sea salt preferable
2 tablespoons canola or other mild oil (for absolute best results, add 1 cap of BHA/BHT to the bottle of oil the night before)
MEASURE and STIR together:
6 cups unbleached flour (best from Saskatchewan wheat, second best USDA distro, otherwise the best you can find)
3 tablespoons wheat germ
1/2 cup full-fat soy flour
3/4 cup nonfat dry milk
STIR the liquids and ADD 1/2 to 3/4 the flour mixture while stirring.
BEAT vigorously, about 75 strokes by hand, or 2 minutes with electric mixer.
ADD remainder of flour mixture. WORK and MIX flour in thoroughly and vigorously by hand 5 minutes. At first the dough will be sticky as you grasp it. Beat it, turning it round and round in the bowl. At the end of this time you'll feel it change and become firmer.
TURN dough onto floured board and KNEAD using 1 to 3 cups more flour, as needed, to make the dough smooth. Kneading is a push-pull motion (similar to what a happy cat does) whereby you smear the dough out with the heels of your hand, and then jerk and fold it over as you pull, adding flour and turning the dough all the while (some give the dough a few twists also), while singing a bread song.
My favorite bread songs are "Street Fighting Man" from the Rolling Stones, or this catchy jingle:
Some are into silver
Some are into gold
Some are into having
Someone nice to hold.
(From The Residents Commercial Album)
Most classic rock works very well as bread songs, as do Shakespeare's sonnets or speeches -- if nothing else works, check your pulse. In any case, singing is essential, and the reason why your bread will be better than that made by one of those (shudder) bread machines. In any case, it will take 8-10 minutes of steady pummelling, at the end of which, you'll feel completely nonviolent and calm. Dough should be stretchy and satiny -- shape it into a rough round.
PLACE in an oiled bowl. Grease top of dough lightly and cover with a dishtowel, or similar cloth. LET RISE in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour. (Fingerprint remains when dough has risen enough.) If the room is cold, place bowl in another bowl of hot water. PUNCH dough down, fold over edges and turn upside down to rise another 20 minutes, or until double again. TURN onto board, and divide dough into 3 portions. Fold each into the center to make smooth, tight balls. Cover and let stand 10 minutes on the board while you oil the baking pans. SHAPE into 3 loaves or 2 loaves and a pan of rolls, which will answer the needs of most small families for a week. This may seem like a lot all at once, but it's actually easier to bake larger quantities than small.
TO SHAPE A LOAF: Flatten ball on the board with hands into a rectangle. Then fold each long side to the center. Then roll this small rectangle to make a loaf. Press ends to seal. Turn seam down.
TO SHAPE ROLLS: Squeeze off bits of dough and shape like golf balls, squeezing 2-3 balls into a muffin pan hole (2 balls make "Cupid's buns" --like bitty asses, 3 or 4 make clover leaves). These may also be baked all together in a cake pan. PLACE shaped dough in oiled pans. Loaf pans should be about 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches in size.
LET RISE in pans until double in size, about 45 minutes.
BAKE in a moderate oven, 350 degrees F., for 50 to 60 minutes (about 30 minutes for rolls). If the loaves begin to brown in 15 or 20 minutes, reduce the temperature. Bread is done if it sounds hollow when tapped.
REMOVE bread from the pans and put on a rack or cloth to cool. Brush with oil if a thin, tender crust is desired, or beaten egg (before baking) for a glossy, hard one. Let cool completely before wrapping and storing (this won't go stale for 3-4 days, the way most home jobs will, because of the soy...if it lasts that long) or freezing. That's it, you're done!
After you've made this once, you'll want to try fine-tuning the recipe -- maybe add a spoonful of Horlick's malt powder
(Malt tastes good
. Malt makes anything it touches taste good. Got it?) or brewer's yeast
, for extra richness of flavor and nutrition. Or try a sour dough next time, or sub a triticale
flour for part of the wheat. Maybe pretzels or bread sticks, or a rich vein of Cosanti herb butter
folded in at the very last...Mmmmm, think I'll start a batch right now...where's that wheat germ?