Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Scattered Bits of Happiness

I remember the summer.. funny how I'm remembering the summer now that's it's the dead of winter. And while I love all seasons, I think I've made the most memories during the summer, during the hottest days. It's like that heat hangs in the air and catches energy, makes you notice things that you normally wouldn't. And those memories lay dormant inside you, slowly germinating through the fall until you're smack in the middle of winter and they come sprouting up through the snow and you wonder how you could have forgotten about them for so long.

I remember the first time I heard this song. No, it wasn't in the summer -- it was actually in the winter. I was in a bookstore that sadly no longer exists, and the tune just stuck in my head. It was until later, in the summer, that I went back to that bookstore and purchased that CD with the song. I remember playing it right away on the streetcar ride home and reading the lyrics. The ones in the last verse stood out for me, the part when the singer is telling his little sister that life is sprinkled with tiny troubles but that's no reason to run away every time we're faced with one. This school term was sprinkled with lots of little troubles for me, but I realized today that they were also sprinkled with lots of tiny pleasures and successes. These tiny pleasures helped me deal the with tiny troubles; it's the pleasures we need to focus on, not the troubles.

So in the spirit of tiny pleasures that we can find scattered throughout our lives, I'm giving you this bread. This bread is like waking up feeling well-rested and ready to tackle the day. It's finding a seat on a packed streetcar and giving up to someone who needs it. It's a smile from a stranger (not a creepy one, but a genuine one). It's a call from your best friend right when you expected it. It's that first sip of coffee on a Friday morning, and that last bite of dessert that you've just shared with someone you love. It's the foam on your cappuccino and that squeeze of lemon that brightens up your salad dressing. It's good weather on a crappy work day, and a happy ending to a sad story. It's a tiny pleasure that you can make for yourself on this first day of 2013.

This bread is made with wholesome, everyday ingredients and yet it tastes so special. It's light and fluffy and so easy to eat. It looks professional from the sprinkling of sesame seeds on top, and that egg inside and brushed on top makes all the difference. It's great at soaking up your runny egg yolks, but just as great torn off in chunks and enjoyed with your morning tea or coffee. It's a little pleasure that I found today, and I'm scattering it, hoping that someone else will find it too.

Happy 2013!

Happiness Brioche with Spelt and Oats
adapted from Zizi's Adventures

1/2 cup of warm water
2 tablespoons of milk (I used vanilla almond milk)
2 tablespoons of raw cane sugar
1/4 cup of rolled oats
1.5 teaspoons of quick rising yeast
1 egg, beaten
1 cup of all purpose flour
3/4 cup of spelt flour
2 tablespoons of butter (I used Earth Balance)
pinch of salt
a handful of sesame seeds

1. In a small bowl, combine the warm water, milk, sugar and yeast. Stir well. Add the oats and let set aside for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture gets frothy.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the flours and salt. Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers until you get a coarse mealy mixture. Add the frothy yeast mixture and about half of the egg mixture. A little more than half went in mine and it was fine -- don't sweat it.

3. Mix well, until a sticky dough forms. Turn the dough out on a well-floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes, adding flour a little at a time if the mixture is too sticky. When the dough is smooth and elastic, roll it into a ball and cover it with a dish cloth. Let it sit for 30 minutes.

4. After 30 minutes, the dough should have doubled. Punch it down and knead a couple of times. Transfer the dough to a well-oiled loaf pan. I divided mine up into one mini-loaf pan and 2 ramekins. Cover and let it rise again for 30 minutes.

5. After the second rising, brush the remaining beaten egg over the top of the loaf and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Bake in a 350 oven until it has rise beautifully and the top is a nice golden brown. For me, the ramekins took about 20 minutes, and the mini loaf took about 30 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and let cool for as long as you can stand before slicing and enjoying.

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