The seasons are changing as is evident by the clouds, clinging to the mountaintops longer each day, leaving their hazy, cotton feeling to the day. The mornings grow cooler each day with a fresh, brisk smell lingering in the air. The crops start to change, the last of the stone fruit appearing at the farmers market and the figs, drooping on their limbs, heavy with the weight of sweet, exotic fruits.
I feel the autumn; in my blood and in my bones first, the feeling that seeps through my pores, opening my heart to the holidays in a way it never did in my youth. Now my motherly hearth starts to crave the smell of baked apples and hot spices in the air. I think of apple pies, applesauce, apple tarts and… pumpkin. Not the forever, year round pumpkin spiced lattes but REAL pumpkin, the kind that ripens on the vine, that has the perfect balance of savory and sweet just waiting to be expressed through soups, scones and sauces, curries, cheese cakes and, dare we say, chutneys!
Yes, the fall season is a bitter sweet time, a time we let go of our favorite stone fruit and summer greens for a while, saying goodbye to the peach pies and plum puddings. It is a time we think of comfort and happiness, a little bit of chaos but in that sweet “holidays are coming” kind of way. We think soups and thick, warm sauces, scones, cobblers and spiced ciders. Here in my kitchen, at Aspyn’s Table, we understand the ebbs and flows of life; we love to cook seasonal, because it is nourishing and supportive of the tradition of land supporting life.
We know what to make because as we walk our orchard, it is the pomegranate trees that are ripe with life and the persimmon trees that are pregnant with yet unripe fruit, orange and strangely shaped. It is the squash that are large and tempting, with big bulbous shapes we nearly trip on for inspiration. We see the yellows and oranges of the season and feel a soft and subtle shift that bulks our lunches from light salads to hearty soups and warm, fresh baked breads. The following is my version of a perfect loaf of “end of summer” bread; light but hearty, sweet but not too sweet and above all, nourishing and good.
Sunflower Honey Bread
1 ½ C White all purpose flour, divided
1 C Sunflower Millet or Oatmeal Bread Flour Blend, by Great River Organic Milling (feel free to substitute with regular whole wheat flour)
½ c wheat germ (your can also use shredded unsweetened coconut for a great alternative)
¼ c sunflower seeds
1 tsp salt
1 pkg dry yeast
1 C milk
2-3 Tbl water
3 Tbl honey, divided
2 Tbl butter
1 Tbl, wheat germ (if you used coconut above, also use coconut here)
Mix 1/2 cup white flour, 1 C whole wheat (or flour blend), wheat germ (or coconut), sunflower seeds, salt and yeast in a medium sized bowl.
In a small saucepan, combine milk, water, 2 Tbl honey, and butter and heat on low until the mixture is hot to the touch. Be sure not to bring to boil or scorch on bottom.
Stir the wet mixture into the bowl of dries, and then add the last cup of flour. Stir till combined. Let your dough rest for 10 minutes.
Kneed for 1 minute then turn into your greased loaf pan. Cover with a clean towel and let in rise about 30 minutes.
In the mean time, preheat your oven to 375 °
Bake your bread for 35-40 minutes, until your loaf is nice and golden on top. While your loaf is still hot, brush it with the remaining tablespoon of honey and sprinkle with the last tablespoon of wheat germ (or coconut).