Sometimes I wonder why I bake. There are so many reasons not to. My skinny jeans for one--but it's not just that. It's the dark spots on my white walls, remnants of chocolate splatters past. It's the running out for eggs at 11pm in my pajamas; the forcing five types of flour into my already overflowing cupboards. Lately, it's also the arriving home after midnight, wilted, weary and wanting nothing more than to fall into bed.
And yet night after night, I find myself gravitating towards the kitchen. I'm not making anything particularly fancy, but as I stand at my stove scooping flour, beating eggs and stirring wet ingredients into dry, my racing mind begins to slow and my worries give way to the task at hand. I'm not baking for an event, I'm not baking for the blog, and I'm certainly not baking because anyone needs a loaf of applesauce bread at midnight. I'm just baking. I'm not thinking about my to-do list, or whether I'm going to make it to the gym in the morning, or if some boy is going to call. I'm just baking.
There are so many reasons not to bake, but there is one important reason why I do. I bake because, as put so eloquently in Julie and Julia, "I love that after a day where nothing is sure — and when I say nothing, I mean nothing — you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort." And in the morning, there is applesauce bread. Healthy, hearty and just sweet enough, any day that begins with this breakfast is already off to a good start. And when it ends, I'll be back at my stove. It's such a comfort.
Recipe from Martha Rose Shulman, via The New York Times
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour*
1/2 cup all purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used 2% Greek)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
*Note that the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 cup all purpose. I only had regular whole wheat flour on hand so I used less whole wheat (1 cup) and more white (1 cup) and my bread turned out fine, but if you have whole wheat pastry flour, I'd go with that instead. It will yield a lighter, less dense bread.
Preheat the oven to 350. Line an oiled loaf pan with parchment and lightly oil the parchment. Sift together the flours, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium bowl. In a large beat the eggs and sugar until thick. Add the oil, yogurt, applesauce and vanilla, and whisk until combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined, being careful not to overmix the batter. Fold in the walnuts and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the loaf is golden and a tester inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Shulman says the loaf will benefit from being tightly wrapped in plastic and sitting overnight, and that it will keep 3-4 days. Do not refrigerate.