One of the things I most remember about my childhood in Illinois was coming home from school, especially in the cold winters. I would enter through the back door which led directly into the kitchen, and would be greeted by my mother and the overwhelming delicious scent of her homemade brown bread. This bread was hearty and oh-so-tasty: it had a crunchy outer crust and was soft and fluffy on the inside. Who would believe that brown bread was so good? Obviously, nowadays, tastes have evolved and white bread is the evil emptiness that has no flavor, but back in the late 80’s, brown bread was the ugly duckling, the “healthy” food one had to endure unwillingly. But my mother’s dark brown bread took those thoughts and chucked them out the window. To smell that bread was to be enveloped in love and comfort and joy. To eat it, especially when it was warm, fresh out of the oven, was to be transported. You forgot about being healthy, all you wanted to do was tear chunks from that loaf and stuff it into your mouth like a wild beast. Thus grew my love affair with bread, which lasted all my life, evolving until I was finally able to make my own and replicate that wonderful feeling in my own kitchen; this time nobody was there to tell me “cut the bread with the knife”! The wild beast would come out… That is, until June of this past year. When I decided to go gluten-free. Gone were the bread days, or so I thought! My mother sent me this recipe before Thanksgiving this year with the hopes that I would be able to replace the brown bread with this seed-nut-cranberry loaf. I made it for Thanksgiving for my family who was in awe; our wild beast side emerged, popping pieces of the bread into our mouth, trying not to spoil our appetites for the large meal to come. My mother, on the other hand, tried it and didn’t think it should be called “bread”, she thought it was more of a cake. So I give you the autumn loaf (originally entitled “Thanksgiving Adventure Bread” by Modern Luxury, the magazine). Please note that it needs to be prepared ahead of time (with several hours in the fridge), so give yourself about a day to make this.
Makes 1 loaf
1 cup sunflower seeds
1⁄2 cup sesame seeds
3⁄4 cup walnuts
2&1⁄4 cups rolled oats
3⁄4 cup fresh cranberries (The original recipe calls for dried cranberries, but I never have those, and I really liked it with fresh berries)
3⁄4 cup dried goji berries (I added these in the last loaf I made and it was so good!)
3⁄4 cup whole flax seeds
1⁄3 cup psyllium seed husk (this one is essential!! it works as gluten does to bind the bread)
1⁄2 tsp. orange zest (or lemon if you don’t have an orange on hand)
1 tsp. finely ground sea salt
1⁄4 cup agave nectar
1⁄4 cup olive oil
2&1⁄2 cups water
Preheat oven to 300°. Oil an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. Toss sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes, turning halfway through. Make sure you keep an eye on the seed/nut mixture so that it doesn’t burn, take it out once it’s turned brown- your oven may be different from mine.
In a large mixing bowl, combine toasted nuts with rolled oats, cranberries, flax seeds, psyllium seed husk, orange zest, and sea salt. Add wet ingredients, then mix with your hands or a big spoon until dry ingredients soak up the liquid to create a dough. Take pride in your mush job—it will take about 5 minutes to congeal. Scoop mixture into a pan greased with coconut oil and smooth out the top. Refrigerate for a few hours to one day.
When ready to bake, place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350° (The recipe calls for 400, but it burned at that temp in my oven). Bake loaf for about 90 minutes. Keep an eye on it and if it starts to burn, turn down the oven. In my oven, I cook it for about 75 mins. Remove from pan and let cool on a rack for at least 2 hours. It always comes out dark or on the verge of burnt on the outside, but the inside is so soft and moist.
This is what it looks like prior to refrigeration:
It tastes amazing with cranberry sauce!!