Sunday, June 3, 2012

My Alternate Hippie Self (plus a good bread recipe)

Sometimes I imagine what my life would be like in an alternate reality. I don't feel discontent with this life; I just wonder what life could be like in another place and another situation. I think I would be a hippie. Some sort of Laura Ingles Wilder meets Madeliene L'Engle's Austin family.

We live in a big, old farmhouse in not quite the middle of no-where Kentucky, but close enough that there are fields of cows (not ours) and crops (not tobacco) all around. The house is weathered and comfortable. All of the windows are open, since it's springtime, and there is a fabulous breeze. The house is surrounded by a big porch overlooking rustling trees and open pastures.

We have about five kids, all of whom were born at home. It doesn't seem like too many because they can roam around all over and we never have to travel by airplane. I do very wholesome things like baking bread, sewing clothes, and canning. We have a giant garden full of vegetables and flowers that are actually growing. Of course the super helpful children take part in gardening and cooking and all those other wholesome tasks. We have a big old tractor but no livestock. Maybe a few chickens. Far away from the house and not very smelly. A nice dog and a couple of cats that wander in and out but stay remarkably clean.

I get up at sunrise to enjoy coffee on the porch while it's still quiet, unaccountably a morning person. I cook all kinds of healthy, from-scratch meals, and we don't eat any processed food except boxed mac and cheese because it's irreplaceable. We all run around barefoot, and we are never fashionable. I probably home-school. We read books under big trees and catch fireflies after dark. We are so relaxed that we may not even have clocks in our home...we just go by the sun and the seasons. It's all very earthy.

In real life I live in a sixth floor apartment in a Chinese city. There are plenty of (live) chickens at the market waiting to be eaten, but that's about all in the way of livestock. I can't really imagine having five kids, and while I find home-birth intriguing, I was quite satisfied with my hospital/midwife birth. I don't really like to cook that much, Juliana has yet to turn me into a morning person, and I always like to know what time it is.

But have started making bread again, a remarkably simple recipe from my sister Becky that turns out well even in my small China oven. We have a pet cat, puppy, bunny, kiwi bird, and several giraffes – they just all happen to be stuffed. I will likely home-school, since we'll be living in China, and I'll probably mostly enjoy it. I have one house plant which I have kept alive for over a month. And the not-fashionable part seems to be working out quite well. So I'll just take what I've got and enjoy the rest in my imagination.

Ruth's Hippie Bread (aka Amish White Bread)

This recipe makes 2 loaves so you can eat one and freeze one, but it can easily be halved if desired.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

2 cups warm water (110˚F)
2/3 cup white sugar
1-½ tbsp active dry yeast (2 pkgs)
1-½ tsp salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam. Mix salt and oil into the yeast mixture. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour.
Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes and divide in half. Shape into loaves and place into two well oiled 9”x5” loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1” above pans.
Bake at 350˚F for 30 minutes.

* Whole Wheat: Substitute up to 2 cups of whole wheat flour. Add 1 tbsp honey with salt and oil.
* Use half sugar and half honey (I substituted all honey once, but it turned out a little too mushy.  You can also add a tiny bit of baking soda if you use honey.)
* Substitute 1 cup of pureed squash for 1 cup of water.  (My pureed squash turns out pretty watery.  The bread is not quite as light as originally, but otherwise the squash is unnoticeable and a little healthy addition.)
*Add a bit of wheat germ (I never actually measure).


Mallary said...

Love the alternate Ruthie. . .and the real Ruthie!

wynd said...

This is awesome. I want to come visit this reality AND the alternate