I am awake. It’s the crack of dawn and here I am. Awake. This is not unusual. When you’re pregnant any number of things might cause you to wake up from a perfectly sound sleep. You might suddenly feel the need to go to the bathroom, the baby might kick you in an unexpected spot, or, most commonly, you have an unsettling dream. You might dream your baby is running around like a crazy devil, growing into an adult before your eyes or, in a recent case of a friend of mine, mocking your inadequacies as a mother with an extraordinarily patronizing British accent.
These are among the many things no one shares with you about pregnancy. I’m not sure why this is the case. It’s possibly a conspiracy to continue populating the world by keeping most folks in the dark about the bizarre side effects. Or, on the other hand, it’s just as reasonable to assume the blood, which used to run our brains and now flows to our little buns, causes us to forget a great deal and, therefore, omit vital information during discussions with our girlfriends. Whatever the case may be, another being takes over your body. Life simply isn’t the same. You are suddenly thrust into motherhood. A former wallflower, you are now a lioness. If faced with the choice, you would walk over hot coals to protect the little one inside you.
You find yourself worrying. A lot. You fret. You watch your body change and wonder whether the changes are reasonable and normal. You hear horror stories from other mothers and go home to your bathroom where you stare at your belly and wonder if that awful thing you just heard about is happening to you at this very moment. You draft plans for emergency hospital visits and think about preschools many years in advance. You wonder what horrible or ill advised thing you might say to your child that will cause her to resent you later on in life.
You fear you might conceive the Unabomber. Well, this is not exactly true, but you heard a story recently about the Unabomber, which upset you. It seems he was a perfectly reasonable young man, an overachiever, in fact. He went to Harvard early and was the youngest in his class. A world of success awaited him until a professor used him as part of a sick class experiment. This professor berated him repeatedly and the intolerable degradation caused him to eventually snap, write a manifesto, and send random people brown paper packages that appeared to be care packages but were, instead, full of explosives.
Even the Ivy League is trouble. What is a mother to do when such a possibility exists?
That is what I can tell you. This process is amazing. It’s lovely and incomparable to any other experience, but it’s also about letting go. I have no control over my body. I watch it like an alien being observing human life. I know I will say and do things that I regret, but I also hope I teach my daughter to be forgiving and compassionate. Or, maybe I can rely on K for that? Either way, it will be wonderful. Not easy, mind you, but wonderful.
So, I bake. It’s comforting. The worries and insecurities remain, but just in case she senses my stress, I know a good baking session is just the ticket to a spot of peace. Of course, it is also the path to something wonderfully delicious and homemade.
So, again, I give you a steaming homemade bread. It’s a bread that easy to make and full of wonderful flavors like cinnamon and walnuts. Pop this bread in the oven and fill your house with gorgeous smells and just a hint of the holidays ahead. It’s moist, and a touch sweet. It’s got a wonderful consistency and will hold a slab of butter like no other. And isn’t that the true test of a good bread? Well, it’s an important test, to be certain. A good slice of bread should hold together in the toaster so that you can slather it with a generous helping of butter. That’s my humble opinion. This bread passes the test with flying colors.
In the spirit of Fall, good things to come (and not worrying about the unborn), I will be posting a series of recipes for Holiday Breads. I firmly believe it’s a great thing to have on hand when you have guests or dinner parties to attend. Enjoy this loaf of Cinnamon Bread. Whether you’re pregnant and bananas or perfectly stable, you might just find the process a joyful and peaceful one.
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 tsp, plus 3 tblsp. sugar
2 and 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and chopped
5 tblsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 cup water
1 cup raisins
Stir the yeast, warm water, and 1/4 tsp sugar together in a small bowl. Let the mixture stand in a warm location until the yeast starts foaming, 5-10 minutes.
Combine the flours, remaining sugar, cinnamon, salt, and walnuts in a large bowl. Stir well. Stir the yeast mixture, butter, and 1/3 cup water into the flour mixture. Then stir in the raisins or work them in by hand. Let stand 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until it is smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl and turn the dough in it to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl loosely with a kitchen town and let the dough rise in a warm location until it is doubled in bulk, 45 -60 minutes.
Oil a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Punch the dough down and shape it into a loaf. Press the loaf into the prepared pan and, again, cover it loosely with a kitchen towel. Let it rise in a warm place until it nearly fills the pan, 45-60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the bread until the top is browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped with your finger, 35-40 minutes. Remove it from the pan and let it cool on a rack.
Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook