Hobbling around on crutches means you can’t do much of what you usually do, but as long as you have a bit of balance and are organised, you can still pivot on one leg in the kitchen.
The other day I made what around here will forever be known as one-legged bread.
To make one-legged bread, you first have to rip your quadriceps tendon, get it sown back to your kneecap around three permanently installed screws, spend nearly a week in hospital, and still be a week or so away from being able to walk without crutches or ankle-to-hip leg brace.
If that step sounds like too much hassle, I fully understand.
But since making bread of any kind means going slow, being patient and taking long pauses, your mindset is already there if you’re approaching it on one leg.
And because your muscles are wasting away immobile while the tendon heals, you should be eating a lot of protein – like steak! That is a tip from my old friend Vreni in Vancouver at Wellness Works. And I’ve recently discovered an ancient whole grain called Kamut that is not only very tasty, it has more than twice the protein of run-of-the-mill whole grain wheat. So in this recipe, that’s what I use. It grinds up well in a grain mill if you have one. Thanks again, Vreni – for that and your advice on how to best recover from my injury.
The first step is to make a thick, awful-looking batter called a sponge that will serve as the basis of the bread dough. In this recipe you use white flour, kamut flour, dried yeast, honey and lukewarm water. Ingredient list and details at bottom.
Mix that up with a whisk until it has the consistency of thick pancake batter.
Then mix well together some more white flour, yeast and salt, and pour all that over the sponge. Cover and let sit on your counter for an hour, then put it in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours. Or if winter is still lingering, stick it out on the balcony if it’s not too far below freezing.
When you get up the next morning, the yeast will have bubbled up into the flour mixture and look like this:
Now get a good wooden spoon and mix it all together, then knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
Then go give your leg – and the bread – a rest! Stick a bowl over the dough and let it sit for 20 minutes. That allows the dough to expand a bit, making the rest of the kneading easier.
While you’re letting the bread rest or during one of the risings, maybe you can do an exercise you learned in physio: lie flat on your back, and try to raise the injured knee off the ground by sliding your heel along the floor toward your butt. I get about this far until it hurts like a bugger and I can raise it no more:
Back to the bread:
Knead it for about 10 minutes more after it rests, then put back in your bowl, cover and set in a warm place to rise.
It should rise about double after about 90 minutes.
Punch it down, fold it over a couple of times – but don’t knead it – then put it back into your bowl to rise a second time. It won’t take as long this time to rise.
After it’s risen a second time, punch it down again and shape to an elongated form and place in your bread pan.
Leave it uncovered somewhere warm to rise to about an inch or so above the loaf pan rim, then stick in the oven at 240 degrees C or 475 F for 10 minutes, lowering the temperature to 215 C or 425 F and baking for another 25 minutes or so.
Take it out, let it cool on a rack a bit, slice off an end, put on a bit of butter, enjoy! Then hop off to rest while it all cools.
Ingredients and method: I have two huge loaf pans, so I multiply by FOUR the recipe listed below. Splitting the huge mass of dough into two, each loaf should weigh about 1600 grams before you bake it. I usually cut the loaves in half and freeze what we don’t eat right away.
Putting the sponge mixture overnight in the fridge is not really necessary. You can mix it up into dough after a couple of hours if you like, but leaving it overnight makes for a more full-flavoured bread. Just make sure you let it warm up again for an hour or so after taking it out of the cold.
For the sponge:
All-purpose white flour (in Germany 405): 1 cup / 155 grams
Kamut or whole wheat flour: 1/4 c / 36 g
Honey: 1 1/4 tsp
Dry instant yeast: 3/8 tsp / 1.25 g
water 1 1/3 cups: / 320g
DO NOT ADD SALT TO THE ABOVE MIXTURE.
White flour: 1 3/4 cups / 290g
Dry instant yeast: 1/2 tsp
Salt: 1 1/2 tsp
This recipe I’ve adapted from The Bread Bible, eliminating all the fancy stuff like throwing in ice cubes into the oven before baking to provide moisture. She also recommends pre-heating the oven to 475 F ONE HOUR BEFORE BAKING! I suppose in a universe of infinitely free electricity this might not be such a bad idea, but around here our light bills just jumped another 10 percent, so lady, forget it!