Life is full of plenty of surprises, and I’m happy to tell you that we’ve received a very special one. It’s not a move to a new location, or a cooking show, as one reader friend guessed. It’s actually much better, based on my experience to date.
In late February of 2015, our family of four will become a party of five as we are expecting our third child! I’ll pause for a minute while you take a seat. Are you as shocked as we were? To say it’s a surprise is an understatement, and to say we’re excited completely minimalizes how everyone feels about this new person that’s joining our family.
As you mentally try to do the math on our kids’ ages, let me help you out. Yep, the boys will be 13 and 14 years old when their new sibling arrives. It’s a huge gap, for sure, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit nervous about going back to baby days and starting over while simultaneously living in a house full of teenagers. But then I think about my two nieces, who are 3 ½ and 2, and I focus on how much the boys adore those girls (and vice-versa – it’s a mutual love fest when they are together) and I feel confident that this baby is going to grow up with the most loving, protective, and caring brothers anyone could hope for.
Of course, they have their concerns and wonder how their life will be different: will they be able to continue having sleepovers with a baby in the house (the answer is yes), will their friends still be able to come over and hang out (also, yes), and are we going to have the time to pick them up from the movies at 11pm (yep, there are two of us here and we both don’t need to be with the baby at all times). I think we’ve done a good job of convincing them that while our lives are definitely going to change, it will almost undoubtedly be for the better.
As far as my 18-week pregnancy is concerned, I have no complaints! I’ve never been sick with any of my babies (so sorry if you have!), and while even the tiniest of offensive smells can make me gag repeatedly (as can a myriad of 10,000 other things) I feel pretty great for a 38-year-old pregnant person. I’ve gained very little weight to date; I’m sporting a Fitbit on my right wrist and aim for my 10,000 steps daily, which usually equates to fitting a 40-minute walk into my day; and I have three in-house male midwives making sure I get plenty of rest, don’t lift anything too heavy, and eat often.
Speaking of eating, my appetite resembles that of a toddler, but I’m working through it. I currently crave anything white and bland (toasted bagels have become a morning staple), and I’m having trouble downing salads (except a kale Caesar) and most vegetables (unless they’re roasted or turned into soups). I also have very little time for meat, although I make myself eat it. There are no crazy cravings to speak of, and I’m making an effort to incorporate more whole-grains into my daily meals. This week I’ve replaced those beloved bagels with this dense and wholesome cinnamon raisin bread, which I slice, toast and cover with a thick smear of natural, crunchy peanut butter or a generous knob of butter. I figure it’s got to be better for me than the processed bread products I’ve been living on for the past four months and the extra protein from the peanut butter can only be good for me.
I’ve wanted to get into the habit of baking more bread, and this seemed like the perfect place to start. The recipe is slightly adapted from both the Smitten Kitchen blog and Peter Reinhart, the whole-grain baking expert. It makes two loaves, one of which I freeze, and tastes pretty fantastic any way you choose to eat (is it weird that I want to make a grilled cheese sandwich using thick-cut slices of this bread and smelly aged cheddar cheese?).
So there you have it: our BIG surprise of the summer of 2014! Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments.
Whole-Grain Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread
Makes 2 9-inch loaves
- 5 cups whole-wheat flour, plus extra for the counter
- 1 ¼ cups rye flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- ¼ cup melted butter, cooled to lukewarm
- 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
- 1 ¼ cups lukewarm milk
- 1 ½ tablespoons instant yeast
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
To make the bread dough, in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine water, milk and sugar, then whisk in yeast until dissolved. Add the beaten egg and oil and whisk until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. Add this to the yeast mixture, and, using the paddle attachment, mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute. The dough will be wet but don’t fret. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on medium-low for 2 more minutes. The dough will seem firm and smoother, ideally sticky to the touch, but if it’s still too wet, add a bit more flour, a spoonful at a time until it easily pulls away from the sides of the bowl when mixed. Continue to knead with dough hook for 4 minutes.
Scrape dough out onto lightly floured counter. Knead a few times, then form into a ball and let it rest, covered by the empty bowl placed over top of it. Let rest for 10 minutes and then repeat this process — kneading a few times, then resting for 10 minutes — two more times.
Transfer the round dough ball to lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let proof at room temperature for 60 to 70 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling by combining the sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and flour in a small bowl.
Turn the risen dough out onto a floured counter and divide it into two equal pieces. Roll each into a long, thin rectangle, about 16-x-8 inches. Brush the dough with the beaten egg and water mixture. Sprinkle half the filling evenly over the egg.
Beginning with a short edge, roll the dough into a log. Gently press the side seam and ends closed, and place the log in a lightly greased loaf pan. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for another hour at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake the bread for approx. 40 minutes, rotating the loaf once for even color. When done, it will sound a bit hollow when tapped on the top. Let cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.