My Innkeeper-Aunt is all about Christmas. While the rest of us complain about the stores pulling out holiday merchandise in September, she gets giddy and starts restocking lights, plugs, ornaments, lawn toys, etc. Before she ever bought this inn, she already had enough holiday stuff to fill a palace. Now she has salons and breakfast rooms and dining rooms and porches to fill and has trees in every nook and cranny.
Did I mention that she is Mrs. Clause in the local parade here in Alex. City?
Right now I have some apple walnut bread dough raising and a twisted coffeecake in the oven. The house smells like magic.
If my bed hadn’t been so deep and soft and warm I might have started my morning a little earlier, but there you are. I didn’t roll out until 8:00! Half the day was gone!
We went for an early stroll and picked pecans off the ground. A fresh pecan from the shell, all plump and chewy, is one of the most delicious things ever!
My Innkeeper-Aunt is all about pretty. Words to describe her outlook on life, other than Jesus, might be “glitter” “sparkle” “ribbons”. Everywhere you look is a bit of prettiness. And now, since it is November, it is holiday prettiness. All I can say is thank God for digital cameras, because I couldn’t afford to print these all up, let along wait around to get them developed. (How far we have come in a short time, and how spoiled I am.)
We are getting ready to decorate the main dining room tree and she plays Christmas music to work by. So Nat King Cole is crooning “Chestnuts roasting on an open fiiiirrreee” while the sky darkened and just decided to open up and pour down on her new roof. The house still smells cinnamon and will soon smell apple too from the bread raising.
I hope I can remember the bread recipe to share with you. I just did it from memory, but the measurements aren’t exact. They came out wonderful, just a little darker on top than I like. But I am working with a strange oven. If you put it on 375, you are not going to get 375, you might get 340 or so. So I set it higher and look at what I get on top:
But it will be delicious and it is better than no oven, which is what I have had the last couple of weeks. I just tented the bread when I realized it was dark, but not done inside. (How did I know? Intuition? ESP?Or an instant read thermometer? A little of all of those things.)
My Innkeeper-aunt is all about giving orders. And I am all about obeying them. “Yes Ma’am.” (Remember, I am in the south now) At least when it comes to knowing how to decorate a 10’ tree I just stand back and take orders.
“It’s dark over there in Africa. Add some lights”
“More lights in Antarctica over here…”
“Who’s going to reach the north pole and get lights up there?” By the time we are done, it looks more like the Milky Way.
My Innkeeper-Aunt is all about proper grammar. She does not tolerate it when youngsters put “like” scattered all through their sentences. “Like means ‘similar to’!”
And while we are at it, I say “oh-oh” too often. And none of this “I know” cause she knows you don’t! Then we both agreed on “yeah-no” at the start of almost every sentence. Is it yeah, or is it no? It can’t be both. I know.
She has guests tonight. So tomorrow morning I will try to be up bright and early to help pull together one of her amazing breakfasts. She says tomorrow is banana walnut pancakes and sausage. And lest we forget, apple pecan bread which makes amazing French toast to die for, or even delicious toast, without the French. Oh wait, I promised some of my stuffed morning buns. I may have to get up earlier than I planned. But then I think she has it covered.
Now here, to the best of my recollection, is the recipe for apple walnut bread. The amounts may not be exact, but if you have any bread baking experience, you should be able to manage.
APPLE WALNUT BREAD MAKES 2 LOAVES
2 or 3 apples, to equal about 2 cups chopped apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup milk
1 cup water
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 cup toasted and diced walnuts (but here in Alabama, we used ‘pee-cans’)
¼ cup walnut oil (or veggie oil)
About 5-6 cups flour
1 Tbsp. salt
Start with dicing the apples and set aside. Toast the nuts and set aside to cool. Then chop them up to.
Heat the 1 cup of milk mixed with the 1 cup of water until just warm, not hot or it will kill the yeast. Add the brown sugar and yeast. Pour this into a large mixing bowl or a standing mixer bowl.
Add the eggs, apples, nuts and 2 cups of flour. Blend together. Now add the salt. Don’t forget the salt! This goes for any breads you make.
Now continue adding flour until it makes a soft dough. You can use the dough hook of your mixer to do the kneading for you, or you can do it by hand, as I did in this case. Add flour if it is too sticky, but please keep in mind, the apples are moist. You could spend forever adding flour and the apples would keep adding moisture. So not too heavy on the flour. But you don’t want it too sticky. Just tacky.
Cover it with plastic and let it rise. Depending on your weather this may take an hour to 2 hours to double in size.
Cut the dough in half. Now cut each half into thirds. Roll each third out like a snake, but not too long. Just a garter snake. Then braid them together to make 2 loaves. Tuck the ends in and lay them in an oiled bread pan, 9 x 5. Cover again with plastic and let rise about an hour, until peeking over the edge of the pan.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush an egg wash over the loaf and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. I usually make my own, but aunty had a bottle of cinnamon sugar blend that I used instead. I need to buy some of that stuff to take home. She gets things here so much cheaper than back home in CA.
Bake about 30-40 minutes, depending on if your oven actually heats to 375 or if it goes to 325 or 450…The loaves needs to reach 180 degrees inside. If they get too dark on the outside, just tent some aluminum foil over the top until it reaches proper temperature.
Let cool for the most part before cutting. I like to freeze one loaf and eat one up now. It will be my morning toast. French toast. Bread pudding. Oh, and you can add raisins or cranberries too if you want.