Milk toast may have a lousy reputation, but when prepared right it can actually be a healthful, easy-to-prepare winter dinner.
The first step to making good milk toast is to make good bread.
Most of us can remember lying abed with the midwinter snuffles — likely as a result of one too many days of running around in a soaking wet snowsuit and slush-filled galoshes — and being served a diet that seemed to consist of little more than slightly stale water and milk toast.
Now in those circumstances, such a dish (which, more often than not, consisted of plain white bread drenched with lukewarm milk) was rarely seen as a treat. However, I've discovered how to make a special milk toast that's not only a big hit with every member of the family, but a real snap to prepare, as well. In fact, once I've baked the bread (a chore that would have to be done in any case), even my youngest diners can make their own tasty meals. It's no wonder, then, that I've established a tradition of "Sunday milk toast supper" around our house!
Of course, before I can sit back and watch my family prepare the hassle-free dinners once a week, I have to contribute my share ... which I do in the course of my regular weekly baking-day chores. I've developed a recipe that turns out delicious bread loaves, which are great for day-to-day eating and especially tasty when served as milk toast.
To begin, measure 3 cups of oatmeal, 1/2 cup of bran, 3 teaspoons of sea salt, 2 tablespoons of oil (or butter), and 1 cup of raisins (the last ingredient is optional) into a big bowl. Pour 3 cups of boiling water over the dry mix, stir it up, and set it aside till it's lukewarm.
While you're waiting, pour 1/2 cup of honey and 1/2 cup of molasses into a smaller bowl ... add 1 cup of warm water ... and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of dry yeast over the liquid. Let this bowl stand, too, until the yeast bubbles and the oatmeal mixture (in the other container) has cooled.
Now, pour the yeast mix into the oatmeal bowl, stir well, and keep adding flour (I use about 5 cups of stone-ground whole wheat flour and 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour, plus as much unbleached white flour as necessary) until you've produced a kneadable dough.
Once the bread-to-be has been kneaded, put it in an oiled bowl ... cover it with a warm, slightly damp towel ... and let it rise until the dough doubles. At that point, punch the aromatic mass down, shape it into three loaves, and place them in oiled bread pans.
After the dough has risen to the top of the containers, slide the pans into a cold oven, set the temperature control at 350° F, and let the bread bake for about 50 minutes until the loaves are a light bronze. Then turn them out of the tins and—when they're completely cool—wrap and store them (you can even freeze some ... if you don't devour the whole batch first!).
And just how do you transform that delicious bread into (equally) delicious milk toast? Well, simply warm milk — at a low heat, being sure that it doesn't boil — in a heavy pan. (Better yet, have someone else do it. After all, you've done your share of the work already!) Then toast a slice of the hearty loaf — make it a good thick one! — butter it, and place it in a bowl. Sprinkle the bread with cinnamon, drizzle a little honey over it, and then pour in a generous ladleful of hot milk.
I can't imagine a better way to begin a relaxing winter evening!
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