I recently finished reading “The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson and it definitely ranks right behind “The Name of the Wind” and “Blood Song” as one of my favorite books ever. It had a fantastic storyline, vibrant main characters and was set on a unique world complete with its own geography, plant life and magical system. Towards the end of the book I had a hard time putting in down and eagerly looked forward to my next opportunity to read a few chapters. I just had to know what happened to Kaladin, Dalinar and all the other characters whose lives I’d become so invested in.
But you know what I liked most about this book? It described the food. I know that sounds silly but it always makes me sad when authors gloss over some feast the characters are enjoying. I want to know what they ate, how it tasted and whether they enjoyed it – you know? In “The Way of Kings,” Sanderson not only took the time to describe the food, he wove it into the culture – with men, women and children eating different kinds of food. So while a noble lady might enjoy chicken “mixed with steamed methi fruit and covered in reddish-brown sauce,” a noble man might eat a meal of “steamed stagm – a brownish tuber that grew in deep puddles – atop a bed of boiled tallew…drenched in peppery, brown gravy.” The main distinction being that women eat sweeter food than the men. (Children eat sweet foods too.)
In addition to being an important part of the culture, food also plays a significant role between characters – and that’s where this bread comes in. During the first half of the book one of the characters, named Kabsal, repeatedly brings gifts of fluffy bread and fruit preserves to a young apprentice named Shallan. Sometimes he bring simberry jam, other times bluebar or Truthberry jam (all kinds of berries), and finally an “exotic” strawberry jam from the far-off lands of Shin. It turns out the bread and jam have an important role to play in Kabsal’s ultimate goal, but I won’t go into that here in case you want to read the book. :) Suffice it to say that fresh bread accompanied by delicious sounding jams came up often enough between these two characters that, by the time I was halfway through the book, I really wanted fluffy bread with jam.
For inspiration I turned to a simple recipe for Portuguese Sweet Bread from AllRecipes.com. I modified it according to what I had in mind, but I thought this would be a good place to start since this kind of bread is fluffy and sweet, much like the ones described in the book. Portuguese Sweet Bread also happens to be one of the munchkin’s all-time-favorite breads from the Healthy Living Market here in Vermont and I wasn’t opposed to finding a homemade version that he liked just as much.
The munchkin helped me make the bread and in modifying the recipe we increased the sugar, replaced margarine with an increased amount of butter, added an extra egg yolk and switched from a bread machine baking method to a traditional rise and bake in the oven method. The end result was a rich bread with a near addictive hint of sweetness. The munchkin has declared it better than the bread we’ve been buying and only wants homemade from now on (hooray!).
And as for me? This bread satisfied my craving, especially once we cut fluffy slices from the loaf and covered them with homemade strawberry jam. It was a perfect combination – and for those of you who have read “The Way of Kings,” no the bread with strawberry jam did not have such a dramatic outcome. ;)
- 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm milk
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3½ - 4 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon olive oil (for rising)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon water
- Warm the milk in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds, until it's just warm enough for a baby's bottle. Pour into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk. Let sit for 5 minutes.
- Add the butter, egg, egg yolk, sugar and salt, mixing well. Add 1 cup of the bread flour and mix until smooth. Add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time until the dough is too thick to stir and has clumped around your spoon. (Usually this happens after about 3 cups of flour.)
- Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, adding more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a smooth dough that bounces back when lightly pressed with your thumb. Transfer to another bowl that has been lightly greased with olive oil. Turn the dough in the bowl, then cover with saran wrap and let rise in a warm spot for 2 hours.
- Gently deflate the dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with PAM or another baking spray. Form the dough into a loaf shape and place in the pan. Cover loosely with saran wrap. Let rise for 1 hour.
- While the dough is finishing its second rise, preheat the oven to 350F.
- Whisk the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash. Remove the saran wrap and brush the egg wash over the top of the dough.
- Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when gently thumped on the top. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before running a bread knife around the edges of the pan and turning out onto a rack to finish cooling.