When Kyle and I first moved in together, we went from dating long distance, seeing each other on vacations and long weekends and always in a place that clearly belonged to one or the other of us, to seeing each other 24/7 in an apartment that had been mine (briefly, but still) and was now ours. It was pretty much like two planets colliding – to be clear, I mean that in the world-ending kind way, not some romantic a-star-is-born kind of way.
I can joke about it now because we worked through it, and in working through it we confirmed what we had been sure of from the moment we met – that is, that we wanted to be together forever. But those first few months of living together, with Kyle getting acclimated to a new state and time zone and schedule and life, and me being anxious and perfectionistic and let’s face it needing to maintain a certain level of order that
borders on is decidedly neurotic – well. We were spending hours (hours!) in lengthy discussion about how we could stop arguing, forever, and live out the perfect relationship we were pretty sure we had.
So (obviously!) – we visited a marriage counselor. He looked at us with outright surprise when we declared our reasons for being there – and became visibly flabbergasted when we added that no, we were not actually married, and also no, we were not actually having relationship problems. Kyle, ever the MBA, explained it along these lines (I’m paraphrasing here): “We’re proactively assessing the best options for enhanced communication within the organization, as part of a strategic “talking” overhaul and longterm-system implementation that will guarantee accurate and timely payouts.” (And by payouts I suspect he meant … well, not payouts).
The counseling was short-lived: we bonded over mocking our overly-kind therapist’s ‘relationship discovery tools’ and realized that if we spent the money on a housecleaner instead, we would be well on the road to relationship perfection.
And so here we are!
Okay, no, maybe not perfect. But like any combination that is deeply good and right, we have found that our relationship can take on many forms – and always maintain the truth that is at its core. I don’t know much about what makes a good marriage, but I think this kind of deep flexing – this ability to adapt to wherever you are on the road together and still maintain your connection, and keep holding hands – this must be one of the keys.
As much as I cannot really fathom it, someday Kyle and I will be back to being just us again – our little ones will be big, and they will be (I can barely even stand to type it) gone from home. There will be new directions to grow and bend and be together. And I think, like all truly good combinations, there will be delight in whatever shape we take.
Buckwheat Maple Bread
It is no secret that I think buckwheat and maple syrup together is one of the world’s most significantly amazing flavor combinations. I make a pasta dish for my kids with buckwheat soba noodles, and a sauce made out of ricotta and maple syrup – add some chopped raisins and pecans and you can even fill buckwheat ravioli with it. I know, not up everyone’s alley. But this bread takes the buckwheat/maple combo in a different direction – and it is a beloved favorite here. It is a little sweet from maple syrup (and if you use the optional syrup brushed on top, it gets a sweet crackly crust too). The buckwheat flavor shines through too though, and toasted … holy wow. I am a butter fan, and butter on toast can pretty much make my day, but this bread is so good toasted that I eat it straight up dry.
Imagine your favorite toasty buckwheat waffle, that almost-purply color of the crumb and the deep grainy flavor. Then imagine just a hint of maple syrup baked right in. The crackly toasted-bread edges give way to a dense yet soft crumb. This is a chew bread, not a shatter bread, but it is not heavy. To use the totally unprofessional bread-cake comparison chart: this is not angel food cake, but it is also not a pound cake. It is some wonderful place in between.
There are four flours called for here, and I’m not trying to be difficult: you could omit the all-purpose flour and use either whole wheat or bread flour in its place – but I find that little bit of all-purpose goes a long way, if you happen to have it handy.
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (body temperature is good)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups bread flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Optional: 1 tablespoon maple syrup and a pinch of sugar
Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the water, in the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix the oil and maple syrup into the remaining water. Add 1/2 a cup of the bread flour to the yeast-water in the mixer bowl, mix together, and let sit for about five minutes. Then add the rest of the water mixture and the remaining bread flour. Mix well. Add the buckwheat flour and mix, then add the wheat flour. Put the bowl on the mixer with the bread hook, and start to mix on “Stir” (or your slowest speed) until the dough begins to come together around the hook. It will be sticky.
Slowly add the 1/4 cup all purpose flour to the mixing dough, sprinkling it down the sides. Let it absorb. You want the dough to be quite moist, but not so sticky that it is super tacky to the touch. If needed, add additional whole wheat or all purpose flour, a tablespoon at a time. (You shouldn’t need more than one or two tablespoons, if any). Knead on medium-low speed with the bread hook for eight minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic and passes a “stretch test” where you can stretch a little piece of it out to almost-translucency. Don’t over-knead.*
Once the dough is smooth and elastic, remove the bowl from the mixer. Form the dough into a ball, then put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp dishtowel and let the dough rise for 2 hours or until doubled. Line a baking sheet with parchment while it is rising.
When the first rise is done, punch the dough down and knead it again to get any bubbles out. Shape the dough into a round loaf, and put it on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Turn oven on to 350 F and let dough rise uncovered for thirty minutes, while the oven preheats.
Cut two shallow slashes across the top with a sharp knife, in the shape of an X. Brush the top of the loaf with maple syrup and sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of sugar, if desired. Bake at 350 F for thirty minutes or until browned and cooked through. Enjoy a piece toasted … with butter, or even dry :)