New Year 2022 and Cranberry Walnut Bread
January 1, 2022 – Marisa Guerin, PhD
It’s the turning of the new year, leaving 2021 behind, welcoming whatever 2022 has in store for us. As it happens, I am someone who is significantly challenged by figuring out time zones, but I have no trouble understanding that over the course of twenty-four hours, on one special night, midnight sweeps across the globe and just about everyone celebrates it. Even the dampening effects of the still-threatening pandemic can’t totally erase the fireworks, parades, champagne, grapes, and goofy hats and glasses that spill out wherever partiers gather, whether that’s Australia, France, or New York.
Perhaps it’s especially important to mark the turn of the year in these almost two years of “thin” life experience. The pandemic has stolen so many milestones since March of 2020. Instead of looking back on months rich with events – graduations, weddings, birthdays, baby showers, funerals, holidays, trips, festivals – we strain to remember what happened in a grey flow of same-same-same, punctuated by natural disasters that keep coming in waves as the planet warms.
But we will recover. Humans, animals, plants – all of nature is amazingly resilient. Treasured older traditions will be restored, and where they can’t be, new ones will be created. Young people will remember the time of Covid in their growing up years the way I remember the time of the Vietnam war, or the way my parents remembered the Depression. It will find its place in the human story, and we will move on. The planetary crisis that is brewing will continue to push and punish human communities; just how much will depend on whether we figure out how to make a sharp left turn on the road to climate change. But earth will survive, and humans will, too, in some shape or form.
That’s my “very big picture, zoom out” lens for thinking about difficult times. The other lens that works is the “very small picture, zoom in.”
In that small lens, I see my home and my life with Mike, the simplicity of our day to day – household chores, maybe a walk, errands, phone chats with family and friends, meals, and rest. I will go through whatever the chemo treatments are that my oncologist advises, and perhaps this will be a year in which I reach some degree of remission of my multiple myeloma cancer.
In this small lens, we do our best to stay connected to our many and beloved Guerin-Williams-Walker-Daley-Langdon-Loverro-Sweeney-Guibert family members, and with our neighbors and friends. Maybe, maybe, this will be the year that Thanksgiving for a cast of thousands returns, and Christmas feasting at our house, and summer parties and beach week. There might be new babies; but it is also a year in which we fear we may lose some of those we love. Life pushes on, and it is importantissimo that each day be given the full attention and gratitude that it deserves, no matter what the day brings. If we are willing to love, we are guaranteed both joy and sorrow; they come with the privilege of truly, deeply, loving others.
I hope this is the year that the book I have been working on with Brother Joseph Schmidt finds its way to the world. We are pretty much ready. And then, perhaps, the muse will speak to me and I will re-discover what else I want or need to be writing about. So stay tuned.
And in the meantime, perhaps you might like to bake some bread? Here is an especially easy recipe that rises overnight and you bake it in the morning. Enjoy the gifts of the day!
Dutch Oven Cranberry Walnut Bread
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons of all- purpose flour, plus a little bit more later in the recipe for your hands 2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt (regular table salt lacks the flavor you want to achieve) ½ teaspoon of instant yeast ¾ cup of toasted and chopped walnuts ¾ cup of dried cranberries 1 tablespoon of honey 1 and ½ cups of warm water (approximately 95 degrees Fahrenheit)
You’ll need a Dutch oven or any large pot with a tight-fitting lid (a tight-fitting lid is most crucial to the recipe), a large mixing bowl and a large sheet of parchment paper, one that is safe to use under high heat.
1. In a large mixing bowl, stir in the first six ingredients of the recipe. There is no need to grease or oil the bowl beforehand. (Note – I think it works better if you dissolve the honey in the warm water that goes in next.)
2. Stir in the warm water. The dough should be pretty sticky, but don’t be tempted to add more flour, you want a sticky dough at this point.
3. Gently shape the dough while it’s in the bowl into a ball as best as you can.
4. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and set on the counter at room temperature and allow the dough to rise for 12-18 hours. The dough will double in size, stick to the sides of the bowl, and be covered in air bubbles.
5. After 12-18 hours when the dough has doubled in size, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using lightly floured hands shape into a ball as best as you can. The dough doesn’t have to be perfect!
6. Transfer the dough to the large sheet of parchment paper, gently score an X into the top of the dough with a sharp knife. Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap and leave alone for 30 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, yes that’s a pretty high temperature, but it’s the perfect temp to get the crusty brown loaf of bread that you want to achieve. Place your Dutch oven, or heavy-duty pot with the lid inside the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes so that it’s extremely hot before the dough is placed inside.
8. After 30 minutes, carefully remove the hot Dutch oven from the oven with oven mitts or oven gloves. Carefully remove the lid, lift up the dough with the parchment paper and place the dough as well as the parchment paper inside the Dutch oven and cover with the lid.
9. Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. After 25 minutes remove the lid and continue to bake for 8-10 minutes longer until the bread is a nice golden brown. Remove the pot from the oven and allow to cool on the counter top for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
Delicious served warm soon after baking, or over the next few days, sliced and toasted with butter or served with cheese.