the last week’s last day

OH my GOSH. Has it been forever or WHAT. I do, however, have some fairly (I think?) good excuses for the long absence, namely: we’ve been undoing the house for a summer alone since at least this time last week. B is winging west for a very fancy externship in California, and I’m heading east for a fancy internship in DC — which is all very lovely for our professional selves, but this whole house! It won’t put itself to bed.

My last day at the museum in Cedar Rapids was Thursday. My last day at the retail store was Sunday. (Supposed to be Saturday! But for schedule mishaps! Ack. Moving on.) And then the car, the one car we have, got shipped out on Monday. On one of these trucks.

So that was all, GOODBYE SOLE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION. Naturally we had to precede this parting with a lot of planning. What would we eat for dinner every single night this week? (I hate this sort of planning; it seems that, despite making fun of my dad for going food shopping every day, and treating the grocery stores like a French marché, I am, irrepressibly, cut from the same cloth.) Do we have enough milk for a week’s worth of cereal? Enough eggs to accommodate my random desires to make cookies? And pancakes? Enough lemons for cocktails?

It turns out, we did; and on those wild days when I also had to run to (a) the post office, (b) UPS, (c) the recycling center, (d) the pharmacy, and (e) Cold Stone (oh, this isn’t a regular thing for you?), we were able to borrow Friend Jill’s car. Good thing, too. That particular string of errands took place more than once. We were set on food for the week, but shipping and toiletries? Well, it would appear that I’m not so good at planning.

Which brings us to yesterday, when a rash of “I have got to use up some of this produce before Saturday” collided head-on with “You know what would make my fridge-clean-out lunch even better? Bread. Why don’t I make some?” Yes. On the eve of our Last Day Here and while simultaneously pursuing a mission of purge, now!, I made a loaf of bread.

I will give you a moment to absorb my brilliance.

At least I got an insanely good porch picnic out of it.

And kids, I wasn’t going to tell you about this bread — I didn’t even photograph making it — but it turned out scandalously, yes scandalously good. So as silly as I feel adding yet another recipe to this site — and admitting that we had rye flour in the house, I mean, who has that lying around? — on it goes. You will not be disappointed. In fact, I’m just going to say it: this is the best bread I’ve ever made.

It’s hearty and rustic, and my cookbook even says it “makes an excellent picnic lunch”! It also advises you to pair it with goat cheese: DO.

Walnut Beer Bread
The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook (Remember them? We love them.)

Ingredients for two loaves

  • 1 1/2 cups warm beer
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, more as needed
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 cup walnut oil (this, I don’t have on hand; olive oil was fine)
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp water
  • fresh or dried rosemary


Heat the beer to 105-115 degrees F (or, just put it in the microwave for 20 seconds) and pour 1/2 cup into a small bowl. Stir in the yeast and let stand ten minutes.

Mix the flours, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture, oil, and remaining 1 cup beer into the well and stir until blended. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes, adding more flour if necessary. (I found this quite necessary; don’t panic!)

Coat a large bowl with a splash of walnut oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, around two hours. (How to tell if it’s doubled in size? Stick two fingers in the dough. If it springs back, it’s not ready yet.)

Punch the dough down and knead in the onion and walnut until evenly distributed. Add more flour as needed. The onions will make it frustratingly wet, but persevere!

Divide the dough in half and each half into thirds. Using your hands, roll or pull each of the pieces into 12-inch long ropes. Braid three ropes together to form a loaf. Tuck the ends under and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover and let the loaves rise until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to 1 hr.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat the egg and 2 tbsp water in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with rosemary.

Bake until crusty and brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on the sheet for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ciana on May 9, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    This looks great, what type of beer did you use? FYI, I went to school in Iowa City (class of 2001), which was what initially brought me to your blog!


    • Posted by iowasthinking on May 9, 2010 at 5:34 pm

      I used a Sam Adams, because that’s all I had on hand, but I’m sure anything would work.


  2. Posted by Red Chiffon Skirt on May 10, 2010 at 7:11 am

    oh yum! looks better than i had imagined when you told me about it


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