My heart has ached this week, at the approach of today’s one-year anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine. The people of that nation have stunned the world with their incredible resilience and dedication to their country. Many brave men, women and families have refused to leave in the wake of hostile invasion and are living under constant threat amid air raid sirens, bombings and widespread power outages. They are truly an inspiration.
The older I get, the more grateful I am to have never experienced true hardship or food insecurity, and when stories like the ones emerging from Ukraine are presented, I want to do something, anything, to help. It isn’t possible, of course, for me to make a huge meal to help people on the other side of the world, but I am proud to support an organization that puts itself on the front line to do exactly that.
In a few days, my husband and I will be in attendance for a lecture by Chef José Andrés, the founder of World Central Kitchen, a non-profit organization that has spent the last year bringing much needed food and comfort to war-torn Ukraine, as well as other regions stricken by climate disaster and other catastrophic situations— usually, it even juggles multiple relief efforts at once (see a sampling of their current work here). That’s how strong they are!
The decision to support a relief organization is personal, and if you’re like me, you do some homework to be sure your money is being used responsibly. I am extremely impressed by the integrity of World Central Kitchen, which has earned an A+ rating from charitywatch.org, and meets or exceeds all its requirements for governance and transparency. The organization is powered by thousands of volunteers, professional and amateur, and they are able to activate and mobilize very quickly when a crisis occurs. Yesterday, I also registered to be a volunteer; if a crisis occurs near me, I’m already signed up and ready to go. Giving and volunteering is easy to do on the WCK website.
I cannot make enough bread in my kitchen to feed the people of Ukraine, but I have great confidence in knowing that my tax-deductible contributions to World Central Kitchen are used wisely and effectively to care for the people whose hardships weigh heavily on me. If you also wish you could do something to help, I hope you’ll consider partnering with this exceptional effort.
If I could make enough bread to make a difference, I’d make a million loaves of this one, mostly because it’s a hearty and nutritious whole grain loaf, but also because it is sweetened with honey and embellished inside and out with sunflower seeds. The beautiful sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine, and also happens to be a favorite of honeybees. To me, a bread like this is a reminder that we are all connected on this big blue ball we call home.
This bread is an adaptation of my favorite sourdough sandwich bread, and the substitutions I made were easy.
Rather than repeat all the instruction I’ve already given for my basic bread, I’ll point to what I did differently for this one, and trust you’ll find your way back to my earlier post if you need more visual information. This bread, like the other, depends on a portion of fed, ripe sourdough starter. It uses a special technique of pre-cooking a portion of the flour in milk, then cooling it before adding to the recipe.
I swapped in a generous amount of white whole wheat flour as well as a portion of an ancient grains blend flour from King Arthur, called Super 10. This super-nutritious flour includes quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and millet, among others. It gives my bread a flavor and texture boost without making it dense or heavy. I nearly doubled the amount of honey from my base recipe, and used the stretch-and-fold phase of the fermentation to fold in about a half cup of toasted sunflower seeds. This dough is very sticky, thanks to the ancient grains and high hydration, so use wet hands to complete the stretches. This is a gentle but effective way to knead the dough and incorporate the extra ingredient of seeds.
When the dough was ready for shaping, I used wet hands again to form a loaf, and then moistened the underside and rolled it lightly in additional sunflower seeds before placing it in my baking pan. Then, I baked the loaf as directed in my original post. Use a steam pan for the first 20 minutes, and a tent foil for the remainder of the baking time.
We love a good sandwich bread at our house. My husband filled two slices of this one with tuna salad for lunch, and I’ve already enjoyed it toasted with breakfast. Without a doubt, this bread will become a regular item in our rotation, and with every loaf I pull from the oven, I’ll hold the mighty people of Ukraine in my heart. 💙💛