Producers will do almost anything to sell us their foods: Recipe contests. Free booklets. Pamphlets that sing the praises of adding a dab of this, a pinch of that, to a convenience food.
But who hasn't searched the shelves in vain looking for a particular brand of seasoning or a certain kind of cake mix? The search may become even more complicated when it's a recipe that came from, say, your cousin in California or your former neighbor in Louisiana because some products are only available regionally.That's why recipes that don't depend on offbeat ingredients have staying power.
One winner of the National Honey Board's recipe contest was especially appealing, since our larder already contained some honey gathered by a friend's beekeeper parents.
Henrietta Napier's Honey Whole-Wheat Bread is different from traditional wheat breads. Besides calling for honey rather than sugar, the bread has two unusual ingredients: carrots and bananas. The carrots present pleasant flecks of orange in the brown bread, but the bananas left little trace of their presence, adding mostly moistness. The bread's a winner, all right.
Yet for many years the winning cook was afraid to make bread. She once worried about the proper water temperature to dissolve the yeast, but then, she says, she "cheated. I bought a thermometer." Now she checks that the water is between 95 and 110 degrees so as not to kill the yeast.
"Bread's really not hard, and it's a fun thing to make," says the Nashville, Tenn., cook.
She began baking bread 12 years ago for health reasons. "I'd been making bread for the family, and thought I would try to make a healthy bread - we're on a big health kick."
Bread is a good source of fiber, complex carbohydrates and B vitamins. For extra punch, Napier added the carrots and bananas - the last for potassium. "Bread is not the culprit that a lot of people think it is," she says. "If you eat a nice piece of bread with a meal . . . if you know it's homemade . . ."
This renewed emphasis on eating whole grain breads - the government's new Dietary Guidelines recommend six to 11 servings of grains a day - and a new mixer at our house inspired an afternoon baking the Honey Whole-Wheat Bread.
If you're pressed for time, rapid-rise yeast can be substituted for regular yeast. Another tip from Napier: Let the dough rise on top of the refrigerator, often one of the warmer places in the kitchen.
(For a copy of the booklet with the 16 winning recipes, write National Honey Board, Evans Food Group, 190 Queen Anne Ave. North, Seattle, WA 98109. Enclose a check for $1 payable to the National Honey Board.)
Honey Whole-Wheat Bread
2 packages active dry yeast
3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup finely shredded carrots
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 butter of margarine, softened
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 to 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Stir in whole-wheat flour, 1 3/4 cups warm water, carrots, banana, butter, honey, salt and cinnamon; beat until smooth using an electric mixture. Mix in all-purpose flour. Knead about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic on a lightly floured board. Placed in greased bowl and turn to grease all sides of dough. Cover bowl and let rise about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Punch down, divided in half, flatten each half with a rolling pin or your hands to 18-by-9-inch rectangle. Overlap the two short sides and fold into thirds. Roll each half up tightly and place in a greased 9-by-5-inch bread pan. Brush tops with melted butter.
Let rise about one hour or until doubled in size. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until loaves have a hollow sound when tapped and crust is brown.
Makes 2 loaves.