Lost in Austen

For someone who nearly specialized in 19th century literature, I'm a little embarrassed to say how little Jane Austen I read before last year, but what I lost in time I made up for in enthusiasm!

It all started when I picked up Northanger Abbey at the recommendation of Rebecca of "A Clothes Horse" and loved it so much I read Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion, one after another over the course of two weeks.

Mansfield Park was particularly fascinating since I read Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice a few years ago when the movie version (Belle) came out. Some speculation in an article I read about a connection between the two stories sparked my curiosity and stuck with me.

Naturally, all this Austen has me baking scones and rye bread, drinking tea much more than usual--which is really saying something!-- and contemplating ideas for a vegan version of clotted cream. I haven't quite perfected the scones and clotted cream, but I've definitely discovered my favorite rye bread recipe, with a few tweaks. Here's the version I like to use, adapted from the Yorkshire Rye recipe in Edwardian Cooking, the Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook:

2 packets instant yeast
2 cups warm water
2 tsp salt
2 TBS caraway seeds
3 cups dark rye flour
3+ cups whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour

Preheat your oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine yeast and water. Allow yeast to become slightly foamy before adding in the salt, rye flour, and caraway seeds.

If using a stand mixer, attach dough hook and begin to add whole wheat or pastry flour until the dough begins to pull away from the sides. (You may need to use a spatula to push the flour into the rest of the dough.) Once the dough has reached an elastic consistency, cover and proof in a warm area for at least 20 minutes.

Drop dough onto a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet or preheated baking stone and bake for 35 minutes. Fill an ovenproof dish with water and place on the rack below the bread for an especially crisp crust. After 35 minutes, remove the bread to cool, slice, and store in an airtight container.

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