As I was growing up, my father always baked all our bread. I have incredible memories of helping him knead the dough, and of spreading thick layers of butter and honey onto the first pieces hot from the oven. Ever since I can remember, he’s always used the same recipe, so I was surprised this past Sunday when I walked into my parents’ kitchen to see a loaf the color of pumpkin bread cooling on the rack. When I asked him about it, he told me that he’d been reading David Servan-Schrieber’s Anticancer, and that he’d been really intrigued by a chapter on the benefits of spices, especially turmeric.
Late last year, Tufts University researchers found that supplementing lab mouse diets with pretty small amounts of turmeric seemed to decrease weight gain and lower cholesterol. A second, widely reported study in the British Journal of Cancer found that in a lab, turmeric was able to attack and kill cancer cells in as little as 24 hours. Simultaneously, it sent out “cell death signals” that caused the cancer cells to actually digest themselves.
Lastly, turmeric–like all spices–is exceptionally full of antioxidants. Just a teaspoonful can have more impact than several cups of some fruits and vegetables. Impressive stuff, thought my dad. So after over 30 years, he made a very simple adjustment to the Long Family Whole Wheat Bread recipe–he added a teaspoon of turmeric. You wouldn’t think that little would make a difference, but I can tell you firsthand: It really, really did. The bread was delicious. Sort of earthy and peppery. I couldn’t stop eating it.
As we speak, my dad’s forging ahead with a cumin variant (cumin, for the record, is great for stomach problems and has some anti-bacterial qualities). And there’s been a (questionable, in my opinion) request for cardamum.
What I loved most about all of this was the fact that it was such a strong–and flavorful–reminder of how big health benefits don’t always require major changes. Sometimes a little shift can be just enough. Below, this very tried, true, and now tweaked up recipe.
Spencer’s Whole Wheat Bread (with Turmeric)
2 cups water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup unbleached white flour
21/2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour
1/2 cup 10 grain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 packet yeast
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon turmeric
Pour the water and olive oil in a bread machine, then mix in all the dry ingredients. Bake on a standard or basic cycle.