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stronger than we think

coconut bread_1coconut bread_2

I have not felt all that strong this week. Getting out of bed has been a challenge, and the days have moved along rather tediously. Simple things like washing the dishes after dinner and deciding what I’ll eat for lunch tomorrow have seemed so difficult. I’m sure you know this feeling.

Sometimes I find myself wishing that I had known a long time ago how hard life can be. When I was still very small, I learned about the big things, like cancer and chronic pain and death and poverty and homelessness, even though none of them affected me in immediate ways. Those, of course, are obvious difficulties. But they are not what I’m talking about this time. I’m talking about daily life: decisions, vocation, relationships, workplaces, routines, plans, dreams. Only in the last couple of years have I realized that these everyday pieces of life are extremely complicated and messy and hard. Nothing is quite as clear and straightforward as I anticipated.

And more often than not, I want to communicate this to the young people in my life, especially the collection of teenagers in the youth group I help out with who have fully and thoroughly captured my heart with their antics and passions and strange combination of naiveté and wisdom. But I don’t know how. I cannot think of anything that I could say while communicating just as loudly, Your life has meaning, you are important, you will be wonderful, you already are.

Because that is true, too.

Recognizing all of this helps me see that at the end of the day, there’s probably nothing anyone can–or perhaps even should–say. I understand. (And this understanding is just part of becoming an adult, isn’t it? Okay, okay: I get it.)

And so. I do not feel sturdy. As it happens, I am not. But first of all, that’s okay, and furthermore, there’s more to it than that.

My yoga instructor said tonight, “You are not your anxiety. You are not your stress,” and I almost started crying. As we closed the class, this enchanting cover of “Higher Love,” by James Vincent Mc Morrow, was playing. Though I’m not sure why, it seems like the most beautiful thing to me right now, and I am playing it on repeat. My body feels strong, even if I don’t. It’s raining outside, but I feel just fine about that, too.

Maybe I am stronger than I think. Maybe we all are.

And this bread? Well, it is sturdy. Actually, it’s a wonderful balance of sturdiness and delicacy (…the way I hope to be). It is a quick bread, with that sweet lightness that quick breads tend to have, but it is dense, too, and healthful with its whole wheat and flakes of coconut. And the crust–oh, the crust! It is amazing, a crisp and crunchy contrast to the soft interior.

I love this bread. I make it all the time. I want to eat it all the time. Even my wonderful boyfriend, typically quite put off by the texture of coconut, loves this bread. It is perfect for midmorning at the workplace or for slicing thinly for late night snacks. I like it plain, or with jam. It is nice with butter, too, and simply heavenly when toasted. If you want a sweeter variation, a big handful of chocolate in the batter is a more than welcome addition.

And this sturdy bread will make you feel strong. Because, after all, you are.

slice of coconut bread

Whole Wheat Coconut Quick Bread

Adapted from Bill Granger via Tara O’Brady at Seven Spoons and Linda Nguyen at Toasty Biscuit

I make this with white whole wheat flour, but you could certainly use all-purpose flour, or a mixture of the two. This is exceptional as written, but as I mentioned above, it is also wonderful with chocolate–semisweet, dark or even cacao in the form of chips or a coarsely chopped bar. Per Tara’s recommendation, I have tried it with citrus zest, and she also suggests chopped crystallized ginger, which I think would be delicious. If you add zest, whisk it with the wet ingredients; toss chocolate or crystallized ginger into the batter as you mix in the melted butter.

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups (325 g) white whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (or 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) (190-215 g) sugar

generous 1 1/2 cup (140 g) flaked, unsweetened coconut

6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8×4 or 9×5 -inch loaf tin (alternately, butter the tin and line it with parchment paper) and set it aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the first three ingredients: the eggs, milk and vanilla.

In a larger bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix in the sugar and coconut.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Stir the batter gently, until just combined, and then fold in the melted butter. Be sure that you don’t overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until the top of the bread is deeply golden and crisp, and a knife inserted in its center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and, keeping the bread in the tin, cool it on a rack for about 5 minutes. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack and place it on its side to cool further.

Slice thickly, toast if you like and spread with butter and jam or marmalade. Or, wrap slices tightly to tote to the office or tuck into the freezer for another day.

Yield: 1 loaf; 8-10 servings

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