Mark Bittman's Yogurt Bread

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The characters who wander through fiction always seem to be eating: they dine on crab casserole and chicken with plums. They taste madeleines and pomegranates and Turkish delight. They quest, they adventure, and above all, they feast.

If I’m being honest, this is half the reason I read. I want to break lembas with elves and sink my teeth into marmalade rolls. I want the cold of snow candy and the burn of firewhiskey—because food and fiction nourish us like nothing else can. They are, for those of us who aren’t witches and wizards, the best kind of magic we have.

And so, I am going to try something a little different. With every post henceforth, you’ll find not only a recipe, but also a short fairytale by yours truly. Think of it like a wine pairing. I’ll venture down into my story cellars, fetch the finest vignette, and pour you a glass. I hope that this fairytale will come alive for you. I hope it will remind you how enchanting food can be. I hope it gets you drunk.

THE FOX HOUSE
"I can make you a hero," the fox whispered, "but only if you are brave." And Liuwen was.

For this first post, I’ve chosen the hearty bread pictured above. Have it for breakfast, cut a slice for tea, or take it on an adventure—wherever you go, this Mark Bittman recipe is one of those rare, keep-for-a-lifetime treasures. It also happens to be foolproof: start with six ingredients, toss in nuts or fresh fruit as you please, and you have the perfect questing loaf.

Though the only fat here comes from whole milk yogurt, this quick bread is full of rich, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. A touch of molasses tempers the earthiness of whole wheat flour, adding just the right hint of sweetness. I recommend slathering a slice with butter or a soft cheese like brie. Perfection.

Accompanying your bread today is “The Fox House,” a fairytale inspired by both Russian and Chinese myths. It originally appeared in a larger story of mine called “Midwinter,” which is about a theme park dedicated to a celebrated writer. At the end of his life, this writer left a collection of unfinished fairytales. Among these, “The Fox House” is my favorite.

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Fox illustration by Cedric Touati