Vegan Cornell Bread

A few weeks ago, our neighbours brought us a loaf of the most delicious bread made from a 1970s recipe called “University Health Bread.”

…and check out the gorgeous tea towel woven by our talented neighbour!!

They kindly attached a photocopy of the recipe from The Vancouver Sun, which they’d adapted for a bread machine. I think the recipe may be originally adapted from a Cornell University bread recipe developed in the late 1930s by Dr. Clive McCay, a professor of animal nutrition. Apparently, the idea was to create bread that was higher in protein, vitamins, and minerals than regular old white bread:

“The history of Dr. McCay’s bread began when the nutritionist added soybean products, dry milk, and wheat germ to the food he gave to his laboratory animals (and to the 40 or so stray dogs he’d befriended). Over the years, his tests showed that the diet — which limited calories but provided abundant minerals, vitamins, and proteins — often allowed the beasts to live twice as long as did those that regularly ate their fill of a ‘normal’ diet.

Now McCay was deeply interested in the improvement of health among people as well (particularly those folks in the last third of their lives), and he figured that if his formula worked for dogs and rats, it should help human beings, too. And since bread was one of the least expensive and most universally eaten foods, he decided to add the nutrients to the staple edible. In the course of his research, he proved that rats could thrive and prolong their lives and health on an exclusive diet of Cornell Bread and butter, while the growth of rodents fed exactly the same amount of store-bought bread with butter was stunted, and such animals soon sickened and died.” –from Mother Earth News

1970s Version

Our neighbours’ bread was so good and so satisfying (especially toasted with a healthy smear of peanut butter or hummus!) that I immediately decided we needed a bread machine to make our own version of this deliciousness.

I’m not sure what reasoning I was using when I proposed the bread machine idea to James, since the original recipe does not require a bread machine, but before I could test my own logic, James had ordered us one from Costco. His trigger finger for online shopping is lightning fast in these dark pandemic days, so I really should be extra careful. Just ask the new bathtub that’s sitting out on our deck.

Now I owned a bread machine about a decade ago, so the learning curve was not steep, and I made a plain white loaf to test out our new beast.

Our new beast!

The result was perfect–I made James a vegan BLT for dinner with slices of fresh white bread and he was delighted! So today I decided to attempt a vegan version of the bread that initiated this latest bread-making/appliance-purchasing adventure.

I did change a few ingredients to make the recipe vegan (vegan butter for butter; rice flour for milk powder). I also subbed chickpea flour for soy flour because, well, I have no soy flour. Chickpea flour seemed a good substitution since chickpeas and soybeans are both legumes. And, though soy flour has a greater nutritional bang for your buck, it is more expensive than chickpea flour and much more difficult to find. Apparently, soy flour was originally included because it contains all nine amino acids necessary to make a complete protein; however, chickpea flour contains eight of the nine–only histidine (which is necessary only for infants) is missing.

I also included the neighbour-recommended add-ins (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped walnuts, and raisins) because they tasted so good in the gifted loaf!

Vegan Cornell Bread

Add to the bread machine in the following order. Choose “Whole Wheat” program, 2-lb. loaf, and dark crust.

  • 1.5 cups water
  • 2 TBS fancy molasses
  • 2 TBS packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 TBS Earth Balance vegan butter
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1.5 TBS wheat germ
  • 1 TBS debittered brewer’s yeast
  • 8 grams yeast

Measure out the following to include when the machine beeps for the add-ins:

  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup raisins seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

And that’s it! The cycle takes four hours and ten minutes, but the only work you’ll be required to do after this is removing the paddle and pouring in the add-ins mentioned above!

The result is delicious! The loaf is not quite as dark as our neighbours’ loaf, but that’s likely because I subbed brown rice flour for milk powder.

And I’ve been listening to Neil Young all day, so the song of the day is “Unknown Legend,” but the link is to a scene from Rachel Getting Married (one of my favourite comfort movies). In one of the most touching movie scenes ever, Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe) sings “Unknown Legend” as his wedding vows to Rachel:

And here’s Neil singing the entire song:

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