My mother loves to bake; from fruit pies to Swedish pastries her two ovens provide the best parts of Holiday meals. Ever since I can remember, one of my favorite recipes of hers has been Beech Bread. Until last week I always thought that this was another one of those recipes passed down from cookbook to cookbook, like the rye bread recipe my great grandfather brought over from the Åland Islands. It turns out, however, that this isn’t the case at all! After college one of my mom’s first jobs was at our local health department. One of her co-workers was a nutritionist who taught local women involved in the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Program recipes for affordable nutritious foods, and this is where her recipe came from. So it turns out that my yummy, moist and rich childhood Beech Bread isn’t a family recipe at all!

As ELCA Advocacy urges support for a strong Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act in 2010 that increases access, expands participation and improves nutrition standards, I thought I would share a recipe that continues to be an important morsel of my life today. Admittedly, the recipe is nearly 30 years old, so I have no idea if it has recently been in use in health department classes or the WIC program, but I do know that it tastes just as good as ever…in fact, I just finished a slice!

BEECH BREAD (a “quick” bread)

3 cups buttermilk or sour milk*

3 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups enriched all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup molasses

1 egg, beaten

*to make sour milk, add 1 Tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice per cup of regular milk. Let sit 5 minutes.

Directions – Combine flours, salt and soda. Mix well. Add buttermilk, molasses and beaten egg to the dry mixture. Blend together well. Let stand in bowl for 20 minutes. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured pans (about 9”x5”x3”). Bake at 375 degrees for 60 – 75 minutes.