Recipe: Digger Bread

Digger Bread

Digger Bread, in “coffee” can and loaf pan versions

Welcome to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco. The other day I drove past the Panhandle, a mile long grassy strip where the Diggers gave away bread to keep people nourished while they were grooving. Digger Bread packs a lot of nutrition into a simple, hearty loaf anyone can make. There are two recipes online, one at the Diggers’ archive and the other in a 1970 edition of Mother Earth News. I prefer the latter except for a couple of flaws which I’ve corrected. Note: by making this bread you are swearing an oath you will never sell but only give it away. Makes two 1-lb loaves.

For the wet mix:
1/2 c lukewarm water or whole milk or yogurt
1 T dry yeast or one (2 ¼ tsp) package
1 T whole wheat or all purpose flour
1 ripe banana, peeled and mashed
1 T honey, sorghum, maple syrup or raw sugar
For the dry mix:
4 c whole wheat flour (enough to fill a 1-lb coffee can* to the brim)
½ c nonfat dry milk**
1 t salt
½ c raisins or currants
½ c or more of “something weird” (I used 1/3 c muesli, 1/3 c wheat germ, ¼ c dried cranberries)
Additional water or milk as needed
Additional honey, fruit, nuts or whatever strikes your fancy if desired

Method: mix the wet ingredients in a 1-lb empty coffee can or equivalent*. Rest for a few minutes to let the yeast feed, then pour into a big bowl with the dry ingredients and mix with a big spoon until no dry patches are left.  You will almost certainly need to add more liquid to accomplish this, up to 1 or 1 ½ c total. (If dough gets too wet, just add some flour. This is a very forgiving recipe.) When dough is thoroughly mixed and uniform, cover bowl and put aside in a warm place until it has risen by half, about 45 minutes.

Knead the dough thoroughly (that’s right, in this recipe you knead after the first rise) until it is firm yet spongy like a baby’s bottom, 10 minutes or more. Divide in half and transfer to two 1-lb coffee cans or equivalent which have been greased with butter, lard or oil. Allow to rise again until it has almost doubled in volume, about 45 minutes to an hour. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 390 degrees (use a cookie sheet under the cans to prevent accidents) and bake for one hour. Eat with a hearty soup or load up with peanut butter and jelly for a complete meal.

*Alas, coffee cans have changed since the 1960s and most now have a lip which will keep the dough from rising evenly and make it impossible to remove the finished loaf. I substituted a 28 ounce bean can which was as close as I could get to the form factor of a 1-lb coffee can. You could also just bake in a loaf pan, like I did for my second loaf.

**If using milk or yogurt instead of water you can omit the dry milk. I think it was included in the original recipe because the Diggers wanted people to get their dairy, and refrigeration in the parks was unreliable so they didn’t have fresh milk.

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