It is probably no coincidence that good cooks sprout everywhere you go in California--although few are native to the soil. Any green-thumbed pundit will tell you why: Transplanting roots encourages growth.
Case in point: One of the best bakers I know in California is Sharon Tyler Herbst, an ex-Coloradan who lives in Greenbrae. Herbst is a fellow board member of the International Assn. of Cooking Professionals, so I might be prejudiced in her behalf. But doubting Thomases can look at her cookbook, "Breads" (HP Books: $7.95), for evidence of this woman's ability to guide even a novice through a crash course in baking (bread, muffins, biscuits, coffeecakes, scones, doughnuts and waffles) without a shred of culinary angst or kitchen chaos.
One of the healthful delights of Herbst's breads is the essential goodness of every slice. For starters, her following wheaten loaf is composed of cottage cheese plus other healthful ingredients. WHOLE-WHEAT BREAD
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup malt syrup or honey
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup cottage cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons molasses
5 cups whole-wheat flour, about
1/4 cup oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons malt syrup or honey mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Combine yeast, 1 teaspoon malt syrup and warm water in large bowl of electric mixer. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add cottage cheese, 1/4 cup malt syrup, molasses and 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour. Beat at medium speed 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand in warm draft-free place until bubbly and tripled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes.
Stir in oil, eggs, salt, wheat germ and enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Knead 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl. Cover with damp towel and let rise until tripled, about 1 hour.
Grease 2 (8x4-inch) loaf pans. Knead dough 30 seconds and divide into two loaves. Place in prepared pans. Cover with dry towel. Let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Slash tops of loaves as desired and brush with malt syrup-water glaze. Place in cold oven. Turn heat on to 375 degrees and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom. Remove from pans. Cool on wire racks. Makes 2 loaves.
Note: Malt syrup is available in health food stores.
Natural fiber is imperative to our good health. Unfortunately, many dishes composed of bran taste like horse fodder. Not these delicate and pale gold waffles, however. They are a healthful underpinning for fruit, syrup or creamed chicken, depending on your appetite. BRAN WAFFLES
3 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup bran flakes
2 teaspoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Lightly beat egg yolks in medium bowl.
In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar.
Add sour cream to egg yolks. Beat in milk, butter, bran flakes, molasses and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Fold into batter.
Preheat waffle iron. Grease lightly. Add batter and bake according to manufacturer's directions. Keep waffles warm in low oven while preparing remaining waffles. Makes 4 servings.