Bread making was a custom in my family long before my time. My Grandmother baked for the community and her boarding house. I frequently heard the story of her making bread as a promotion, for a flour company, in a wash tub. Mother baked bread every Monday, two large loaves and a pan of dinner or cinnamon rolls. The aroma filled the house and the neighborhood. If Mother was in an extremely charitable mood she might give the milk man or the drop-in neighbor a hot roll. But it was well-known that Mother would not slice a warm loaf. Only the bravest, Uncle Duke, would be so bold as to grab the bread knife and slice Mother’s bread. My four sisters all made bread for their families. If “store-bought bread” was found in their homes it meant there had been an unexpected tragedy, and one of the other sisters or Mother couldn’t get there to bring or make bread. I never remember this happening.
Grandmother, Mother and my three older sisters all made bread the same way. They started with a large bowl, a “sizable” amount of flour, never measured, just eye-balled. Other ingredients had no specific quantities, you added enough to make the dough “feel” right. I have watched mother and my sisters over and over do this. When I have solicited instructions and advise, the response was always the same ” it isn’t a big deal , you will know when if feels right”. Descriptive and detailed they were not. And no, I won’t know. I need instructions and they must be very specific. I have had bread that was so firm and dense that if you ate it you would be constipated for a week. Bread so lifeless it never rose above the edge of the pan. Bread so full of holes that it resembled a honey comb. Some of my bread was OK if eaten piping hot but was unsuitable for even toast when cooled. To say the least, I was very discouraged and often told my sisters that I really liked store-bought bread. Frozen rolls were about as close as I was going to get to homemade bread. Not long after this I spent the weekend with my little sister. She fixed us sandwiches with some of the best bread I’ve ever had. I started inquiring about how she made bread and discovered she actually has a recipe. Now she varies from this time to time but has pretty much perfected it and it is WRITTEN DOWN using measurements that I understand like cups & tablespoons. Not once did I see the words “palm”, “pinch”, or “fair amount” used. I have recreated her recipe with her descriptions and instructions. Deb’s talent in being descriptive and being able to instruct me in relative terms was all I needed. This is a great basic bread. It makes wonderful sandwiches, buns, cinnamon rolls, and toast.
2 cups of unbleached bread flour
1 TBSP yeast
2 TBSP sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp Diastatic Malt (optional)
Place the following ingredients in a medium pan on medium heat. Heat only until butter starts to melt.
1 cup milk
11/4 cup water
1 TBSP shortening or butter
Add warm liquids to flour mixture and beat 3 min on high (should look like smooth pancake batter)
Add about 3 cups of flour or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, it will be soft but not sticky. Pour out on lightly floured counter top and knead 10 minutes or longer if it has been a hard day. Kneading is great therapy. When it has had enough kneading it will be smooth and soft like a baby’s butt. Place in an oiled bowl and cover. Raise 1 .25 hours or until double in size.
Place on oiled counter and divide into two equal pieces. Knead 4 or 5 times and cover with the bowl and allow it to rest 10 minutes. Roll each peace of dough into a rectangle and roll up, pinch seams and place in oiled pans. Allow to rise 1 hour. Deb uses her furnace closet in the winter I place mine in the microwave with a hot cup of water.
Bake @ 375 for 25 minutes then cover with a foil tent & bake 15 min longer or until internal temp is 190. This recipe works at sea level and in the mountains of Colorado. If you aren’t an experienced bread maker and you spent a great deal of time not paying attention to what your mother was doing, this recipe will work for you. I have worked with it enough that I can recognize a good bread recipe and one that won’t work for me. I also know what it should “feel like” a baby’s butt! It is very satisfying to make fresh bread and to give someone a warm loaf.