Friday, February 6, 2009

Our Daily Bread

At the women's Bible study I attend, our fearless leader (the woman at whose house we all meet) asked us each to name one thing we loved. The answers were hilariously varied (though not especially numerous; we're not a very big group!), including such things as "sunshine" and "my husband -- because he makes me laugh so hard I snort." I said, "I love making bread." And I do. Beginning when Scott was in residency and I first began to stay home full-time with the children, I started messing around making bread.

My Grandma Bergman used to make bread daily when she cooked on the chuck wagon (literally a horse-drawn wagon) for the wheat harvesters in the summertime. She mixed up the dough in a big bowl and held it in her lap so it would rise as the wagon driver and she jounced along to the next stop to serve lunch.

I can remember my mother making bread regularly when I was a child. She made it in serious quantity -- it seemed that she did a dozen loaves at once, though I don't know if that was my childish perspective, or not. She mixed up the dough by hand in a huge metal kettle, and baked the loaves in coffee cans, so they were round and tall. When I started making my own, I had some fairly spectacular failures -- I made one batch of whole-wheat walnut bread which could easily have been used to batter someone senseless with one blow!

Then I learned a few tricks. I'm all about tricky cooking. I'm such a lazy cook. If I don't have to measure it, I don't. If I can swap ingredients, I do. Mom told me that Grandma always made a "sponge" when making dough that was whole-wheat, or used a large quantity of whole-wheat (I'll explain that later). It makes a huge difference in ... um ... weight. I found a recipe I liked and tinkered around with it. I learned about vital wheat gluten (more about it later, too).

The result is, I make the following recipe about once a week. Only I make it in quadruple quantity. We eat it for toast, sandwiches, everything. I'll post the quadruple one, too, if any of you would like -- I just thought it might be more usable this way, as I wasn't sure anyone wanted to jump off the high dive quite that quickly! The recipe is adapted from one in Heather Houck Reseck's Fix It Fast cookbook. Note: I'm sorry, those of you outside the US -- I have no metric quantities for this recipe (*blush*)!

**Kristin's Everyday Bread**

1 1/2 c (10 0z) warm water
2 1/2 t active dry yeast
3 T honey or molasses
1 1/2 T nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 t salt
3 T oil
2 T vital wheat gluten (this is often available near the yeast in grocery stores -- sometimes called
dough enhancer? It's optional, but makes the bread rise better.)
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (I have a grain mill, so grind this myself -- makes a great loaf!)
1 1/2 c white flour (unbleached)

Mix all ingredients but the white flour together in a large bowl (or a bread mixer/Bosch if you have one), stirring well. You will have a soupy sort of dough. Cover the bowl and let it sit for half an hour or so. This is the "sponge" my grandma suggested, and gives the yeast a head start. After the half hour, stir briefly to knock down what has risen, and add the white flour as needed for a slightly tacky (but handle-able) dough (it should pull away from the sides of the bowl if you're using a mixer/machine). Knead by hand approx. 10 min. or in your bread machine 5 min. or so.

Place the dough in a clean bowl; do not grease the bowl first -- the heavy whole-grain dough needs to be able to "climb" the sides of the bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and put in a warm place to rise until doubled -- approx. 1 hour.

When dough is doubled in size, punch down, knead briefly to restore shape, and shape into a loaf. Place in a well-greased loaf pan, cover with the tea towel again, and return to the warm place to rise for approx. 1/2 hour. Bake in 375 degree oven for 35-40 mins., or until bread is well-browned and sounds hollow when tipped out of the pan and thumped on the bottom. Let cool out of pan on wire rack. For a glossy top crust, smooth a bit of butter or shortening on the top of the hot loaf.

love, kristin


  1. Hi Kristin, love your bread! The recipe is slightly different to what I would normally do, in that you rise the yeast with some of the flour and then add the rest and transfer to a clean bowl. Is this a type of sourdough bread? We often hear of sourdough here in Ireland as being either American or Scandinavian - but I only ever saw it made in Africa by our Scandinavian friends and then it seemed complicated and was usually associated with rye bread. Iwould love to know and if it is easy to do. I am not familiar with the enhancer - wheat gluten- but it may not be common here. I am posting more recipes so keep in touch!

  2. Hi, Catherine -- I'm glad you like the bread! :) It isn't actually a type of sourdough, as you don't leave the sponge leaving long enough to sour. I have dinked around with sourdough starters in the past, but had trouble getting them sour enough for my liking -- and also (ahem) remembering to "feed" them (they die otherwise and get yucky).

    HOWEVER, my mother-in-law kept up a marvelous starter for about a decade and baked several loaves of sourdough a week for her family -- she had it down to a science, and I'll have post her recipe. My friend Benita (who comments on this blog frequently) has begun a starter ... perhaps she'll have to do a guest post??

    I'll be over to your side of things today to look at the latest posts. I took a peek at the lemon cake recipe (I LOVE LEMON ... did I mention I love lemon?), but didn't have time to comment, as I've been doing student conferences this week. Talk to you again soon! kristin

  3. The sorrows of a sourdough starter. . .
    I made my first loaf yesterday. The starter made a perfectly lovely loaf of, well, french bread. My father-in-law, who was visiting, kindly told me that the first bite or two tasted a little sour.

    I've now done some reasearch (power of the Internet) and decided that the start needs to be started from scratch. I'll let you know how it goes, in a month or so.

    "Kristin's Everyday Bread" is a truly yummy bread. I've made it a few times and it was fabulous down to the very last crumb.

    And I would like to request the lemon cake recipe. I too LOVE lemons.


  4. as do i! i looked at Catherine's website and found it quite quickly, Benita. the lemon cake is a variation of the cherry cake recipe - which also looks yummy! also, Kristin, did you notice the marmalade recipe on Catherine's site? i am considering taking life in hand and trying that one!!

    o.k. all this talk of bread and cake and marmalade is making me hungry and it is only 9:30 a.m.! back to the joys of archives.

  5. I love this to find the time and muster the courage to try this myself. You motivate me to try - you have three children and surely if you have the time, I can do it, right??? Maybe on the next beach trip I can watch you make a loaf. I'm kind of a visual learner!!! Thanks for the family history lesson - always love those.

    I loved your comment about my last post - with Steven's dismay at Ethan's non-excitment about playing "twains." I'm still giggling about that!!!!

    love you.

  6. Melissa, you can so, so do this. You know how totally distractable I am, and I manage to get it done. Except last time. Last time, I was trying to keep Mara, who always wants to help me, from dumping in five tablespoons of salt in one go, and I completely forgot three ingredients: powdered milk (not specially crucial), the gluten (not specially crucial), and the yeast (um).

    Three hours later, I was muttering around about why the h - e - double - hockey - sticks the stupid bread wasn't rising (and, mind you, I'd made FOUR LOAVES worth). It was tragic. It may or may not have taken me five hours to realize what the problem was. I'm just not saying.