As a child, we would go to Toledo almost every Sunday for dinner with my dad’s parents. Grandma was the best cook. I have no idea how she would do it, but she could walk around her kitchen one time – it seemed – and have dinner ready on the table. I walk around the kitchen one time, and I still don’t know what to make for dinner. Anyway, I used to love to watch and help her cook. This month I decided to make homemade bread. I love to make bread as it reminds me of happy times with my family. It also gives me new memories with my boys - they love butter bread.
One of my fondest memories of my childhood was the homemade bread Grandma used to make. It was always warm, fluffy, yeasty, and just the most wonderful tasting bread I ever ate. She always made it for us.
When I was about 13, I tried to recreate the bread that my grandma used to make. I also tried to do all on my own. I kicked my family out of the kitchen for the day and sat down with the Betty Furness cookbook that my mom had on top of the fridge. I do have to add that this cookbook was not written for beginners, so that is my excuse for the story that follows. Had the cookbook had more specific instructions, my bread would have turned out great. I just ordered the cookbook from Amazon – I will have to update on the recipe when I get it. it is supposed to ship within the next day or so.
Back to the story. I gathered my ingredients and started cooking. The recipe called for lukewarm milk. Not knowing what lukewarm really was, I went and asked my dad – wrong choice. He said that the milk would be fine if I just let it set out for about 15 minutes. Yeast doesn’t really rise very well in cold milk.
The recipe called for, I think, 12 cups of flour. I was making bread for an army. I ran out and asked my parents to get me some more flour. They quickly figured out what I was doing, walked into the kitchen, and totally wigged out. The kitchen was a disaster area. There was flour and wet bread dough everywhere. I even managed to get some on the ceiling. Needless to say my mom wasn’t too terribly impressed with me.
We got more flour and tried to fix the recipe, to no avail. Mom decided to put the dough in a paper bag and set it beside the garbage after she learned about the cold milk. Hours – and I mean about 3-4, the bread rose – really! I screamed for my mom and showed her the risen dough. I was so excited. The dough rose!
Mom decided to try and make the bread. Rescuing it from the near garbage, she kneaded and kneaded working her cooking magic on the bread. It didn’t rise too much the second time, but we baked anyway. We ended up with three small loaves of very tasty, very, very heavy bread. It was suggested that the army might want in on my secret so they could use the bread as bombs. Did I say that it was heavy? Dense too. I have never had bread so dense since – it really was good, and it stayed with you for quite a while.
While I don’t have a ton of recipes that my mom used to make, I do vividly remember the bread incident. To this day, the smell of freshly made bread reminds me not only of my grandma baking away in her house, but also of my mom trying to rescue a 13-year-old’s bread mishap.
Ok, here is the recipe - and I was right, pretty close - it calls for 13 cups.
White Bread - Straight dough method From the Betty Furness Cookbook
Tin or aluminium bread pans......Preheat oven to 375 F.
2 cakes quick-acting yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
5 tbsp sugar
4 cups lukewarm milk
5 tsp salt
About 13 cups all-purpose flour, sifted before measuring
5 tsp shortening
Place lukewarm milk in bowl in which you expect to mix dough. To the milk, add the remaining sugar and salt. Add dissolved yeast to milk mixture. Next, add all but 1 cup of the flour and the shortening. Start mixing with a spoon, but as the four and liquid become blended, you will need to finish the mixing with your hand Add remaining cup of flour, but only if needed. Bread dough that is too stiff never makes quite such good bread.
When all ingredients have been mixed, and the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl, turn dough out on lightly floured board.
Knead until dough becomes elastic and does not stick to board. Place in greased bowl, cover, allow to rise until double in bulk, then punch down. Allow to rise a second time until double in bulk. Remove dough from bowl, punch down and cut into four equalized loaves. Recipe makes approximately 4 1 1/2 lb. loaves. Shape and allow to stand 20 minutes. Then flatten out each loaf and again reshape.
Place in greased pans. Allow to rise until double in bulk, or until imprint does not disappear when pressed with a finger. Just before placing in oven, sprinkle a little cold water over raised dough. Bake. Remove from pans as soon as baked. Cool on wire cake rack.