Wednesday, December 5, 2018


I had a girlfriend back in high school who was way into Bread. She ditched me for someone who could really, really pretend that they loved the group's music. Smart girl.

But that is not what this is about.

One of the constants of my early life was Grandma Helen baking bread. I think she baked bread every other day for most of her life. It was a constant and I took (as you do) the fruits of her labor for granted. When she passed a couple of decades (!) ago fresh baked bread was no longer a constant. While I missed it I didn't obsess about it. Things come and go, things change. It's a feature of life.

I did finally decide to see if I could figure out how to bake bread. It had always looked like both a lot of work and a lot of magic, and I wasn't sure I could pull it off. I messed around with different basic recipes, and while I always got a baked wheat flour product, it wasn't always bread. And it was never the bread of my memory.

At some point I dug into a shoe box filled with Grandma's recipes. I didn't have much hope that her bread recipe would be there, because she'd often remarked that she didn't have or need a recipe to make bread. Surprisingly though, I found a yellowing slip of paper which appeared to be a recipe (of sorts) for bread. It was really just a list of ingredients and some cryptic words that might be interpreted as instructions.

The ingredients seemed right. "3C water, 2env yeast, 1/4C sugar, 2tsp salt, 3T butter, 9C flour." The instructions were sparse. "Mix water yeast sugar, set aside. Whisk flour/salt in bowl. Add butter. Add liquid. Mix, turn out -- knead. Rise 3x, last in pans. Bake 350 45 min."

I did some reading up on bread baking technique and was able to get a sense of how the sparse instructions might have represented what Grandma actually did. Shockingly, it worked! The bread I baked was pretty much a dead ringer for the bread Grandma baked. It wasn't exactly the same, because it wasn't Grandma baking it. But it was close enough. Same smell, same flavor, same texture. I use a microwave to melt the butter and I don't think Grandma ever did. I also let the stand mixer do the kneading, and Grandma always used the Armstrong method. I can do it that way, and I have done it that way, but all in all I prefer the mixer.

For those who'd like to play along at home...

3C (680g) lukewarm water (circa 110 deg. F)
¼ C (60g) sugar
2 envelopes dry active yeast (4 ½ t or 18g)
3T melted butter
1 ½ t (16g) salt
9C bread flour, 2.75 lbs or 44 oz or 1250g)


Weigh water, yeast and sugar and mix in bowl, set aside until yeast begins to foam on surface. Melt butter in microwave. Weigh flour in mixer bowl, add salt. Add melted butter, then water/yeast/sugar mix. Mix/knead with dough hook for 10 minutes. Raise in oiled, covered bowl for 30 minutes in warm dark place. When doubled punch down and raise again until doubled, 20-30 minutes. Punch down and divide into thirds with scale. Form into loaves and place in oiled loaf pans. Cover and let rise 20-30 minutes.

Bake at 350 F for 45-50 minutes, until well browned and done. Turn out on cooling rack and brush tops with melted butter (optional). Let cool completely before slicing.

All in all, and interesting experiment. These days I bake bread every week, and only seldom do I buy "store bought." I can't say why I do this. It's a combination of things, really, but at the end of the day I enjoy baking bread and I enjoy consuming the product. Reason enough I suppose.


  1. Ah...

    There is nothing quite like freshly baked bread. You've also honored your grandmother in a very special way.

    Good stuff!

    1. Thanks Sarge. I imagine she gets a chuckle out of my technique, but she knows my heart's in the right place.

  2. Kudos!! 1-Flour now is not necessarily like it was then. Do you use bread flour? 2- be sure to use correct type yeast 3- Have you used bread machine for this recipe? 4-All commercial bread has been sweetened up in last few years, hard to find one like "real" bread of 40 years ago. And they wonder why we crave sugary things and get diabetes! 5- how would this do for cinnamon rolls?

    Outstanding post! yum! ants in SD

    1. Thanks and thanks for stopping by! Yes I use bread flour. We can only get Gold Medal here but it seems to work fine. I'm pretty sure I have the yeast right -- active dry. I buy it in the jar rather than envelope but otherwise I think it's the same. I've never used a bread machine. Kind of enjoy the process too much to let the machine have all the fun. I have no idea on the cinnamon rolls. My mom is the expert on those and I've never asked her about the recipe. I do know that she preps the dough in her bread machine. Sounds like a new challenge, but I'd hate to have a whole pan of cinnamon rolls in the house. Best to find a forever family for them before I get started. Thanks again for stopping by!

  3. A great post, Shaun. Your blog is always a bright spot in my day. Say ' hello ' to your Mom for me.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

  4. WOW! I could only make it about 1/3 of the way through the Bread video. Is that one of their best songs? IMO, they are not bad, just totally bland. Each to his/her own.


    1. At the risk of sounding a bit, well, male, a huge cascade of metabolic estrogen seems to enhance the experience. At least that's what I've observed. A similar thing happens with a cascade of metabolic testosterone and the movie "Smokey and the Bandit."

  5. I too joined the ranks of those who make bread. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Mind you, I told the girl I love yesterday that 42 years a bachelor I never once cooked any bit of chicken. Bread, yeast, flour were whole new worlds to me.

    My grandmother that knew how to cook was more into slingshots, pocketknives and small calibre riflres.

    1. It's always an adventure. Once saw a demonstration of making civil war bread. Water, salt, flour, yeast. Mixed in a "breadbox" (about 18x12x12 inches) with a stick. As long as it's an adventure it's not work. More or less.

  6. I like your green mixer! Mine is bland white. I would think that making your own bread, adds to the satisfaction.

    1. It was a non-selling color so I paid half price! Lots of fun and satisfaction.

  7. I used to bake bread a lot when the kiddies were littler. Now, I can't have bread around 'cuz I'll eat it all. I have no self-discipline whatsoever if bread/chips/donuts/rolls/pastry is within arms reach!
    I do have a bunch of yummy bread recipes though. One is "Dilly Bread" made with dried dill weed and cottage cheese for the dairy (the cc completely disappears in the baking.) Another is a fairly sweet dough flavored with cardamom. A third is made with three braided lengths of dough, after the dough's been divided into thirds: 1/3 white flour, 1/3 mixed with rye flour, 1/3 with wheat flour. Happy to share if'n anyone's interested!
    ...and that's not even getting near my grandmother's Croatian nutbread a/ka/ Potica (looks like this:
    ...or Vánočka, an awesome traditional Czech Christmas bread (although it was a Lithuanian friend who introduced me to this.)

  8. Thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas! I'd be very pleased if you would share those recipes, either in the comments here or to my email, shonny61@gmaildotcom

  9. Okey dokey. ...sharing here so that others might see them.
    Here goes #1:

    Cardamom Bread
    1 pkg. dry yeast 2 eggs
    ¼ cup lukewarm water ½ stick (¼ cup) butter, softened & cut in small pieces
    ½ cup evaporated milk 1 teaspoon salt
    ¼ cup boiling water 1 to 2 teaspoons ground cardamom (a sweet member of the ginger family
    4-½cups all-purpose flour melted butter
    Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. In a large bowl, stir together evaporated milk, boiling water, and sugar. Stir in dissolved yeast. Add 1-¾ cups of the flour. Mix on medium speed until smooth. Add unbeaten eggs and butter. Mix on medium speed until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl frequently.
    Sift remaining flour with salt and cardamom (With 1 teaspoon cardamom, the bread has a very delicate flavor. With two teaspoons cardamom, its flavor is more distinctive.) Gradually add flour-cardamom mixture to batter, first using mixer, then stirring by hand.
    Turn out dough on lightly floured surface. Dough will be sticky. Knead dough until it is smooth and elastic. Place dough in greased bowl. Turn dough to grease top. Cover with damp cloth and let stand in warm place about 1-½ hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch down dough.
    Divide dough into three equal portions. Form each portion with hands into a rope, about 20 inches long. Braid ropes, pinching ends together to seal. Place the long braid (don’t form it into a circle) on a greased baking sheet. Let rise in warm place until double in bulk.
    Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees about 25 minutes or until done.
    Brush top and sides of bread with melted butter while it is still warm.
    This is an all-purpose bread to be sliced, spread with butter and served with the main course, for breakfast or brunch. It is at its best served warm, and makes delicious toast. Bread freezes nicely.

  10. #2

    1 pkg yeast 3 teasp. dill weed (dried)
    1 cup cottage cheese, lukewarm 1 teasp. salt
    2 tablesp. sugar ¼ teasp. baking soda
    1 tablesp. minced onion, (dried) 1 egg
    1 tablesp. butter 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 cups flour
    Proof yeast in ¼ cup water. Combine in bowl: cottage cheese, sugar, onion, butter, dill, salt, soda, egg, and yeast. Add flour to make stiff dough. Cover. Let rise until double. (1 hr.) Stir down. Knead. Turn into pan. Let rise 30-40 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees, 40 minutes.
    Brush with melted butter and salt top.
    Makes a yummy ham sammich.

  11. #3

    Three Flour Braided Bread
    4-½ cups white flour 2 tablesp. sugar
    1 tablesp. salt 2 pkgs Fleischmann’s dry yeast
    ¼ cup margarine 2¼ cups very warm water
    4 tablesp. molasses 1¼ cups whole wheat flour
    1 teaspoon caraway seed 1 ¼ cups rye flour
    1 tablesp. cocoa
    Combine 2-¼ cups white flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 packages Fleischmann’s Active Dry yeast (in a medium-sized bowl.)
    Add ¼ cup margarine, softened. Add 2 ¼ cups very warm water (120⁰F -- 130⁰F), and beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Add 1 cup white flour. Beat at high speed 2 minutes. Divide batter into 3 bowls.
    Make whole wheat dough by beating 2 tablespoons molasses and 1-¼ cups whole wheat flour into 1/3 of batter.
    Make rye dough by adding 2 tablespoons molasses, 1 teaspoon caraway seed, 1 tablespoon cocoa, and 1-¼ cups rye flour to 1/3 of batter.
    Make white dough by beating 1-¼ cups white flour into remaining batter.
    Knead each dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover. Let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down; on floured board, divide each dough in half. Roll each piece into a 15-inch rope. On a greased baking sheet, braid together a white, whole wheat, and rye rope. Pinch ends to seal. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
    Bake at 350⁰F for 30-40 minutes or until done. Cool.