The Best Bread Recipe

Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Bread

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 NKJV

I think homemade bread is one of those special things we can hang on to that keeps us connected to the past and makes the present a little less stressful.

I suggest this bread as a tasty accompaniment to the Word of God.

WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 cups wheat flour
  • 5 cups white flour
  • 4 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 6 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2/3 cup dry milk

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and proof. Add ginger and sugar. Mix together 4 cups warm water, molasses, brown sugar, butter, salt and dry milk. Add yeast mixture to this. Then add flours alternately one cup at a time until stiff dough is formed. Knead 15 minutes. Let rise until doubled.

Put into 4 loaf pans and let rise again until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Reproduced by permission. A Taste of the Taber: Classic Maine Coastal Cooking by Ellen Barnes, copyright 1990.

Ellen Barnes was kind enough to give me permission to reprint her recipe.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f7Ah2yG0xU Click on this link to see Capt. Ellen in action cooking.

And on this link to see Capts. Ken and Ellen Barnes on their historic sailing vessel, the Stephen Taber. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVQjd7tj1b0 We sailed with them twice, an unforgettable experience.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve made this bread. I cut the recipe in half since eleven cups of flour would cause my mixer to go crazy. And I play with the spice. I’ve doubled the ginger, substituted cardamon, and I might try anise and allspice. If you do cut the recipe down, remember to cut ALL the ingredients. The first time, I forgot to cut the water in half. I couldn’t figure out why it was taking so much flour to stiffen up.

Baking bread is therapeutic for me. I use my mixer with a dough hook to mix and knead it. But I’ve got to get my hands on the dough, so I finish kneading by hand. I don’t know if the bread likes it, but I do. Kneading bread dough just feels good. Maybe it touches those genetic wires of my Finnish grandmother and great-grandmother, baking bread for the family.

Baking bread is creative. Once you get a little experience, knowing what the various flours and ingredients will do, you can experiment—creating bread that’s uniquely yours. My brother-in-law coached me. I made “Gary’s Bread” many times with “herbs of choice.”

I have a friend who said she’s never made a yeast bread. I suppose it’s possible to never have that experience in life—seems a shame. Maybe bread making is intimidating, maybe it’s too time-comsuming, maybe you don’t like the thought of bothering when you can buy artisan bread.

But, for me, there’s nothing like the smell of bread baking in my own kitchen—except the taste of fresh baked bread slathered in butter.

Cristine Eastin © 2013

0 thoughts on “The Best Bread Recipe

  1. Since we are used to bread as a part of our diet, when we moved to Taiwan, we took a bread maker (West Bend, 1.5 or 2 lb size). As we came to rely on it, we usually had two so we had one in reserve or the ability to make two loaves, and we ordered multiple replacement pans over the years. We still pick up bread makers, now at garage sales or goodwill, usually for $10 or less, and we still make this bread. It is a basic bread, designed not for my Italian grandmother, but for my hungry sons.

    Here it is:
    (Add these ingredients to the bread pan in order:)
    Oil, (at least a tablespoon, poured on the shaft of the bread kneader, spreads on the bottom, adding the oil first helps the seals on your pan last a long time.)
    Salt, (exactly one teaspoon–critical to the rising equation)
    Sugar, (at least a rounded tablespoon, maybe 1.5 tablespoons, must be enough to feed the yeast in the time the breadmaker allows)
    Water, (12.5 fluid oz–this needs to be precise for consistent results. The ratio of salt to water to altitude and humidity is the key. In order to be precise, we use a large glass filled fully to the brim. This is much easier than pouring water in a measuring cup and besides, we have a whole set of these glasses.)
    Bread flour, (about 3.75 cups. The flour does not need to be precise. This version of the recipe works in Colorado at 7000 feet, but it also worked quite nicely in Taichung at 50 feet in humidity. Carefully leveling or sifting the flour is a waste of time. It is less than 4 cups (one cup dry measure scoop slightly underfilled, 4x). This is because the bread maker we have now is the smaller of the two sizes and this avoids it overflowing and sticking to the top when it fully rises. After you put the last cup in, use the measuring cup to dent the flour in the middle. Put the yeast in the dent, ensuring it does not start mixing with the water, salt and sugar until the bread maker actually starts its cycle.)
    Yeast, (just more than one teaspoon. Many recipes call for 1.5 or even more. The key is that your yeast is fresh, so we keep it in the freezer once opened. If you have enough yeast or more, your bread will fully rise. Really one teaspoon should be enough.)

    If you got the water right, your bread should have a nice rounded top with no wrinkles and no large air bubbles in the bread.

    This recipe cooks on the regular bread cycle and is appreciated by almost every one. There is an exception. Some people (like my wife) these days believe bread should be whole wheat. You can alter this recipe to use whole wheat flour, but it is much more temperamental. Bread flour is high gluten, which works with the yeast. You can add gluten to whole wheat flour for better results, and you should expect to use a mix of whole wheat and bread flour as well as the longer “whole wheat” cycle on your bread maker.

    This recipe has been made perhaps 5000 times or more by our family! It is an adjusted version of a basic “french bread” recipe from a bread maker manual years ago.

    1. Thanks for the recipe, Steve. For all you breadmaker bread makers out there, this sounds great. Let us know how you like it. I’ve been tempted to try a breadmaker—got as far as almost buying one at a thrift store—but my kitchen cupboards are bulging. It sure would be ideal, though, for when I’m in a hurry, because you cannot hurry bread by the conventional method.

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