“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard
Is there anything better than a fresh, warm slice of homemade bread?
My interest in baking homemade bread began when I was about twelve years old. I loved being in the kitchen, but for some reason bread baking had seemed like an unattainable skill only the most advanced bakers could achieve. However, in a lecture on nutrition at cross country camp, my coach briefly mentioned homemade bread and the health benefits therein.
As soon as I got home I pulled out cook books, asked Mama to buy yeast at the store, and began mixing and kneading all sorts of concoctions. Some loaves turned out flat and dense while others came out pungent and salty. I made lighter bread with white flour, heavy bricks with wheat flour, savory bread flavored with potato flakes and sweet bread swirled with cinnamon, sugar, and butter. I also boiled bagels, shaped rolls, and filled, rolled, and sliced cinnamon buns.
My family lovingly tested each batch of bread, advising me on which recipes to keep and which ones to discard.
Eventually I settled on a recipe from Sue Gregg’s cookbook that everyone in my family declared a winner. It used whole wheat flour, had good flavor, and wasn’t a dense brick. I made the recipe a few more times, and not much later, for Mama and Daddy’s twentieth wedding anniversary Daddy gave Mama a Bosch mixer and grain mill.
Mama took over the bread baking for a while, perfecting the recipe even further. Eventually she had a perfect bread dough that made the best, fluffy, delicious loaves for sandwiches and toast, a thin and crunchy pizza crust, or sweet cinnamon rolls or monkey bread. The dough could be shaped into hamburger buns or dinner rolls, folded into calzones or swirled with cinnamon and raisins for sweet bread.
Mama taught me how to make her magical dough one day for our Home Ec. lesson in homeschool, and I slowly took over the bread baking for our family. When I went to college, Mama said no one made any homemade bread until I did when I came home for my fall break.
I only baked bread in college once, and it was to give to the cute boy I was dating who had several papers to write and was getting very little sleep (later we got married and Sam still loves it when I make that same flatbread to go with lentil soup).
Once I discovered what the Romanian word for yeast was and found it at the market, I began baking bread again after we got married and moved to Romania. I loved kneading the dough on my tiny kitchen counter, usually while listening to an audio book. I would serve the warm bread, sliced, with butter alongside, to the guests we often had in our apartment.
When Mae was a baby, I was still in school online to complete my Bachelor’s degree, we were settling into a new house and new jobs for Sam, I did not bake bread. But I missed it. I remember at times when I was overwhelmed with books to read, papers to write, and assignments to submit, I would daydream about how wonderful it would be to be done with school.
I would just be a wife and mother, that’s all. I would take care of Sam and Mae, clean the house, and bake bread. Baking bread was always in my daydream for some reason, and I think about it now every time I pull a fresh loaf out of the oven.
I have countless memories tied up with baking bread, and right now I am thankful to be a wife and mother who gets to bake bread.
Delicious Bread Dough
This is the recipe Mama perfected that I still love to use for everything! I have tried many different recipes, but if I ever need a no-fail dough for something this is the recipe I go back to again and again.
2 cups warm water
213 cup honey
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 TBS yeast
1 TBS salt
2 Tbs. ground flax
8-10 cups or more of whole wheat flour (I prefer to grind the wheat in the NutriMill, but any flour will work)
Mix warm water, honey, applesauce, and 2 cups flour in a stand mixer on a low speed. Add yeast and salt, and continue to mix. Then set the timer for 10 minutes and add flour until the dough is not sticky and it pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Continue to let the dough mix until the 10 minutes is up.
Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, or about 1.5-2 hours.
Divide the dough in half and shape into loaves. Let rise in greased loaf pans in a warm place until doubled in size, or about an hour.
Bake the loaves of bread for at 350 F for 30 minutes.
You can also use this dough to make pizza crusts, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, hamburger buns, or anything else you may need dough for. The possibilities are almost endless!