I have a true confession to make. When I was a kid, not only did I have NO idea what a McDonald’s hamburger tasted like, I never, ever, ever, ate store bought bread. My PhD student/working mom made us homemade bread every week, come rain or come dissertation. Though it was primarily whole wheat or 7-grain, there was the occasional loaf of Swedish Limpe, a treat so spectacular that when the winter grew cold and dreary while my sister and I toiled in east coast colleges, my mother knew how to cheer us up, she’d FED-EX a loaf of Swedish Limpe to each of us. My sister claims she hid hers for fear she’d have to share it with her roommates. I gave at least one piece of mine to a college boyfriend, proving I’m much better at sharing than my younger sis. In my youth we’d occasionally sleep over at the home of my parent’s best friends. I have the most vivid memories of the Orowheat toast they ate in the morning. It seemed so fancy, so out of the ordinary, to me. My children aren’t nearly so lucky. Loaves of homemade bread are few and far between at our house. For me the real issue is the time required. You have to start it, set it aside to rise, punch it down, let it rise again, and then bake it. In general I’m simply too impatient, too busy, too “all over the place” for the bread making process. On Sunday a few weekends ago was POURING and my eldest son decided that we kneaded to make bread. His first recipe of choice was some uber-complicated thing that gave me the shivers. I sent him instead back to our trusty volume of recipes from Mountain Sky Guest Ranch. I knew Pam Comstock would have a straightforward recipe that would be just the ticket for our wet Sunday. If you’ve been meaning to make a foray into yeast dough, and/or you have a 12 year-old who thinks that a wet Sunday should include fresh bread in the oven, give this recipe a shot. My son did 90% of the work and our loaves were perfect. I’m certain you too can do this. Truly, and if you can’t figure it out on your own I’m willing to hire out my son for a mere pittance. Call me.
Molasses Brown Bread (two loaves)
- 2 tablespoons of yeast
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 cups luke-warm water (see my description below)
- ¼ cup oil (olive oil or canola oil will both work)
- 4 ½ cups whole wheat flour (I used white wheat which is widely available at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and many major grocery stores)
- 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (plus another cup or so for the kneading process)
In a small bowl mix together the yeast, water and the molasses until the yeast totally dissolves. The temperature of the water matters a great deal. If it is too hot it will kill the yeast. If it is cold it won’t activate and dissolve the yeast. I find that the only real way to get luke-warm water is to start with hot water and allow it to cool slightly. Put your finger in the water to test it. It should be warm to the touch, NOT searing hot. You want to let the water, yeast, molasses mixture sit for about ten minutes until the yeast makes it really frothy. This is called “proofing the yeast.” Once it is frothy add the oil and the salt. Pour this into a large mixing bowl. Add the flour and blend with a large wooden spoon until all of the flour is mixed in. Pour ¼ cup of flour on a big wooden cutting board, or on your CLEAN kitchen counter. Spread out the flour. Place the dough onto your work surface and knead the dough for ten minutes. You’ll need (knead) to add additional flour during the kneading process otherwise the dough will stick to your counter. I added almost a full cup of additional flour while we (my son and I) were kneading. Get a large mixing bowl (or wash the one you were using before). Rub the inside of the bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil or canola oil. Place the dough inside. Cover with a CLEAN dishtowel (I am NOT coming over if you kneaded the dough on a dirty counter and put a nasty old towel on top – I’m just sayin’). Place in a draft-free, slightly warm spot – like the back of your range top. Allow the dough to sit until it has doubled in size. For me this took an hour and a quarter. Grease two 9-inch loaf pans (I used olive oil again). Once the dough has doubled in size divide it in half (I cut mine down the middle with a serrated knife), form it into a loaf in your hands, and place the dough in the two greased loaf pans. Let the dough rise a second time until it has doubled in size again. I covered my pans with the same dishcloth and let them sit at the back of the range top. The second rise took just an hour. Thirty minutes in I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.
Once the dough has doubled a second time place the pans in your preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes (mine took EXACTLY 45 minutes). Since I hadn’t made this recipe before I sliced into one of the loaves at 40 minutes. My father taught me a tapping/thunking technique to tell if the bread is done. I thought it was, but when I sliced into it I found that it was slightly underdone. 45 minutes was perfect. We’ve been eating the bread for three days now and it is still moist and delicious.