More About Bread

My mother was an outstanding breadmaker. She learned from Grandma Valentine (below, right) but there were great breadmakers on both sides of the family. Here are more recipes:

Meisel's Rye Bread
Meisel's rye bread was long considered the very best rye bread in St. Marys. Their store was a little white building on South St. Marys Street. There was a bell that jingles when you came in the door and a whole counter full of the most amazing penny candy. I used Meisel's as the model for Darling's Store in Each Angel Burns. There were two ladies who worked in Meisel's. They wore white aprons over flowered dresses, hairnets and big, clunky black shoes. I used to love to go there for a loaf of bread and some penny candy. When the store closed Miss Rose Ebrel was getting on in years and she gave the recipe for their rye bread to my mother because she said she didn't know who else to give it to. My mother was thrilled until a local ladies guild put out a cookbook and there was the recipe in the book. Apparently Miss Rose gave the recipe to everyone. Here it is:
Melt 1/2 tsp sugar in 1/4 cup warm water. Crumble in 1/2 cale yeast and set aside to work.
Mix together 2 1/2 cups rye four, 7 1/2 cups white flour, 2 1/2 tblsp salt, and 2 1/2 tblsp caraway seeds. Knead in 1 1/2 tblsp lard. Add 1 quart warm water. Knead in the yeast once it has begun to proof (bubble). Knead until the dough comes away from the bowl clean. Cover with a tea towel and set aside to raise.
When the bread is double in size, knead down and divide into four sections. Shape into long loaves and slit across the top three times on the diagonal. Bake at 350° until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Rub tops with shortening.

Gram's Pumpkin Bread
3 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp soda, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp nutmeg, 3 cups white flour
Make a well and add:
1 cup oil, 2 cups mashed pumpkin, 1 cup chopped nuts, 4 beaten eggs, scant 2/3 cupwater.
Mix well and pour into greased tin cans or loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

Mom's Zucchini Bread
This is soooo good!
2 cups sugar, 1 cup oil, 3 1/2 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 4 eggs, 1 cup chopped nuts, 1 cup raisins, 2 cups grated and drained zucchini, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp baking powder.
Stir well and pour into 3 greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

Aunt Bonnie's Carrot Bread
Mix together:
4 eggs, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups oil, 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 1/4 tsp baking soda.
Beat together then fold in 2 cups shredded carrots. Bake in 2 loaf pans for one hour at 350°.

Gram's Cranberry Bread
2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp soda, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 cup shortening, 3/4 cup orange juice, 1 tblsp grated orange rind, 1 egg, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
Mix then fold in 2 cups chopped fresh cranberries. Bake in 2 loaf pans at 350° degrees for an hour. Let sit overnight before serving.

Florence's Banana Bread
Florence was Gram's friend who lived upstairs.
3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup shortening, 2 eggs, 2 cups flour, 1 cup mashed bananas, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt
Bake at 350° for 1 hour in two loaf pans.



Great-Aunt Mary Dippold’s Keuchels

Keuchels (KEE-kulls) are wonderful things! They are puffy, round pieces of fried dough which are thick and chewy around the edges and thin and crunchy in the middle. Great Aunt Mary Dippold (right in 1919)was Gram Werner’s older sister and the most beautiful woman she had round pink cheeks and snowy hair and she always reminded my of Mrs. Santa Claus. She lived across the street from the German Church in St.Marys and made the best keuchels. A proper keuchel should be about the size of a luncheon plate and be a lovely, golden brown color. The old Germans in St. Marys say they get their quaint shape because they are shaped by pulling them over your knee.

Mix well:
1 qt. milk
1 c. sugar
1 stick margarine or butter

Dissolve a yeast cake in ½ c. warm water.
Knead together 8 c. flour and 6 eggs. Add the yeast and the milk mixture. Knead well. Cover and let raise.

Pinch off pieces by the handful and shape into round, flat shapes that are thicker toward the edge and flat toward the middle. Drop into a fryer of hot oil and fry until golden and floating. Drain well and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Gram liked to serve them warm with jam in the center.



Mom’s Homemade Bread

In The Old Mermaid's Tale, Clair has a heart to heart discussion with her mother in the kitchen while Louise is "stiffening" bread. My mother always referred to the process of kneading bread as "stiffening" it. This is how she did it:

My mother (at right in 1927)was the best bread-maker I ever met. Her bread was absolutely delicious and she made it all the time. One of my fondest memories is coming home from school on a cold winter afternoon and smelling that delicious, warm, yeasty smell of fresh-baked bread. The following is exactly the way Mom wrote the recipe down for me:

Boil a small potato until mushy and add liquid to make one quart. Mae a well in a basin of white flour, add part whole wheat flour if desired. Add ½ c. sugar, 1/4 c. salt., 1 Household yeast cake, ½ to 3/4 cup shortening. Mix together until well-kneaded. Let rise, mix down, let rise again. Put in loaf pans.

That’s where her directions stop. Kneading bread is a pleasurable experience. You really have to get into id and go to work but as the dough becomes thoroughly kneaded it becomes smooth and glossy and doesn’t cling to your fingers or the bowl.

When I make bread the way Mom taught me I start with about 10 cups of flour. I tend to use unbleached flour and at least half whole-wheat which gives a denser, chewier bread than Mom’s. When the potato is soft, blend it well into the water and add enough cold water to make a quart — you want the water to be warm but not hot or it will kill the little yeasties. I also “proof” my yeast which Mom never did. Crumble the yeast cake or use two packs of dry yeast in a cup of warm water to which a tablespoon of flour and of sugar has been added. When it begins to bubble and foam it is “proofed”. Add to flour along with the other ingredients.

Dough should always be kneaded with love and happiness — it makes better bread. When you are satisfied that the dough is well-kneaded and it has a smooth, glossy finish, place it in the bowl, cover with a clean dish towel and set aside to raise. Mom’s bread used to raise so high it sometimes came over the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough again — this makes the texture fine and helps eliminate big air bubbles. Divide the dough into sections. You can put it in greased loaf pans, shape it into round or long shapes, or pinch pieces the size of golf balls off and tuck them into a round cake pan to make buns. Let rise again.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove to cooling racks. Mom always greased the tops of her loaves with a little shortening. Actually that was my job as a kid.

Variations on Mom’s Home-made Bread:

Rye Bread: Substitute 1 cup rye flour for every third cup of white flour and add a 1/4 cup of caraway seeds. Shape loves into long, torpedo-like shapes and slice them across the top vertically before setting to rise.

Dinner Rolls: Mom made many, many pans of these. After the dough has risen once pinch off balls about the size of a golf ball and place them in a greased pie plate in a ring. Fill in the center. Let them rise and then bake.

Sticky Buns: These are absolutely delicious. I suppose they are just as good cold as they are hot from the oven but I don’t think they ever lasted long enough for us to know that. While dough is rising the first time, melt together ½ c. butter, ½ c. brown sugar, 1/4 c. corn syrup and a pinch of salt. Bring to a soft boil and let simmer about 6 minutes. Pour the hot mixture in the bottom of a large, flat cakepan. Roll risen dough out until it is ½" thick. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and cinnamon. Scatter with raisins and chopped walnuts, as much or as little as you like. Dot with little dabs of butter. Roll up jelly roll fashion. Slice off 1" pieces and tuck them side by side in the pan with the syrup in the bottom. Let them raise and then bake. Turn out onto waxpaper while still hot.

Pizza Dough: Let rise once. Break off a piece the size of a cantaloupe and spread out on a flour-dusted board. Roll the dough out using flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Spread the top with a little olive oil. Add toppings and bake.

Hot Cross Buns: Originally a Good Friday tradition, I love them too much to only serve once a year. Before setting to rise the first time, knead in chopped candied and/or dried fruit, chopped raisins and dates and sliced maraschino cherries. Knead well. Pinch off a piece the size of an egg and tuck into square oven-proof dish that has been greased. Continue until dish is full and bake. When they are cool mix together 4 T. Butter and 4-5 T. Powdered sugar and a drop of vanilla. Mix well. Place in pastry bag and decorate the top of each bun with a X.