This recipe requires a bit of an intro. All through my childhood years my mom baked bread. I got the best part of this tradition, because as the youngest, I was home to help her while my siblings were off at school. I had my own baby loaf pan, and helped her roll out the dough and shape it. Sometimes I made bread men who were never very good because they were mostly crust.
Anyway, this wasn’t just a fun time, it was great bread. The kind that makes pbj’s worth eating (especially with raspberry freezer jam!). When mom made it on Saturdays, she always had Dad do the kneading.
The funny thing was that she just sort of stopped making it when we were a little older and she was a little busier. As I recall we were also going through a poorboy phase that lasted several years. Much later, when I wanted to make it, we found a little problem. Mom had had the recipe memorized, apparently lost the hard copy and didn’t notice. But, after a long sabbatical, she no longer remembered any details.
I tried to pioneer my own favorite loaf bread, but never liked anything I made as much as what I had grown up on. Eventually, I had a brilliant idea – I called my childhood friend’s mom, who had been our neighbor in that era, and asked if she had the recipe. I remembered that she made it too, but hers was all wheat and crunchier. Anyway, she did have it. It was called “Jane’s hardly ever fails bread”. I got the recipe from her, and then made it a bunch of times in a row changing things to try to find what Mom did. In the end I found out that Mom left out the eggs, used honey instead of brown sugar, and part white instead of all wheat flour. I was thrilled – the ultimate childhood bread was back in the family! The great part of all this is that now I make it with my girls, something I would vastly prefer to playing with blocks! The recipe makes a lot – four large loaves, or six smaller ones. You will want to freeze the ones that you aren’t eating right away.
In the bowl of your kitchen-aid (or by hand in a large bowl), mix 5 c. hot water, 2 Tbs. yeast, 2/3 c. oil, 2/3 c. honey, and 4 tsp. salt. Mix in two cups of whole wheat flour, and let the yeast proof for a minute or two. Dump in any leftover (cooked) oatmeal you might have lying around. Continue mixing (or stirring) and add another 3 c. of whole wheat flour, and 6 c. of white.
When a sticky dough is formed, let your kitchen-aid work it for a few minutes, adding flour if it seems really wet. If you are doing this by hand, you will dump it out on the counter and knead it for 10 minutes, sprinkling with flour if it is too wet. Pull the dough out, and hand knead for about 15 strokes, or just enough to pull it all together into a nice dough ball. Put a little oil in the bottom of a big bowl, and smoosh the dough in it to coat the top in oil, then turn it over, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled (an hour?).
Call your kids back into the kitchen to “punch it down” – very satisfying! Cut the dough (I use my bread knife) into either four or six pieces. Give a bit to the kid on the stool to roll out and make a baby loaf. Roll each piece out into a rectangle to work all the big air bubbles out, then roll it up tightly, and place in a greased loaf pan. Repeat with the others.
Let the loaves rise while the oven preheats to 375 degrees. When they look more like bread, and less like logs, they are ready to go in the oven. Let them bake for around 25 minutes, or when the tops are dark gold and the bottoms make a hollow sound when thumped. Remove from the pan and let cool, unless you slice it on up right away to eat with butter and honey.