What I Liked About This Recipe
The original recipe appeared in “Miss Parloa’s Kitchen Companion, A Guide for All Who Would Be Good Housekeepers”, which was published in 1887.
There are few things in this world that are more wholesome and delicious than fresh baked bread. There is something about that smell that makes my soul giggle with anticipation. Bread today is a funny thing. Reading the label makes me wonder if it is bread or a science experiment. This recipe for vintage wheat bread is simple and easy to follow. It contains 6 wholesome ingredients that you likely already have lying around the house, and that you can easily pronounce.
The Vintage Wheat Bread Recipe
Many people confound entire-wheat flour with graham, but it is very different. Graham is a coarse-ground wheat meal; entire-wheat flour is the whole wheat with the course husk discarded of course – ground to a fine flour. It gives a brown loaf or roll, but a delicious one, smooth and fine.
For two loaves of bread and a pan of rolls use two generous quarts of the unsifted flour, a pint and a half of warm water, one tablespoonful of sugar, one tablespoonful of butter, half a tablespoonful of salt, half a cake of compressed yeast or half a cupful of home-made yeast.
After sifting the flour into a bread-bowl, put aside a cupful for use in kneading the bread later, and put the sugar and salt with the remainder. If the yeast be compressed, dissolve it in a small quantity of the water. Pour the remaining water and the yeast into the bowl, and finally add the butter, somewhat softened by standing in a warm place for a while.
Beat the dough vigorously with a strong spoon, and when it gets smooth and light, sprinkle a moulding board with a apart of the flour that was reserved, and turn the dough out upon the board. Knead until smooth and elastic, say from twenty minutes to half an hour; then return to the bowl, and after covering first with a clean towel, and then with a tin or wooden cover, let it rise for about eight hours in a temperature of about 70 degrees. If the temperature be lower than 70 degrees more time will be required for the rising; and of course, if ti be higher, less time will be needed.
If the dough be mixed in the morning, and kept for four or five hours in a temperature of 80 degrees or 90 degrees, it will be in condition for baking in the afternoon. When it has risen, butter lightly two bread pans and one roll-pan. Make enough rolls to fill the pan, shaping them with the hands; then put the remainder of the dough on a board, and divide it into two loaves. Let the rolls and loaves rise till they are double their original size; then bake in a moderate oven, the rolls for half an hour, and the bread for an hour.
A Modern Method
4 Cups Wheat Flour, 1 Cups reserved for kneading
2 tsp. Salt
1 tbsp. Sugar
2 1/4 tsp. Yeast
1 1/4 Cups Water
1 tbsp Butter(optional)
With the measurements above, it halves the original recipe. I didn’t want to make all that wheat bread.
Mix the yeast and sugar into 1/2 cup water. Sift 3 cups of the wheat flour. Reserve 1 cup for kneading. Combine the salt with the sifted flour.
Slowly add the water/yeast/sugar mixture to the flour/salt. Mix until a dough begins to form. Once a dough begins to form, flour a surface on a countertop and begin kneading the dough, see the video for exact motion. The dough should be moist while kneading. If the dough feels super dry then add more water. When I went through this process I added more water and hardly touched the reserved cup of flour. I didn’t need that.
Knead the dough for 20-30 minutes. Near the end of the kneading process, add the softened butter to the dough and gradually work it in. Place dough in clean, buttered bowl and cover with a damp towel. The dough should rise for 2-4 hours until it has doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and form into a single loaf. Place dough in a buttered bread pan, or form into a loaf and place on buttered baking sheet. I braided my loaf instead of placing it in a pan. Once the dough was in the pan, allow the dough to again double in size. This takes about 1 hour.
Place the dough directly in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Let the finished product cool and enjoy.
What I Learned
This was my first ever attempt at making wheat bread. I enjoyed the clarity in the original recipe regarding the proper method. I had to adjust the time that the dough needed to rise. Yeast today is very different from the 1800s and it is very effective. It dramatically reduced the time needed for the bread to rise.
The final product was delicious. However, I will adjust the salt and sugar content in future recipes. I corrected my ingredient measurements in this write-up to reflect the future changes I will make. The bread was delicious and had a great texture. For a whole-wheat loaf it was surprisingly light and had a delightful earthy taste. The perfect bite was a slice of the warm bread with butter and honey on top.