El horno Leona, hand-built wood-fired brick oven, courtesy of Nathaniel and Mary
Spring is in full force up here. I had a phenomenal time on the Nebraska crane watch and will be posting that saga soon. Among other high points, we watched sandhill cranes dancing, got a good long look at a whooping crane standing, feeding and flying, and witnessed the lek of a number of greater prairie chickens. We are by no means out of blizzard season, but the spring greening and migration has started, along with the bird dances. We were all so, so ready for it.
We'll press our luck to the limit this weekend and see if the weather gods will allow a third prairie trip for our paleontology students. Gene and I will provide chili and cornbread Friday night, if the blizzards stay north of us.
Spring means it's time to thaw out indoors with bread baking. For some reason, it's one thing that our family members seem to specialize in doing, as witnessed by the perfectly splendid oven above. Many of the recipes we have collected from family sources have little written down about them. Breadmaking was apparently supposed to be hard-wired in our genetic code.
Joan’s bran bread3 cups water, warm
3 (cakes?) dry yeast
3/4 cup oil--Crisco
3/4 cup sugar
1 T salt
1 cup bran buds
Flour (8 to 9 cups)
Note in Vada’s handwriting: “4 loaves”
Another no-directions recipe, but easy enough to make if you know Bread 101. As you can see from the scan, this little slip of paper has received a real workout, sign of a wildly popular recipe. This makes a large amount of dough and lovely brown bread with a good crumb. I recommend mixing it as a large batch and then dividing it in two for kneading, rising and proofing. Bake at 325* for 30-40 minutes.
Sally Lunn bread3½ to 4 cups unsifted flour, divided
1 pkg. dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ cup milk
½ cup water
½ cup softened margarine
3 eggs, room temperature
Combine 1 1/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Combine milk, water, and margarine, and heat until warm (margarine does not have to melt). Add liquid gradually to dry ingredients. Beat. Add eggs and I cup flour. Beat (knead). Add enough flour for a stiff batter. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Stir batter down and beat well (1 to 2 minutes). Spoon into greased tubepan. Cover and let rise until doubled. Bake at 325* F for 45 to 50 minutes.
This is a classic soft, sweet, egg bread, almost like a sponge cake, and a very old recipe dating back to Colonial times in the USA and older times than that in England, where Bath claims to be the home of the actual Sally Lunn, if she existed. I would not use margarine, but would substitute butter. There is a lot of lore about both the recipe and the name; check it out here. Our recipe here is different in that it calls for baking the bread in a tube pan rather than brioche-style on a baking sheet.
Tube-pan Sally Lunn bread as pictured at http://breadbaking.about.com/od/batterbreads/r/colsallunn.htm
Here are two dinner-roll classics.
2 pkg. dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup Crisco
1 cup scalded milk
½ cup sugar
1 cup mashed potatoes
Dissolve yeast in 1 cup potato water. Add 2 beaten eggs and salt. Melt Crisco in warm milk and add to the above mixture. Add sugar and mashed potatoes and 2 cups flours, then enough flour to make a thin dough. Let rise until double in size. Knead down again and make out in rolls. Let rise again. Bake at 400* F.
Mrs. J. D. Peters
Note on card: Mrs. J. D. Peters--Jewel--landlady and friend
That note alone dates the recipe in my family to the late 1930s, when the Johnsons moved from Altus, Oklahoma, to Lubbock, Texas.
Finally, the all-time dinner favorite.
½ cup Kellogg’s All-Bran
½ cup Crisco
1 beaten egg
½ cup hot water
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
Dissolve one yeast cake or package of dry yeast in ½ cup lukewarm water. Mix into first mixture alternately with 3 cups flour. Can be put in icebox overnight and made into rolls or can be made into rolls immediately. Allow at least 1 hour to rise, longer if dough is chilled.
--Vada Brooks Johnson
Vada’s note on the card: “I always double this.” She had to. They went fast. Bake these on a greased baking sheet at 350* for 20 minutes or until done. They burn easily, so watch them closely. These are good with just about anything. Excellent with honey after dinner.