Arlene's Cuisine

Aug. 1 is Lughnasadh or Lammas which is a pagan celebration of the harvest of the grain, the first of three harvests. (The other two being Mabon or fall equinox on Sept. 22, celebrating the fruit and vegetable harvest, and Samhain or Halloween on Oct. 31, celebrating hunting of the meat harvest. )

Lammas means “loaf mass” and in many traditions includes the blessing of bread. So today’s recipes feature some bread recipes to celebrate Lammas.

Although I’m among a whole lot of people who must be gluten free, I still enjoy making bread, especially yeast breads, to give to family and friends. I’m including my favorite white bread recipe, which brings back memories of home economics class during my sophomore year of high school.

My friend and kitchen partner, Barbara, and I thought we would double the recipe and make two loaves of bread so we could each have one. To this day I don’t know what went wrong, but those loaves were so heavy and bad the teacher used them for a doorstop! I guess she wanted to shame us for not following the rules. It was quite a few years before I attempted making yeast bread again.

Basic White Bread

(Makes two loaves.)

  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 5½ cups flour

Scald milk, stir in sugar, salt and butter. Cool to lukewarm. Measure warm water into a large, warm bowl and sprinkle yeast over the water. Stir until dissolved. Add lukewarm milk and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough and then knead into a smooth and elastic mixture for about 10 minutes. Form into a smooth ball.

Grease a bowl with butter and put the dough in the bowl, turning until all sides are buttered. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down and let rest for 15 minutes. Then divide in half and shape each half into a loaf and place in a greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch bread pan. Let rise again in a warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. If the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, it’s done.

Swedish Rye Bread

(Makes two or three loaves.)

(This can be baked in loaf pans or patted into circles about ¾ inch thick and baked in “rounds.” The Swedish folk where I grew up called it “cake bread” because of the round shape. When I make it in the round shape, I use a pizza pan or a cookie sheet.)

  • 2½ cups light rye flour
  • 2 scant tablespoons salt
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup melted fat or salad oil
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
  • 1 quart hot water
  • About 8 cups white flour

Pour hot water over rye flour, salt and sugar and stir until smooth. Cool to lukewarm and add the yeast. Mix well and add fat and molasses. Gradually work in the white flour, keeping dough soft. Let rise in a greased bowl until double.

Divide into two or three parts, depending on how large you want your loaf. If making it in a circle, stretch the dough out on a cookie sheet or pizza pan to about ¾ inch thickness. If making in loaf pans, shape into loaves. Prick the top of the bread with a fork. Bake 45 minutes in a 375-degree oven. Cut the round loaves into squares (like cake) to serve.

Freckled Rolls

  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup dry milk
  • ½ cup soft butter
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
  • 6½ cups bread flour (approximately)
  • 3 large eggs

Place ¼ cup warm water in a large, warm bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and stir until dissolved. Add remaining water, sugar, dry milk, butter, salt, bran and 2 cups flour. Beat about 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Add eggs and 1 cup flour. Beat 2 minutes at high speed. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.* Punch dough down when it has doubled in size and use within three days.

When ready to use, place dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide into 36 pieces. Shape into smooth balls. Place balls about 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from draft. When double in size (about 45 minutes) bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until done. Remove from pans and cool on wire rack. Makes three dozen.

*To bake without refrigerating, after placing dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes. Shape dough and proceed as directed.

English Muffin Bread

(Great for toast.)

  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • Cornmeal

In a large, warm bowl combine 11/3 cups flour, undissolved yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda. Heat milk and water until very warm. Gradually add to flour mixture. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Spoon batter into two (9-by-5-inch) loaf pans that have been greased and sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise in warm place, free of draft, until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes until done. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack.

Variation: Stir in 2/3 cup chopped, toasted pecans and 1½ teaspoons cinnamon to batter.