One day, back in the early 1950’s, in his car, my grandfather pointed out a beautiful old stone house and said “That’s Maggie Rudkin’s place, Pepperidge Farm” I still remember that house, on the left side of the road, but can’t remember what road. Somewhere in Connecticut, near New Canaan.
Pepperidge Farm was the bread we always had at home. Years later, remembering their jingle, “The bread that tastes like breakfast, with honey, eggs and milk,” I started trying to duplicate that iconic bread. Finally, here is the recipe I developed with today’s flour and yeast:
• 6 cups bread flour in all
• 1 tbsp salt
• 2 tbsp instant yeast
• 2 cups whole milk
• 3 tbsp butter
• 2 tbsp honey
• 1 large egg
1. Set up the mixer with the dough hook.
2. Put 4 cups of the flour, the salt, and the yeast into the bow (salt on one side, yeast on the other, always), and give it a stir.
3. Heat the milk quite hot (about 105 degrees Fahrenheit) and drop in the butter, cut into 3 pieces. Let this stand while the butter softens and starts to melt.
4. Add the honey, stir and then pour the liquids into the flour mix.
5. Start the mixer and run a minute to begin, and then add the egg. Continue to mix until all the flour is mixed in and then knead on #4 for 5 minutes.
6. Add in the remaining flour, adjusting to humidity — you might need a bit more or less. Knead for another 5 minutes at least until the dough is smooth and well developed. You’ll want a firm but soft dough that clears the side of the bowl.
7. Scoop the dough into your buttered rising bucket or bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. Rich doughs like this take a bit longer, so allow it time.
8. When well risen, turn the dough onto your floured kneading board. Knead by hand several turns until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide the dough in half. Pat out each half into an oval, about 8 by 10 inches, and roll tightly to a pretty loaf shape.
9. Put the loaves into your well seasoned or greased pans, cover, and allow to rise again until doubled and rising in a curve over the top of the pan. Again, give it time.
10. Bake the loaves in a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes until a deep gold and a thermometer inserted reads 195 degrees. Turn the loaves out onto a wire rack to cool.
Variation: Raisin Bread
If you want raisin bread, knead a half cup of raisins into half of the dough for one loaf. If you want the cinnamon in it, pat the dough out larger, to about 12 by 14 inches, paint the surface with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Then, roll up as above. If you like, you can brush the top of the loaf with a little milk and sprinkle with coarse turbinado sugar.
This bread is just like the bread you’ll find in a bakery in Paris, and just as easy as a basic white loaf — delicious as a sandwich bread and makes wonderful toast.
• 3 cups white whole wheat flour (or traditional, your choice)
• 3 cups bread flour in all (divided)
• 1 tbsp fine sea salt
• 2 tbsp instant yeast
• 1 tbsp honey
• 2 cups milk
• 1 ½ cups broken walnuts
• 2 tbsp walnut oil*
*Note: You can substitute olive oil if you don’t have walnut. If you do purchase walnut oil, keep it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh for the next time.
1. Heat the milk to quite warm, about 100 degree Fahrenheit.
2. Set up the mixer with the dough hook.
3. Put the 3 cups of whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of bread flour in the bowl and add, on opposite sides, the salt and yeast. Give the dry ingredients a quick stir.
4. Pour in the warm milk, squirt in the honey, add the oil and use a spatula to begin mixing in the liquids. Start the mixer on “stir” until the flour is incorporated, then turn to #4 and knead for about 5 minutes.
5. Add in the walnuts, stir a bit, and then add in the remaining bread flour, holding back a little of the flour. Run the mixer on “stir” and then on #4 for a few minutes. You want a soft but firm dough that holds together. Add more flour bit by bit as needed.
6. If it seems the dough need a little “help” clearing the side of the bowl, put just a tablespoon or so more of the walnut oil down the inside of the bowl and the dough will quickly clear the bowl and, conveniently, grease the bowl so it dumps out easily.
7. When it all comes together, transfer the dough into your rising bucket or bowl. Allow it to rise until nicely doubled and puffy. This could take from ½ hour to an hour, sometimes even longer, depending on the room temperature.
8. Turn the dough out onto your floured kneading board. Knead several turns, adding a bit of flour if needed, until the dough is smooth, satiny and doesn’t stick.
9. With your bench knife, cut the dough in half, as evenly as you can. Pat each half out to an oval, about 8 by 10 inches, and then tightly, stretching a bit, roll it up to a nice, fat loaf.
10. Pick up a little flour from the board on the bottom of each loaf. Put each loaf into a greased or well seasoned loaf pan. Imbedding a walnut half in the top of the loaf makes it special.
11. Cover the loaves with greased plastic wrap or a proof cover and allow them to rise until fully doubled. Rich doughs like this take a bit longer, so allow it time. Just before the rise is complete, brush the loaves with just a little milk.
12. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake your loaves for about 50 minutes, until nicely dark gold and a thermometer inserted through the side reads 190 degrees.
13. Turn out the loaves immediately onto a wire rack. Never cut a loaf until it is completely cool. Loaves made with milk sometimes brown too fast — you can tent them with foil if they’re getting too dark.
14. Wrap the loaves well to freeze. I put each loaf or half loaf into a cheap plastic bag and then two loaves into a 2-gallon zipper freezer bag. The zipper bag can be re-used several times.
Variation: Burgundy Bread
A delicious option to walnut bread sometimes found in bakeries in France adds onions to walnut bread. Very simply, cut a large onion into medium dice, about ½ inch. Put a couple tablespoons of good olive oil into a skillet and slowly sauté the onion until nicely caramelized. Add the onion into the dough during the final machine knead and make sure it’s well distributed. This is wonderful for a hearty meat sandwich or sliced on a cheese tray.
Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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