AMISH WHITE BREAD: A loaf of homemade white bread is a staple of Amish culinary life. In fact, the first time I ever visited an Amish home, way back when I was 17, the ladies were making loaves of homemade bread. I can still remember the sound of their hands kneading the elastic dough. With large families, bread can go a long way towards feeding many people inexpensively. Bread serves as the building blocks for sandwiches, French toast, stuffing, and puddings. Need a quick meal? Slap together a sandwich. Need an inexpensive dessert? Crumble up that loaf of day-old homemade bread and make a "bread pie." Bread pie is so simple I can just tell you how to make it: fill a pie crust with crumbled homemade bread, then fill the crust about ¾ full with milk. Sprinkle some sugar and cinnamon over it and bake at 350 until firm. This is a surprisingly delicious pie especially if you go heavy on the cinnamon! Stuck for what to have for breakfast? You can crumble up bread and make "coffee soup", another staple of the Great Depression-era Amish diet. Coffee soup is simply an empty mug filled with coffee, bread, and a dash of milk and perhaps some sugar.
This is a very basic homemade white bread recipe popular with Amish cooks that produces the delicious loaves above which I saw in a Conewango Valley, New York bakery. Yum! The Amish Cook herself uses a recipe similar to the one below.
BASIC WHITE BREAD
1 package active dry yeast
2 ½ cups lukewarm water
Lard (the size of an egg); you can substitute shortening here if needed
2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
Enough bread flour to make a soft dough (usually about 5 cups)
Grease pans and set aside.
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in a ½ cup warm water. In a large bowl, combine the lard, sugar, salt and the remaining 2 cups of water. Add the yeast mixture to the bowl and stir until combined. Add the flour, ½ cup at a time, mixing until the dough is elastic and doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with a damp cloth and let rise until double in size, about 1 ½ hours in a warm, draft-free place.
Punch the dough down and place on lightly floured surface. Cut the the dough into 2 equal portions. Punch down a little more and form each into a loaf. Place the dough into greased loaf pans. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise again until the dough is level with the loaf pan, about 40-50 minutes. Pierce each loaf several times with a fork.
While the dough is rising, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake the bread for 40-45 minutes. The bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on top. After removing the bread from the over, brush with butter for a softer crust. Remove the bread from the pans and place on cooling rack.
The bread freezes well and will keep for up to 6 months.
A reader who tried the recipe gave the following tip: place a cast iron pan on lower rack in oven and let heat. When you place the bread in the oven to cook, pour 1-2 cups of water into heated pan and leave in closed over for 5-10 minutes. The steam makes a fabulous crust on the bread. The loaf pictured above (not the best quality photo) is some bread Lovina Eicher made using a similar recipe. Looks yummy!
The loaf of bread pictured here was one I enjoyed at the home of a Beachy Amish Mennonite family outside Hutchinson, Kansas. Notice the pat of homemade butter sitting next to do it. Wow, oh, wow, homemade bread slathered with equally homemade butter could be a meal all unto itself! Yum!:)
While white bread remains the gold standard in Amish kitchens, sourdough bread has become popular, along with wheat bread, oatmeal bread, and even salt-rising bread. This is some beautiful sourdough bread from Marie Bontrager's Amish bakery in Clark, Missouri. Photo courtesy of Jessica Salmond. The recipe below is a sourdough recipe commonly used in Amish kitchens, probably makes the loaves below. Looks like an egg wash was used to make a nice shine!
Amish Sourdough Bread
1 c. sugar
½ c. oil
1 tsp salt
1 ½ c warm water
1 c. Amish Friendship batter
6 c. bread flour
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Oil bottom and sides of large bowl and put bread dough in it. Let stand overnight at room temperature. In the morning punch down the dough 4 or 5 times and divide into 3 equal balls. Knead each ball 8-10 times and put into 3 greased and floured loaf pans. Brush tops with oil and cover with oiled foil. Let stand 4-5 hours or all day. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes (cover with foil after lightly browned)