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Grandma Virginia's Bread Recipe

C. Joshua Villines

Growing up, we never ate store-bought bread. My grandmother Virginia DuBois baked every Saturday, and we'd come in every Saturday night to visit in a house redolent with the welcoming aroma of fresh-baked bread. Before she died, she taught me the very simple recipe that she had used for many years.

  • 10 cups white flour (I recommend King Arthur White All-Purpose)
  • 5 cups wheat flour (I recommend King Arthur Whole Wheat)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons Crisco or margarine
  • 4 packets of yeast
  • 6 ½ cups of very warm water (don't kill the yeast, but don't freeze it)

Mix both flours in a large mixing bowl. Remove half the flour.

Add, in this order, the honey, salt, Crisco, water, and yeast.

Mix with an electric mixer for 2 minutes on low and 1 minute on high.

Work in the additional flour mixture (I use the mixer for this until the mix is too thick for it).

Coat your hands with flour, and knead the dough in the bowl for a few (2-3) minutes. Work in additional flour as needed (basically until the dough is no longer sticky).

Move the dough to a flour-coated bread board and continue to knead for another 5-10 minutes.

Put a light coating of Crisco around the dough, and place it back in the large mixing bowl. Cover the bowl (I usually use a few kitchen hand towels) and allow the dough to rise for 20 minutes.

Place the dough back on the breadboard and knead it back down for 2-3 minutes.

Separate the dough into 5 equal parts. Shape these parts into 5 loaves. (Warning to you anal-retentive types: It's well-nigh impossible to get the loaves all exactly the same size. Get over it.)

Coat each loaf with a light layer of Crisco and then place each one in a breadpan. Poke 8 holes (2 columns of 4) in the top of each loaf using a wooden spoon. (I don't know why, but my Grandma Virginia did it, so I do too.)

Cover the 5 breadpans with aluminum foil (and usually also with the aforementioned hand towels) and allow to rise for 1 hour. (Yes, again! You thought this would be quick?) Now is a good time to clean up the mess you made so your spouse/partner/roommate doesn't get grumpy.

Take a rack out of the oven to set the finished loaves on when you're done.

Preheat the oven to 375º.

Place the 5 breadpans on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 38-45 minutes (depending on pans, usually).

Remove the finished loaves from the oven, take them out of the breadpans, and allow them to cool on the unused oven rack.

Slice thinly, toast, and slather with honey-butter or slice a bit more thickly to use for sandwiches.