Archive for October, 2011

Multigrain Bread

October 27, 2011

One goal of my Chicagoland mission to my family was to bake everyone’s bread. They’d have baguettes, sour dough boules, Irish brown soda, cinnamon rolls, currant scones and even soft sliced loaf bread for peanut butter sandwiches. I stocked the basement with 50-pound bags of flour, plugged in my 12-quart old horse of a Hobart, lined up big crockery bowls and set to work.

All was dandy for a few weeks or maybe even months, but then word seeped out that my granddaughters really didn’t like my bread for PBJs. They preferred the gummy, soft, store-bought stuff. I was devastated.

The next time I was alone in their kitchen, I took out the package of sliced bread, studied the contents and wrote down all the ingredients listed on the label. I checked out a stack of artisan baking books from the library and researched sandwich breads. After several weeks of experiments, I felt certain I had produced a soft, multigrain loaf that could rival any of the store shelf brands. But alas, the girls were not convinced. Although they are still delighted with the cinnamon rolls and pile butter onto thick slices of sourdough at Sunday dinners, when it comes to those sandwiches that go into their lunch boxes, they want bread like everyone else’s. At any rate, here’s a great multigrain loaf that keeps well, makes welcome toast or sandwiches and packs honest nutritional value.

Multigrain Bread

1 ½ oz. raisins (tight fist full)

4 oz. peeled, diced potato (1 scant cup)

2 cups water

¾ teaspoon dry yeast (plus pinch ginger powder)

1 ½ oz. rolled oats (½ cup)

8 oz. flour (half whole wheat, half white bread) (1 ½ cups)

¾ teaspoon dry yeast + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

1 tablespoon wheat germ

1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter, pure olive oil or canola oil

8-10 oz. flour (half whole wheat, half white bread)

1 ½ teaspoons salt

The night before, simmer the raisins, potato and 2 cups water in covered saucepan until potato is very tender. Cool slightly and puree in a blender. When lukewarm add yeast and ginger. When yeast has softened, add oats, then 8 oz. mixed flours. Beat well, cover and let stand at room temperature at least 2 hours. Refrigerate this pre-ferment overnight.

Next morning remove pre-ferment from fridge; let stand at room temperature an hour. Dissolve ¾ teaspoon yeast in 2 tablespoons water. In mixing bowl place pre-ferment, yeast, honey, flax, wheat germ, butter or oil and minimum amount flours. Mix with rubber spatula, sprinkle salt on top, cover and let stand half hour or more. Knead using dough hook or by hand adding little more flour as needed. Cover and let rise until light. If time allows, fold down dough and let rise again 30–45 minutes.

Divide dough into 2 equal lumps, shape in balls and place in a greased 9” by 5” loaf pan. Cover with plastic and let rise until double. Mist with water, dust with oatmeal or oat bran and bake in 400º oven for 30–35 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 if loaf browns too quickly. Bread is done if sounds hollow when knocked with fist. Makes one 2-lb. loaf.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at

Sally’s Gingersnaps

October 14, 2011

Throughout my school years, I wished for a best friend. I didn’t find her until I was well into my 30’s and had school-age children of my own. We met over flats of pansies, Ruth’s coffee and the university women’s sewing circle. We shared favorite books, family dinners and sent postcards from travels. We grew as close as blood sisters and sometimes each wished for what the other accomplished. We visited on her back garden bench, pondered life’s great questions and saw our young ones begin to forge the reality of their own experience.

Decades passed, her knees weakened, her shoulders asked for replacement, she fell, she forgot. Light started to leave my talented and dignified friend. I spoke but she no longer answered. I felt alone when I knew her fluttering eyelids had closed. As we left her earthly dust in a quiet churchyard where yellow leaves swirled at our feet, I clutched my gift, my memory of the best of friends.

Her Mennonite heritage brightened each autumn with pumpkins, apples and Pennsylvania Dutch Gingersnaps.

Sally’s Gingersnaps

 4 oz. unsalted butter (1 stick)

3 ½ oz. sugar (½ cup)

6 oz. unsulphured molasses (½ cup)

1 small egg or 2 tablespoons beaten egg

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground allspice (optional)

¼ teaspoon dry mustard powder (optional

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

10-11 oz. all purpose flour (2-2 ¼ cups)

Cream butter and sugar mixing in molasses and egg. Stir in salt and all spices. Dissolve soda in vinegar and add to mixture along with enough flour to make a stiff dough. Scrape the dough into the center of a sheet of plastic film, wrap and chill several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Divide chilled dough into 6ths and roll each small piece on a lightly floured surface to a thin circle; aim for 1/16th inch thickness. Cut into rounds or other shapes. Place on parchement covered baking sheet, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 9-10 minutes. (Add the scrapes from one rolling onto the next segment of fresh dough before another rolling.)Take care during baking since molasses cookies burn easily.

If thin rolling is too difficult, roll each segment of dough into a long snake about ½ inch in diameter; cut into cherry sized lumps and roll in balls. Place balls on parchment covered baking sheets and press with oiled, flat bottom of a small glass dipped in sugar. Redip the glass in sugar for each cookie. Makes 6 to 8 dozen gingersnaps.

Note: Photo shows both cut-out and hand shaped cookies.