I’m not sure when, but sometime during my business trips to sunny Southern California, fall arrived in Seattle. As a vitamin D deficient, cold-weather, rain-hater the seasonal change is unwelcome. As I begrudgingly swapped out strappy sandals and sundresses for boots and tights, however, I realized it also means bread – warm, fresh-out of the oven, baked from scratch – bread.
My Great-Grandma’s bread made an appearance on these pages in August of last year, and every time I bake it I think of her and the other head-strong, sassy women in my family. I could switch things up – and will have to soon, to take advantage of the starter I acquired from a friend – but this bread makes me think of mornings spent in the kitchen with my grandmother and great-grandmother and evenings snacking on a thin slice of toast and glass of milk before bed. Maybe it’s the memories that make this bread so tasty or maybe it’s just Finnish baking spectacularness. Try it out for yourself and let me know – you can make your own memories while you’re at it.
Great-Grandma Lena’s Bread
- Clean off a large cutting board or a large patch of counter-space.
- Clean your hands and nails.
- Add 4 ½ cups of lukewarm water to a large warm bowl (I boil 2 cups to make sure the water is warm enough).
- Add one packet of yeast to the water, stir and let dissolve (about 5 minutes).
- Add 5 TBSP sugar to yeast and water.
- Add 2 TBSP salt to the yeast, sugar and water.
- Stir in 2 ½ cups of whole wheat flour to the water mixture.
- Stir in 6 cups of white flour.
- Measure out ¼ cup of vegetable oil, and add almost all of it to the mix (leave enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan).
- Continue to add more white flour until the mix is doughy but not too sticky – about 2 ½ cups. Start kneading the dough in the bowl as you add this flour.
- Flour your work area to prevent sticking and knead the dough on the work area for a few minutes until the stickiness is pretty much eliminated.
- Place the remaining vegetable oil in the bowl, add the dough and flip the dough to coat both sides with oil. Cover with a tea towel and set aside in the oven (if it’s cold out, warm the oven at the beginning of the process and then turn it off about 5 minutes before you put the bread in).
- Let rise until the dough doubles (in So. California this took 1 hour, in Seattle it takes 1 ½ hours).
- Once the dough has doubled, separate it into 3 parts. Knead each part (cover the other 2) until it doesn’t squeak. You can have great fun with this by grabbing the dough at 2 ends and slapping it against the work surface, before kneading it again. Place each of the 3 parts of dough into a lightly greased loaf or round pan.
- Cover all 3 pans with tea towels and put them back in the oven to rise. Let rise until the dough doubles (1–1 ½ hours).
- Once the dough has doubled, pull the pans out of the oven and heat the oven to 400°. Fork the top of the dough. Bake for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, when the tops are brown, remove the bread from the oven and the pans, place on a wire rack for cooling and butter the tops of the loaves.
- Let cool, eat and enjoy.
You can freeze (wrap in freezer paper and a plastic bag) or refrigerate 1 or 2 of the loaves.