Standard White Bread

I got my love of baking from mom….but not some of her habits (I’ll get to that later). I swear mom’s middle name was “Bake”, and I could easily be Bake, Jr. Every Saturday (and I do mean EVERY Saturday), Mom would get up early and break out the flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, yeast, baking powder…well, you get picture. She would don her apron and, um, “hairnet” (I’ll get to that later).

We’d wake up to the aroma of yummy things wafting from the kitchen. She would spend all morning mixing, slapping (I’ll get to that later), rising, and baking. Breakfast was a culinary delight of cherry strudel, kolaches, cinnamon rolls, bread, and whatever else struck her fanny…er, I mean fancy….

I never realized how lucky I was. I, of course, thought all moms performed this Saturday morning ritual. I did, however, wonder what it would be like to actually buy those packaged cookies at the store. On a very rare occasion I would be lucky enough to taste one at a friend’s house. Oh, how I wished we could have some of those at home!

By now, I suppose you’re wondering about Mom’s habits, hairnet, and slaps. Believe it or not, they all lead to baking…bread in particular. You see, back then it was the norm to wear a hairnet while cooking. Mom apparently ran out of hairnets one day and was beside herself wondering what to do. Lucky for her, the laundry room was just off the kitchen. She saw the load of freshly folded clothes and sure enough…her answer was right before her eyes. The absolutely perfect fit to wrap her locks around her head and prevent a strand of hair from falling into her kneaded mass. I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now…or maybe not…a pair of my little sisters underwear! Yep, you heard me right. Underwear. Imagine our surprise when we awoke, followed our noses to the kitchen, and found Mom humming to herself, kneading bread, and…wearing a pair of underwear on her head! By then, she had forgotten all about her hairnet dilemma, and couldn’t figure out why we were all staring at her. Now that you know that (which is the most important part of this trip down memory lane), I’ll get to the slapping part. Mom’s recipe for “standard bread” made five loaves. She would divide the dough into five parts. Each one would be lovingly formed into a ball and slapped, reshaped by stretching the outside, and slapped again, and again, and again for several minutes. By the time Mom was done shaping and slapping every loaf, her hand would be so red you’d think she dipped it in red dye. She assured me it was worth every slap because the bread would have a wonder texture without any big air holes.

My love of baking is much like Moms, but I don’t get up early every Saturday morning. I also must admit that I don’t slap my bread dough (OK, sometimes I do…and I think fondly of mom when I do), and I absolutely have never, ever worn undies on my head!

I have no idea where she got the recipe, but here’s how to make Mom’s Standard White Bread. I have embellished it slightly in memory of Mom. (You, no doubt, will note my embellishments.)

Standard White Bread

6 ¼ teaspoons yeast
½ cup plus 2 tablespoon lukewarm water
2 ½ teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons shortening
5 tablespoons sugar
5 cups scalded milk
15 cups flour

Wake up early on Saturday morning ~ no later than 5:00 AM. Don your apron and hair net. If you can’t find a hair net, grab a clean pair of little girl undies and cover your locks with the undies. Hope that you don’t have drop in company.

Add yeast to lukewarm water and sugar. Let stand 5 minutes. Add salt, shortening, and sugar to scalded milk. Stir. Cool to lukewarm. Add softened yeast and half the flour to milk mixture to make a soft dough. Turn onto floured board and knead. Place in greased bowl, turn over, cover and rise to doubled in size.

Divide dough into 5 equal parts. Shape each loaf separately by gently stretching the surface of the dough and tucking it under, forming a smooth round ball. Hold the dough in one hand and slap it with the open palm of your other hand as hard as you can. Continue by turning the dough ball around and repeatedly slapping it for about 2 minutes. You’ll know when you are done ~ the dough will be soft, but firm and your hand will be sore and reddened.

Place loaves in 5 greased 8” loaf pans (turning again to grease dough). Cover and rise until doubled. Bake at 400° F for 10 minutes. Reduce to 375° F and bake 35-40 minutes. Butter outside crust when hot. Cool on sides. Makes 5 loaves.