I think about the fires recently in the hills around us here in Southern California, and remember back to the Oakland California fires in an earlier era. While many stories were poignant and very sad, one that has stuck in my memory is the story of the woman who lost everything in the fire. Interestingly, she despaired the most over the loss of her recipes, some of which were family treasures passed down for several generations. (I have a few of those as well.)
Some weeks after the fire, one of her neighbors found out where she was living, and brought her a loaf of her own bread, with the recipe attached to it. Little by little, her recipes came back to her, because she shared them. Little by little, she rebuilt her life.
My mother cooked for a crowd: her family of seven children. I remember coming home as a teenager to the smell of this bread, freshly baked. It was perfect in the afternoons, just warm crumbly bread, some homemade jam, and a glass of milk. Of course the fantasy memory might include then happily skipping off to do the homework, but I think the real memory probably was slicing one more slice, in order to avoid leaving Mom’s kitchen and her good bread. This is one recipe I don’t want to lose, so I’m posting it here.
When I made a batch, the bread turned out to be softer than I had remembered. How to get the *crunch* that lingered in my memory? Toast it, slice by slice in the the toaster, and drizzle with honey. Lovely.
My mother and I talked about this recipe and she says it never lasts in their house, mainly because they give away one of the two loaves every time. She still is still teaching me more things than just making bread.
Mother’s Wheat Germ Bread
Combine in a mixer bowl:
1 1/2 cups boiling water
6 Tbls. shortening (I suppose you could substitute butter)
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt.
Dissolve 2 packages yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and add to above mixture. Then add 2 eggs, mixing well, but not overbeating.
Add: 1 cup wheat germ and 3 cups white flour and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Blend in 2 1/2 cups more flour.
“Blob it in” (the recipe says) into 2 greased loaf “tins,” and let rise to within 1″ of the top of the pan.
Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter.
I find that I’m used to a more complete recipe these days: Do I turn the loaves out onto racks immediately, or let them cool for 10 minutes in the pan? When do I brush on the melted butter? How long do I mix the dough? This is a recipe from days when most women cooked, and cooked regularly, and knew what to do. I smile at even earlier recipes that say things like “Cook in a moderate oven until done.” Translation, please?