Mary's Bread: A Delicious Buttermilk Loaf
Bread from the 1940s
This bread recipe is adapted from “Breads and More Breads,” a recipe book from 1948 that we found at Goodwill. It’s pretty simple but requires a couple of extended rise times. It’s a perfect bread to try on a day when you have other stuff to do around the house, or can come back and check on it every couple of hours.
I’ve made this bread several times and I’ve experimented with a lot of different tweaks and adjustments. This exact recipe is my favorite to make for my husband, because he likes lighter, fluffier bread. That’s why the wheat gluten is included: it helps the finished bread have a moister and spongier texture. This makes the bread less crumbly and much better suited to sandwiches. He always jokes that I like eating "peasant bread" because I prefer darker, denser breads, but this loaf hits a happy medium we both enjoy.
The ingredients impact your texture
Using the buttermilk and soda also makes the bread tender, and the reaction adds more air bubbles as well. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand you can use leftover whey from yogurt or combine a cup of milk with a tablespoon of white vinegar. If you’re really in a desperate pinch you could try it with water for all the liquid but the bread won’t be quite as rich.
When making this bread I combine whole wheat and white flour, but you can do whatever works for you! Since this recipe is so delicious and forgiving it’s not hard to make it a few different times and experiment with the perfect balance for your preference.
How to store it
Usually when I bake this bread I form it into a couple of loaves, and the first one disappears the moment it comes out of the oven. I love the smell of it baking, and by the time it’s done we can’t wait to devour it! I have also wrapped the second loaf and popped it in the freezer, then pulled it out to finish a week later. It was still perfectly delicious that way, and lasted almost an entire week after that on our counter top.
Once you’re really comfortable with this recipe, or if you want to get crazy, you can try variations by adding eggs or fruit. The recipe book suggests 2 cups of cocoa and 4 beaten eggs, saying “Children especially like this.” I don’t think I count as a child any more, but it sounds pretty tempting to me!
- 1 tablespoon yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup water, warm
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon melted shortening
- 2 tablespoons wheat gluten, optional
- 5 cups flour
- Combine the yeast, sugar, and ¼ cup of water in a large bowl. Let it sit for 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes foamy.
- Stir the salt, shortening, baking soda, the rest of the water and the buttermilk into the yeast mixture.
- Add one cup of flour, then the wheat gluten. Then mix in the rest of the flour, kneading with your hands as the dough gets thick.
- Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Let rise until double (about 2 hours).
- Knead the dough and let it rise again until double in bulk.
- Divide the dough, shape as desired on a cookie sheet or in a bread pan. Cut slits in the top of the loaves and let rise until it doubles (again!).
- Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and then decrease the oven temperature to 350 for 40 more minutes.
- Allow to cool before slicing. Wrap and store outside the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for later use.
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What do you think?
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! We've really enjoyed baking and eating this bread, and it's always so fun to know that this recipe has been around for 60 years.
I would love to hear how this recipe works out for you, especially if you adjust the ingredients. Is it better with eggs? What proportion of white and wheat flour did you choose? Leave a comment and let me know!
© 2018 Bethany Halbert