WND – The Trials of Yeast

May 22, 2008

I have a theory. Everyone has one thing that completely flummoxes them in the kitchen. It’s not something difficult. It’s something everyone else can do just fine, but completely eludes you.

Mine is bread.

Yeast and I have a troubled relationship. We have great first dates. We have an immediate chemistry. Then there’s the second date, and that’s where it all falls apart. Or, in my case that’s where it just falls, never to rise again. There’s never a third date.

I’ve read books on making bread. I’ve watched countless hours of the Food Network watching people make bread, and yet clearly I’m still doing something wrong because my bread never rises a second time. Instead it sits sullenly and taunts me with its leaden mass.

I’m not looking to become one of those people who smugly makes all their own bread. I just want to know that if the urge overcomes me that I can make bread. I’ve thought about getting a bread maker, but (a) I don’t have that kind of space in my kitchen, (b) I wouldn’t use it often enough to justify it, and (c) it feels like cheating. The bread maker does it all for you. I don’t really have anything against that, but making bread in a bread maker doesn’t mean that I actually know how to make bread it just means I know how to use a machine. And, I really want to know how to make bread.

I’m not entirely resigned to my bread failures yet, but in the meantime I do have a couple of recipes for excellent yeast breads that only require a single rising.

Grilled Cajun Chicken Salad with Spicy Ranch Dressing
Pioneer Bread

Pioneer Bread

The recipe is called pioneer bread, but I’m dubious about whether actual pioneers would have made it. It does only require the single rising so it’s not as labor intensive as other breads, but it would have required a bread oven to bake and I’m not sure there were a lot of those on the Oregon Trail – or at least there weren’t in the version of Oregon Trail that I played as a child.

2 ¼ tsp yeast (1 package)
2 Tbsp sugar
½ cup warm water
2 cups milk
½ cup molasses
2 tsp salt
½ cup butter
1 egg
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 ½ cups white flour*

In a small bowl mix together the yeast, sugar and warm water and set aside to proof for 5-10 minutes.

In a saucepan heat 1 cup milk with the molasses, salt and butter until the butter is melted. Allow to cool slightly. Do not allow the milk to boil, you just want it warm enough to melt the butter.

In a large bowl lightly beat the egg with the other cup of milk. Add the yeast mixture (making sure you scrape the bowl to get all the sugar). Add the cooled milk/molasses mixture. Stir together.

Add the flour and stir to incorporate. This will make a very wet, sticky dough.

Divide the dough between two well greased loaf pans and set aside somewhere warm to rise for 1-2 hours. I’ve never had it rise enough in 1 hour, but if you had somewhere warm and draftless it might happen.

When the dough has doubled in size bake in a 350 oven for 35 minutes.

Turn out of the pans and allow to cool. It’s amazing just out of the oven and still hot enough to melt butter. It’s also very good cooled and sliced. It’s particularly excellent toasted with cheese. Also, your house will smell amazing.

Notes: You can fiddle with the whole wheat/white flour proportions. I don’t know that I’d recommend doing it with all whole wheat flour, I find it makes the bread too dense. I have done it with all white flour when I’ve been out of whole wheat flour, but I like the flavor better when it’s about 50/50.



  1. Want to make bread some time? I have yeast problems now and then (wait…ew!), but if you don’t let the first rise go on too long and you don’t overwork the dough before rise 2, it usually works out…

  2. ooh, yes please. I can try and teach you how to make biscuits in exchange.

    More revenge baking!

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