Many of my Readers know that I once owned and operated a bakery in Amish country. I baked bread, rolls, pies, cakes, donuts and more for the whole countryside.
After 9/11 the business almost dried up, just like a light switch, it was gone. We struggled on for a while but with 2 mortgages to pay it was hard. We finally sold the business and our country home and went back to our little home in the suburbs.
No one has opened up the business again, the new owners just rent out the house. The home we are in now is the home where I grew up so the situation is not really so bad as it may sound. I love it here. I get to watch my children climb in the tree I planted. I get to garden in my Mother’s garden.
Anyway, back to the bakery. While I was there I learned a lot of Amish recipes. Amish recipes aren’t typically healthy because they utilize white sugar and flour. But they sure are tasty! Feel free to use alternate ingredients.
Amish Bread is a phenomenon all its own. Its soft, delicious and easy to make in big batches. When someone starts bread baking, I always recommend they start with this kind of bread. We sold over 40 loaves per day of this bread in our heyday.
Equally well received was the Amish Wheat Bread. You can use the same recipe and replace all the white flour with light whole wheat or half whole wheat and half light whole wheat. If you use all Whole wheat, the dark kind, you’ll need to add about 2 tablespoons of vital wheat gluten to help the bread rise. The photo above, to the right is 100% Light Whole Wheat, King Arthur flour. The photo below is a side view of the Amish White Bread.
Amish Country Bread
2 1/2 cups milk, heated to about 115*F – I just heat it on the stove in a pan and I heat it til I can stick my finger in it and its very warm but not uncomfortable. Or you could use a thermometer.
2 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 rounded tablespoon fat*
2 Tablespoons salt**
5 -7 cups bread flour
* I use lard, shortening will work. Coconut oil tends to make the loaf dry. Olive oil works well.
** It seems like a lot but if you reduce it, only reduce it by a teaspoon or so
If you anticipate your bread hanging around the house a while before its devoured, you can add 2 tablespoons powdered lecithin. Lecithin is a natural product derived from egg yolk that keeps the bread moist and keeps it from crumbling. Mine never hangs around that long, chances are, yours won’t either!
Before you begin, preheat your oven to 500*F. You won’t use this high temp to bake the bread, but you’ll turn off the heat and use the heated oven to help the bread rise.
1) Heat the milk, add about 1/2 cup of the milk to a cup and then add the yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Let this mixture sit and foam for about 5 minutes.
2) Add the rest of the sugar, salt, fat, rest of the milk and the lecithin to the mixing bowl.
3) Once the yeast mixture foams, add it to the mixing bowl ingredients.
4) Now start adding the flour, a cup at a time, to the mixing bowl ingredients, mixing until you get a soft dough. If you’re using a stand mixer to knead the dough, knead until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and leaves the bowl clean.
If you are kneading by hand, add flour and knead for 10 minutes. Don’t add more than 7 cups of flour.
5) After kneading, grease a large oven-proof bowl. Gather the dough up into a ball and place it into the greased bowl. Pick up the ball and turn it over in the bowl, this greases the top surface of the dough. Cover the bowl and dough with a clean cloth.
6) Place the bowl into the heated oven, turn off the heat and let the oven door hang open a bit.
If you’re not using the heated oven to raise the dough, just place the dough in a warm area. Allow the dough to rise til double, about 45 minutes to an hour if you’re using the heated oven and about an hour to an hour and a half if you’re not using the oven.
While the dough is rising, prepare two loaf pans by greasing them well. You can use spray oil.
7) Once the dough is risen and doubled in size, divide it into to two equal portions. I shape each portion into a loaf by first pulling the sides of the ball down and tucking them underneath the ball, kind of like a mushroom. Then I hold the ball with the tucked ends near my palm and roll the “mushroom” on the table. This presses out air bubbles.
8) Place the dough into the prepared pans. Using a fork, pierce the dough all the way to the bottom of the pan 10 or 12 times all over the top of the loaf.
9) Allow the loaves to rise until they are about 1 inch over the sides of the pans. This can take up to two hours.
10) Preheat the oven to 325*F. Bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Turn the pans over and remove the bread from the pans.
Brush the tops and sides of the warm loaves with butter, this makes the crust soft once the bread cools.
Allow to cool before storing in plastic bags.
You can really dress this recipe up by adding fresh herbs.
One way to use this recipe is to make an herb loaf. Divide the dough into two portions. Place the rounds of dough on a greased cookies sheet or on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Paint the tops of the loaves with an egg-wash made from 1 egg white and a little water. Then slit the tops in a decorative pattern using a small sharp knife. Now sprinkle over the top, kosher salt, rosemary, oregano and thyme. You can also use a bit of grated Parmesan cheese if you like. Bake at 350*F for about 25 minutes. Cool on a rack before storing.