This very basic recipe comes from a 1915 book I found on Project Gutenberg, Mary at the Farm and Book of Recipes Compiled During Her Visit Among the “Pennsylvania Germans”, by Edith M. Thomas. Judging from both the title and the recipes, people had longer attention spans 99 years ago. However, some things haven’t changed, and this recipe works as well and tastes as good if you make it today in a bread machine. I even used the same brand of yeast (Fleischman’s) the book recommends — I don’t buy it in cakes, as people did back then, but the jar label plus The Joy of Cooking told me that 2 1/4 teaspoons equaled one cake, so I was set.
The recipes in the book are framed by the story of Mary, a kindergarten teacher, learning to cook as she spends the summer with her aunt. The bread recipe is apparently one she comes up with on her own. Unlike her aunt’s or the neighbor’s recipes, it doesn’t use potato (for extra starchiness?), which simplifies it almost enough to fall within our limit of four ingredients. I simplified it further by making it a “lean loaf” — no fat. That leaves flour, yeast, milk, and sugar (plus water and salt, which I don’t count).
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- Put the ingredients in your bread machine in the above order and set it either to bake, or just to make dough if you’d rather finish it in the oven.
- If you do bake it in the oven, use a greased loaf pan (mine was 9×5, but a smaller one would work fine) and preheat to 450°, then turn down to 350° after 10 minutes and leave it in for another half hour.
- The bread, like all bread, is done when you can tap it on the bottom and hear a hollow sound.
- This is not a sandwich-sized loaf, but makes a nice addition to dinner and is also good for snacks.
(Word to the wise: Don’t set your bread machine on any kind of “rapid” baking cycle unless you’re using quick yeast.)
(But if you’ve done that — take the baked but unrisen bread, break it into bite-sized pieces, fry them in vegetable oil till lightly browned, then shake them in a paper bag with cinnamon sugar. They’re quite edible that way.)
(And if you ever happen to realize you’ve left out the yeast and the machine has already mixed up the dough, mix the yeast with a little water, pour it in and let the machine mix some more. It’s worked for me.)