Friday, December 10, 2004

grandma's bread

Well, well well, it's that holiday time off year again when I take on the tradition of making my grandmother's bread recipe. It's no easy task, because my grandmother did this at least once every week so the recipe was always in her head, never written down. She never bought bread from the grocery store, always made from scratch. My memories of this dark rye bread involve me sitting at my grandma's white formica table in their small 1950's kitchen, the bread coming out of the toaster and being slathered in butter. It tasted like the bread equivalent of the perfect french fry: a little crunchy on the outside and so soft and chewy inside. Mmm. My "mociute" Antonia and my great aunt "Manyte" or "Teta Maryte" would let me help them knead the dough sometimes. I think it was in their kitchen that I learned to appreciate the beautiful smell of freshly baking bread.

Anyway, here's her recipe. When I was in Lithuania, I found a Lithuanian cookbook with a recipe that I think will approximate her bread even more closely. I had some black rye bread in Lithuania that was almost (if not) exactly the same texture and flavor as my grandma's bread. I'm going to transcribe my grandma's recipe word-for-word from Lithuanian, because it's funny & it's difficult to know how she made this bread. Her "cup" measurement could have been a coffee mug, I just don't know exactly: this recipe was all in her head, because she did it every week.

"Musu Duona ("Our Bread")

4 cups buttermilk
3 cups water

Warm in on the stove while constantly mixing, so it doesn't curdle.

Add rye flour until the consistency is like sour cream and set aside to ferment, covered in a warm spot. (I set it aside to ferment at 4-5pm in the afternoon the day before). The next day after it has fermented, I add 1 cup of honey, a large spoon (tablespoon?) of caraway seeds, a large spoon (tablespoon?) of salt, and the yeast. I use 2 packages of fresh yeast cakes (ed. note--this was preferred) or 2 small spoons (teaspoons?) of dry yeast. (First I prepare the yeast with a little flour and a bit of sugar and set it aside to let it rise).

Having combined all of the ingredients, I add 1 pound of rye flour and the remaining white flour (unbleached) so that it would be quite thick. Then I knead the dough for 20 minutes (ed. note--always by hand, she didn't have a stand or bread mixer!!), and I transfer the dough into bread pans, to let the dough rise. When it rises I put it in a 350 degree oven and bake for 1.5 hours. It should turn out good, good luck (ed. note--translated as "Turetu buti gerai. Sekmes")"

Today I'm going to try the cookbook version of this recipe. I'll post it later & let you know how it goes.

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