Baking bread is inviting to all

Growing up, I was fortunate to have two grandmothers in my life who were tremendous influences for me. My Grandma Celeste was incredibly personable and could make anyone feel right at home. She was a mother of eight children and enjoyed crochetin...

Simple farmhouse loaves (Cristen Clark/Special to Agweek)
Simple farmhouse loaves (Cristen Clark/Special to Agweek)

Growing up, I was fortunate to have two grandmothers in my life who were tremendous influences for me. My Grandma Celeste was incredibly personable and could make anyone feel right at home. She was a mother of eight children and enjoyed crocheting and participating in philanthropic efforts in the rural community.

My Grandma Madeline was a kitchen maven and committed to the art of traditional two-step dancing. She was a mother of three children and a home economics teacher at the local school. The differences between my two grandmas far outweigh the similarities, but there's one thing they both had in common that is close to my heart - they both loved to bake bread and share it with the people they loved.

Each of these women always had a fresh loaf of bread due out of the oven when you'd hit the door for a visit. However, they baked differently. Grandma Celeste used a bread maker to create her breads; it was quick, simple and consistent. While the machine did its work, she was able to crochet an entire scarf.

Madeline used her hands; I can still see the pile of turquoise rings sitting on her gray countertop as she kneaded the dough. It was more work but it seemed there was a certain amount of joy derived from the process.

Regardless of the method of baking, both loaves of bread tasted delicious. They were different, but one was not better than the other. The aroma of the yeast tickled my nose when I stepped into each of their homes. That aroma still makes me stop and close my eyes to this day. Bread baking is, and always will be, a special experience. Baking transports me back to those times, when those special people were here, even if only for a moment.


In agriculture and especially advocacy efforts, I find there are plenty of people who frequently draw upon the differences in how they farm or promote farming. Focusing on what brings us together, versus what divides us, as farmers, ranchers and those employed by agriculture will drive us forward faster.

If there were one thing I'd love to do with all of the passionate minds that we have supporting our livelihoods, it would be to sit around a giant farmhouse table and break bread together. Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if a loaf of fresh bread came out of a bread machine or a 40-year-old oven. What matters is the passion, heart and soul of the person and the willing hands that created it.

I'm not a talented crochet-artist, so I take the long route in baking bread - no machine required. I find that sometimes I just "need to knead." Bake this bread for those who mean the most to you, and save the extra loaf for anyone who comes to visit. They won't forget the kind gesture.

Simple Farmhouse Loaves

Makes two large loaves of soft white bread.

½ cup warm water

2 packets (4 ½ teaspoon) instant yeast or active dry yeast

2 tablespoons sugar


1 tablespoons honey

1 ½ cup warm water

1/2 cup nonfat milk powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

¼ cup butter

6 cups all-purpose flour



Egg wash: 1 egg plus 1 teaspoon water (to brush on risen loaves of dough prior to baking)


In a large mixing bowl add ½ cup warm water, add yeast, sugar and honey. 'Proof' yeast until foamy (5-10 minutes). Add 1 ½ cups warm water, nonfat milk powder, salt, eggs and butter.  Whisk vigorously until combined. Add flour and fold into mixture until a shaggy mass forms. At this point continue by hand until a ball forms, or immediately move to a heavy duty stand mixer to work dough until a smooth ball remains (6-8 minutes on low speed).

By hand, knead dough for 8-10 minutes on a lightly floured work space until a smooth ball forms. Place in a clean oiled bowl and lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and leave to rise in a warm area. Let dough rise 60 minutes, or until double in size (this depends on the warmth of the environment, on a stove top of a pre-heating oven is where I place my dough).

When done rising, punch down to de-gas. Cut into two pieces. Shape the dough into two round loaves, being sure to create surface tension so the loaves don't go flat. Spray the dough rounds with nonstick spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm area until double in size (60 minutes).  When ready to bake, remove plastic wrap. Brush loaves with the egg wash. Slash dough ¼- to ½-inch deep with a razor blade or very sharp knife.

Bake loaves in a 350 degree preheated oven for 30 minutes or until loaves are golden and sound hollow when tapped. (Temperature:190-200 degrees F on an instant read thermometer) Remove from oven, and place on cooling rack. Cool until warm or room temperature.

Cristen Clark, Special to Agweek

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