Penny Loaves

Recipes for the Open Hearth

Penny Loaves

Yields 2 loaves
  • Breads

Ingredients 

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 packages dry yeast
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt, according to taste
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Sprinkle of cornmeal

Method 

  1. Combine 3 cups of the all-purpose flour with the whole wheat flour, the dry yeast and the salt.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the milk, honey and butter 120º to 130º F; add them to the flour mixture and blend thoroughly.
  3. Turn the bread out onto a floured board. Add the final cup of all-purpose flour and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic–about 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl, rotating the dough to grease the entire ball.
  5. Let the dough rise, covered, in a warm place for about an hour. When it is doubled in bulk, punch it down, divide it in half, and shape into two balls.
  6. Set them to rise again for about 45 minutes.
  7. About 10 minutes before the loaves are ready, prepare a burner in the fireplace and place the Dutch oven on it to heat thoroughly.
  8. When the loaves are ready, reshape them into oblongs so they will fit side-by-side in the Dutch oven.
  9. Sprinkle the bottom of the Dutch oven with cornmeal, place the loaves on top and close the lid.
  10. Bread baking requires more heat on top than on the bottom, so put a thick layer of coals on top of the lid.
  11. Bake for about 20 minutes.
  12. Very carefully remove the lid from the Dutch oven. (If you are afraid of spilling the coals, brush them off first.) The bottom of the loaves should sound hollow when lightly tapped; an instant thermometer should read 200º F. The loaves should be nicely browned.

This recipe has been developed over years of hearth cooking to become virtually foolproof. The loaves are baked in a Dutch oven set on hot coals, with a layer of coals on the lid–"fire above and fire below," as some old recipes read. (The same recipe can be followed to bake the loaves in a regular, 350º preheated oven, with the oven rack at the middle level. The baking time will be about the same.)

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