My time in a Mormon community doesn’t show very often, but it was during my formative years. All of my friends were Mormon; almost all of their parents kept a large supply of emergency supplies (the year’s supply).
It made sense; that town is 30 miles from anywhere else. The roads into and out of town are mostly two lane, either state or county maintenance, not terribly straight, and in snow country. Bad storms weren’t common, but the town is far enough from other places that if the supply chain got disrupted, it could take weeks to get things back to normal.
And a year’s supply is insulation against a family illness, a job loss, or other economic hardship. (Or the apocalypse, and the eventual domination of the United States by the prepared — and therefore virtuous — members of the Church, while the rest of us scum beg them to provide, though they try not to say that when they’re outnumbered by Gentiles.)
Being prepared was part of my teenage normal, and I’ve spent most of my adult life being aware that I need to maintain an emergency stash. My normal is actually 2-3 weeks, not a year, but I did learn how to use the year supply supplies as a teenager. If your friends are making 6 loaves of bread for their 8 siblings? You help, and pick up the tricks along the way. (Hi, Tori!)
I go back and forth on bread. I’m picky, okay? I really am not a huge fan of white sandwich bread. French and Italian and ciabatta are delicious, but I want those torn in rough hunks, with oil or butter, cheese, slices of apple and sausage and olives. And that way lies over-indulgence.
If I want a sandwich, I want it to have a highly regular shape and grain, and I want it to slice cleanly, and I really just want it to be the Roman Meal my grandmother always bought. (Roman Meal is no longer available in my market.) I prefer salads — tuna, chicken and egg — to cold cuts, but even with cold cuts, I want sauces and vegetables. A bread with big holes leaks.
Which is why I bought Pullman pans a long time ago, even if they’re not the most practical loaf pans, and even if a bread maker would be an easier way to make bread.
Pullman pans are just very square loaf pans with a lid and some steam vents. Pullman loaves started out as the bread one got on a train, because it stored efficiently and was less subject to getting crushed because it stored well. It tends to be fine-grained, because it rises in a contained space, which means it is easier to slice very thin. You can bake this recipe in a regular pan, or you can grease a sheet pan, put the loaves on the sheet pan and the loaf pan upside down over the rising loaf. Glass is interesting here — you get to see everything it does, so it’s fun when doing kitchen science.
And then… well… the recent difficulties with flour supplies. Look: baking bread makes a lot of sense if you’re a bread family. If you’ve got a couple of kids, it’s very easy for a family to eat a loaf of bread every day or day and a half. Flour is much easier to store than loaves of bread — flour doesn’t mold, it’s more compact to store, doesn’t need electricity to keep it fresh. Home baking, especially with a bread maker or stand mixer, is not labor intensive, and bread is comforting.
I knew it was better to leave the flour supplies to those who most desperately needed them, because keeping a family in flour meant they’d be less likely to have to hit the store more often. And I knew how to mill flour, even if I hadn’t done it in a long time.
Wheat flour in the US usually comes from one of two sources: hard white winter wheat berries, or hard red winter wheat berries. (Soft wheat berries are used for pastry flour.) Red winter wheat berries have more tannin in the whole grain flour, so red winter wheat is more likely to have the bitter flavor sometimes found in whole grain bread. (The tannins can also affect rising.) The “white whole wheat” bread that’s been showing up on shelves for the past decade? That’s made with hard white winter wheat.
When I realized that families were going to be doing a lot of baking over the next few months (and that the supply chain was going to spend a lot of time diversifying), I just bought 25 pounds of wheat berries and put them in a food safe 5 gallon bucket. Wheat berries last a long time — years, in fact — and with the right tool, grinding is trivially easy.
My right tool is a Vitamix 7500 and the dry grains container. Other people have other preferences.
This is my recipe; it has evolved from a lot of others. It’s a partial re-creation of Roman Meal bread (that’s why it has flax seed) but lightened from the Roman Meal mix because the whole wheat has a lot of heft on its own. Milk powder helps make the grain tender. Gluten helps it rise.
Scaled for 2 Pullman pans, 7.5” x 4” x 4.5” (19 cm x 10 cm x 11cm)
- 600ml hot water
- 50g/3 TB sugar
- 56g/4 TB butter
- 900 grams of hard winter white wheat berries (or 300 grams of hard white winter wheat berries and 500 grams of unbleached white flour)
- 70 grams (1/4 cup) dry milk powder
- 35 grams (2 TB + 1 tsp) ground flax meal
- 35 grams (2TB + 1 tsp) vital wheat gluten
- 15 grams (1 TB) kosher salt
- 15 grams (1 TB) dry yeast
- Pullman bread pans, either 2 7.5×4, or 1 13”x4”x4”
- Stand mixer (this is just a little too much for a standard bread maker)
- Digital gram scale
- Dry grains mill (I use a Vitamix with the dry grains container)
Put 600ml of hot water in bowl of a stand mixer with a bread hook. Add 50 grams (about 2 TB) of sugar (to feed the yeast) and 4 tablespoons/56 grams of butter. Let the butter melt.
Measure 300 grams of hard white wheat berries into a dry grains mill. (I use a Vitamix.) Grind until very fine, following machine instructions. Set aside this batch. Measure another 300 grams of hard white winter wheat berries; grind. Sift this; discard the bran (usually around 50g.) Measure another 300 grams of wheat berries, grind and sift. You should end up with 800 grams of flour, total, give or take 10 grams.
Add 70 grams of dry milk to the liquid in the mixing bowl, then 35 grams of ground flax meal, and 35 grams of vital wheat gluten (because whole wheat flour needs the gluten protein boost to rise well). Start the mixer on low, add the whole wheat flour, and let the dough hook stir until it’s a sticky, very wet, dough. Add 1 TB (15g) kosher salt and 1 TB (15g) dry yeast; let stir until combined. Gradually add the sifted flour, until a ball forms. Let the machine knead this ball for at least 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
Coat the ball of dough in a small amount of edible oil, then return the ball to the bowl, cover the bowl with a towel, and leave the hook up. Set a timer for 1 hour, 30 minutes.
The ball of dough should be doubled (up to the top of the mixing bowl) when the timer ends. Lower the dough hook, turn the machine on to low, let it knead for a minute. Grease the Pullman tins and lids. Remove the dough ball from the stand mixer, weigh (it should be around 1600 grams), and divide. Form two loaves, put one in each Pullman pan, put the lids on (you can leave one open about 1 cm), put the bread pans on a sheet pan, and set the timer for 2 hours. Leave it alone.
After 2 hours, you should see some bread dough peeking through the opening. DO NOT MOVE THE LIDS TO CHECK. If it’s not fully risen, give it another 30-60 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes; remove from the oven and allow the bread to steam in the pan while it cools.