Artisanal Baking: Immigrant-inspired Loaves in the Salt-Water-Flour Brigade


My Bread-u-Cation.

After criss-crossing the Midwest in search of great home bread bakers who immigrated to America—the Germans, Lebanese, Finnish, Amish, Polish, Hungarian, and more—I have compiled their fabulous family recipes with lengthy headnotes into a small book NOT SINCE SLICED BREAD. It is part of a series of three other single-subject titles on pie, barbecue, and vegetables.

Known as LittleBIGBooks, and hopefully published next spring, they are to publishing what farmers markets are to organic produce. Now that our passion for food runs high, these little books are the only substantial endeavor committed to under-reported cultural groups such as women, immigrant groups and African Americans.

I will be sharing some of the immigrant’s stories and recipes here. For every one of them, their loaf of choice weighs as heavily as the word “home.”

Amish Bread

Shipshewana, Indiana

In northern Indiana, where horses and buggies hug the straight country roads that border alfalfa and corn, silhouettes of women and children take in the last of the wash off clotheslines, barefoot, as though to better sense the warm air, grass, and dirt between their toes. This is 21st century America, and like places in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the Old Order Amish practice still thrives.

Dorcas and Loren Yoder and their four children—and maybe more, they’ll see what God has in store for them— live in an unremarkable two-story white frame house on a 15-acre homestead. Although they live an agrarian life, a leather craft business fashioning exotic animal skins into wallets and shoulder bags brings the money in.

There’s a downright simplicity to it all: the compliance to continue a lifestyle slicing their own bacon and pork chops from last winter’s slaughter; trading the second hog for a side of beef’; collecting their own hens’ eggs; growing their own vegetables; sewing their own garments; and taking out a deer once in a while.

This recipe came to Dorcas by way of her mother, a descendant of the Rüegsegger family who left the Emmental valley near Bern, Switzerland, in search of religious freedom. Every Tuesday, when her seven loaves come out of the oven, Dorcas said “it has a wonderful yeasty smell when it’s rising,” then stopped herself from tieing her bread to their final resting place: “It smells… almost like heaven.”

Yield: 3 loaves


3-1/4 cups warm water, separated into ¾ cup and 2-1/2 cups

1-1/2 tablespoons dry yeast

6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 cups fine whole wheat flour

7 cups unbleached flour

Crisco for greasing bowl

Butter for brushing tops of cooked loaves


  1. Mix ¾ cup water, yeast, and a teaspoon of sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until dissolved.
  2. Add 2-1/2 cups water, mix well; add rest of sugar, salt, and vegetable oil. Mix with a whisk.
  3. Add whole wheat flour. Beat with a hand egg beater until well mixed.
  4. Add white flour. Stir, then knead until dough is nice and soft. You may need to add more flour if dough is sticky.
  5. Place dough on a floured surface, flop the bowl over it, and let rise for 10 minutes. Knead a little bit and put back in large greased bowl, cover with plastic and put in a warm place to rise for one hour.
  6. Knead gently for 40 seconds; place in bowl again and cover with plastic. Let dough rise for ½ hour.
  7. Knead again for 40 seconds. Repeat this procedure three more times.
  8. After the last time, remove the dough from the bowl, divide into thirds (this will give you loaves that each weigh 1-1/2 pounds), place on a floured surface and roll out to a rectangle 8-inches wide X 20-inches long.
  9. Roll up like cinnamon rolls, place seam on bottom. Pinch ends together and tuck underneath.
  10. Grease the top of dough with vegetable oil and place gently in a heavily greased bread pan 9-5/8” X 5-1/2” X 2-3/4”. Stick with a fork to release air bubbles.
  11. Repeat this procedure until all pans are filled. Place filled pans in a warm place, cover with plastic, let rise until they are about 1-inch above the pan (about 1-to 1-1/2 hours)
  12. Bake at 350-degrees for about 25 minutes or until light brown. Remove from oven; butter the tops of the loaves.
  13. Immediately cover with a paper towel, then cover with plastic wrap to soften the bread. Leave it like that for ½ hour. Place in a plastic bag.

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