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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Aunt Marilyn's Molasses Bread

The aroma of freshly baked molasses bread is wafting through the house. Undeniably, baking bread is the scent that feels most like home to me.

We've had a hot summer here in Minnesota. Temperatures and humidity have soared to new highs. The heat has been relentless and nerves have been on edge. So, you ask, you're baking bread? Turning your oven on in to raise the temperature even higher?

No. But, I've been wanting to do it for weeks! Every day, I've checked the forecast, I've poked my nose out of the air conditioning, and it's been hot, hot, hot! And my craving for homemade molasses bread has continued on and on.

And then, I woke up this morning to find open the windows weather! Blissfully cool, dry breezy BREAD BAKIN' WEATHER! I've never been able to do a cartwheel, but I almost tried this morning.

A break in the hot weather has got spirits soaring all over our neighborhood. With the windows open as I was kneading bread, I could hear kids laughing and lawn mowers humming. I honestly had a bit of a June Cleaver moment, well, without the starched apron and the Valium induced smile.

Here's a variation on my Great Aunt Marilyn's Molasses Bread. She's a grand old soul who never makes less than a dozen of these sweetly scented loaves. I scaled it down to make three large loaves and adjusted the recipe to suit what was in my pantry. If you can't get cool weather, crank the airconditioning to sub zero and bake away!

Marilyn's Molasses Bread

2 TB active dry yeast (or 2 packages)
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups lukewarm water
3/4 cup molasses--I didn't have enough molasses, so I used real maple syrup to
make up the difference
1/4 cup real butter, melted
1 TB salt
2 tsp cinnamon
12 cups flour--I used 11 cups unbleached bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups raisins

Grease 3 loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Dissolve yeast in 1 cup lukewarm water in a large bowl and add 2 tsp sugar. Mix in remaining water(3 cups), 3/4 cup molasses, 1/4 cup melted butter and 1 tbsp salt. Add to the yeast mixture and add the remaining sugar (1/2 cup minus the 2 tsp); mix until smooth.
Add the 12 cups of flour, 2 cups at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the 2 1/2 cups of raisins. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic (about 12-15 minutes). Keeping the dough warm, grease a large mixing bowl with butter. Place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (about an hour)
Punch down the dough and divide it into three even parts. Place in the 3 pans. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375° F.Place the pans on the lower rack. Bake until loaves are golden brown, about 40 to 60 minutes. (Or until a spouse or child yells, "Is it done yet?" at least 3 times.) Remove bread from pans and brush the tops with melted butter. Place on wire racks. I dare you to wait until it's cool to try it!

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