Homemade White Bread and My Grandmother’s Hands


When I was a little girl, I used to ride in the front seat of my grandparent”s car. It was before the rules of “seatbelts” and “children in the back seat”. I would nestle in between my mother’s parents and off we would go.

My grandmother always held my hand. I loved it! I would absent-mindedly trace over the top of her hand with my index finger. I loved how soft her skin was and how the veins on her hand were slightly pronounced. She always told me that her hands looked the way they did because of too much hard work and that she was old! She was 53 at the time…

This is a strange time in my life. I still feel young. Young in the sense that I have so many questions and still have so many things to do. And yet, as I was kneading the bread dough for this post, I saw my grandmother’s hands in the bowl.

It makes me sad. When Nanny was holding my hand she was 3 years older than I am…

I love that I have her hands.

OLD SAINT JOHN WHITE BREAD – my mother-in-law kindly gave me her bread recipe and bread pans.

makes 2 loaves

soften 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast in a 1/4 cup warm water for 10 minutes

2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup butter

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

scald 1 cup of whole milk with butter, sugar and salt…

remove from heat and add remaining cup of whole milk

place 4 cups of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer equipped with the dough hook attachment.

pour milk mixture into flour and turn mixer on to low-speed.

pour yeast mixture into the bowl immediately…

when the wet ingredients are well incorporated into the flour add 1/2 cup additional flour and knead well

increase the speed of your mixer to medium…add enough additional flour so that the dough clings together and leaves the sides of the bowl.  I have never needed more than 5 1/2 cups

allow the dough to knead until it is as “smooth as a baby’s bottom” old time saying!

remove dough from mixing bowl and knead several times by hand on your counter so that you have a nicely shaped ball.

place dough in a well buttered large bowl…cover with a damp tea towel and let raise until it doubles in bulk…don’t rush it!

punch the dough down…reshape and allow it to raise again until doubled in bulk

punch the dough down again…divide in half…shape into loaves…place in buttered bread pans

cover with a damp tea towel and raise until doubled

bake at 375*F for 40 minutes

loaves should sound hollow when removed from pan and tapped on the bottom

remove from pans…brush tops with butter and cool on a wire rack

Thanks for reading!

  • Shane

    My mother was a great bread maker but like a lot of her recipes, they were just in her head ! She would just throw together a few cups of this, a dash of that and a scoop of this and voilà ! You are lucky to get and actual recipe for bread !

    • I love old family recipes…I am lucky enough to have a book full of them!

  • Kaitie

    I love you hands! Isn’t that lovely!!!!

    I hope these loaves will still be around when I get home!

  • David D.

    OMG this looks amazing!! always wanted to make bread, but have never tried, if I do not have “bread mixer” or a similar attachment, is it much more difficult?

    • Bread is one of those scarey things that once you give it a try you will see how easy it is! You can do it by hand. It takes longer to mix and knead but it will be worth it!

      good luck and let me know how you make out.

  • Meggie

    I made this for my supper tonight! Yummmy!!

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  • Hey michelle, just wondering…if I were to make this with wholegrain flour, would the proportions be the same?

  • ohhhhhh my!!! just made this recipe!! I had a basket of tomatoes ( from Quebec, but at least they were field tomatoes–real flavour) and NEEDED some homemade white bread for sandwiches—– just cut off the heel now and OMGGGG-DELISH!!!! thank you! and your dear mother in law!!!! soooo good—crisp crust–and chewy and dense inside!!xox