I grew up in New Hampshire a short drive away from Canterbury Shaker Village. I remember my parents taking me there when I was a child, when the last remaining Shaker, Ethel Hudson, was still alive. She passed away in 1992, and the site is now a museum. This morning, I went looking for a new bread recipe to try, and I stumbled upon one for Shaker Daily Loaf in Jeff Smith's THE FRUGAL GOURMET COOKS AMERICAN. Just the name brought back memories of New Hampshire. Of my childhood. Of meeting Sister Ethel Hudson. Naturally, I had to try it out.
The recipe was straightforward and simple, which makes sense since this was the bread the Shakers baked in their communal kitchens every day. I modified and modernized some of the steps (hello, KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook), so here's the variation I used to bake my loaves.
Shaker Daily Loaf
Makes 2 Large Loaves
2 packages fast-acting dry yeast (or 4-1/2 tsp)
1/4 cup water, 110-115 degrees
2 tablespoons sugar
1-3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, cut into pats
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter
1. Add warm water to the mixer bowl and sprinkle yeast evenly over the surface. Add sugar and swirl. Set aside for 10 or so minutes to allow the yeast to proof (white bubbly foam should form).
2. Warm milk and melt 3 tablespoons butter in it. Stir in salt and allow to cool to at least 115 degrees.
3. Mix the milk with the yeast, and then add 3 cups of flour. Beat until smooth.
4. Add remaining flour and mix until elastic and smooth.
5. Form the dough into a ball, hand kneading a few times, and then set into an oven safe bowl. Brush the top with ~1 tablespoon of melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Set bowl in a warm place until dough doubles in size. (I usually heat the oven to ~100 degrees and pop it in there).
6. Punch down the dough and cut into halves. Shape into two loaves. Put the dough into large, greased bread pans. Brush tops with remaining melted butter. Allow bread to rise until doubled in size.
7. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.
The bread came out nice and crusty on the outside, although I did have one loaf that did some pretty wonky things in the oven. It didn't look great, but it tasted fine.