Chapter Three

Hard Times, Old Times, Good Times Breads

One thing this cookbook is, is opinionated. You've noticed that, we're sure. One of our opinions is that while making bread is great fun, good for the good times, and always wonderful to do with children, it is not cheap to make bread at home.

The Depression Cook in the 1930's made her own bread. She also made her own pasta. Mainly she did that because she had time, she wasn't working because there were few jobs for men, let alone women. And she knew someone who could get her large bags of flour in the days of Relief. These days, most of the Hard Times folks are working. It's very unusual to find a woman staying home. Both people are working, and bread is not something they need to spend their time on. They need to spend time with their children, with the washing and the cleaning, and with each other.

So find a good bakery. We have one called Fred's Bread, in our town, and he makes good honest crusty bread and wonderful bagels, and if we could learn how to do it, we'd make bread like Fred. But we can't, so we buy Fred's bread, not the Wonder Bread that's full of air in the supermarket, and costs too much. The Depression Cook has to figure out how much Time costs, you know. And Time is not always measured in pennies. Sometimes it's measured in stories read to children, or time spent at their schools, or time spent at the sewing machine.

There are some bread recipes here, an old Italian Bread recipe and a really Hard Times Homemade Biscuit Mix that's cheap and easy and good for you. That kind of bread making is OK for this book. You can make the biscuit mix and keep in in the refrigerator and make your own coffee cake, or pancakes, or biscuits with it. It has no preservatives, and it's fun. And cheap. but when it comes to a heavy loaf of whole wheat, with a good crusty top, we'll let Fred do it because he can do it better, and cheaper, than we can. But sometimes the weather is cool, and the afternoon is long, and you can put aside your worries and make some good old bread, the kind that Depression Cooks made when they had the flour.


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Grease a 9 inch round cake pan. Set aside.
  3. In medium bowl whisk two eggs, one-quarter cup of salad oil and one cup of sour cream or low fat yogurt.
  4. Stir in one cup of cream style corn.
  5. Add one cup of white cornmeal, two teaspoons of baking powder and one teaspoon of salt.
  6. Pour into prepared pan and bake 40-50 minute

Grandma's Italian Bread

This bread recipe is very old. The dough is made with only flour, yeast, salt and water. It forms the basis of good pizza dough, too.

  1. Mix about two pounds of flour with two packages of yeast and one and a half Tablespoons of salt. Make a well in the flour.
  2. Mix 2 cups of warm water,then add one more cup of water and mix well “with both fists” until it's all absorbed (this part of the recipe is essential, and Grandma never needed a psychiatrist as long as she made bread this way!)
  3. Add about two-thirds cup more water slowly, depending on the humidity of the room.
  4. Mix and knead until dough feels soft.
  5. Cover with a warm cloth, and let the bread rise for one hour.
  6. Form into loaves, put into warmed loaf pans, and let rise again about one and a half hours.
  7. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and cook about an hour.

Italian Easter Egg Ring

I found this recipe for Egg Bread in a pile of old papers when my grandmother died. She had recipes saved for many years. Some of them were ones I sent her, since we had quite a lively culinary correspondence for many years. This was in a newspaper from 1959, barely legible. It's great fun, and was one of her specialties that you couldn't fix except on EasterSunday, judy like you can only cook codfish and anchovy sauce at Christmas. To my grandmother, it was a mortal sin to make it any other time of the year!

This is one of those Old World Recipes that is time consuming and complicated, but with the whole family helping, you can create something that the real old world Grandparent would have been proud of. Instead of going to the Mall to spend money, keep everyone home and make this bread.

  1. Scald one-quarter of a cup of milk, stir in one third cup of granulated sugar, one half teaspoon salt and three tablespoons butter. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
  2. Turn one third cup of warm, not hot, water into a large bowl, stir in one package of yeast, then the lukewarm milk mixture.
  3. Stir in two eggs.
  4. Stir in one and one-fourth cups of flour, beat until smooth.
  5. Stir in about three cups of flour, enough to make a soft dough.
  6. Turn out on lightly floured board and knead lightly until dough is smooth and elastic.
  7. Put dough into a greased bowl and brush top with butter or margarine, cover with waxed paper and cloth, lot rise in a draft free place until doubled in bulk, about one and a half hours.
  8. Turn out on lightly floured board and knead in:
    • one quarter cup raisins
    • one quarter cup mixed candied fruit, chopped
    • one half cup chopped almonds
    • one half teaspoon ground anise seed
  9. Divide dough in half, roll each half into a rope about one inch in diameter. Arrange in a loosely twisted circle on a greased baking sheet.
  10. Set six tinted but raw eggs between the ropes at equal intervals.
  11. Brush ring with melted butter or undiluted evaporated milk.
  12. Cover with waxed paper and cloth and let rise again about an hour,or until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cool on rack.

Herbed Sour Cream Biscuits

This is a good fast unusual biscuit recipe. If you add yogurt cheese instead of sour cream, you cut down on the fat.

  1. Heat oven to 450. Combine four cups of flour, five teaspoons of baking powder, two teaspoons of dried dill, one teaspoon of dry basil, one or two turns of a pepper mill, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt, one half teaspoon of baking soda and one half teaspoon of thyme.
  2. Using a pastry cutter, blend in one half cup of butter.
  3. Make well in center, pour in one 8-ounce carton of sour cream or the same amount of yogurt cheese.
  4. Add one cup of milk. Blend with wooden spoon.
  5. Turn dough out on floured counter, flatten and make biscuits with cutter. 6. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, bake for 15-18 min.

Homemade Biscuit Mix

This is cheaper than the commercial product, has no preservatives, and can be used a many ways. It is a great friend to the Depression Cook.

  1. Place five pounds of unbleached flour, 2 cups of dry milk, two thirds cup of baking powder and three Tablespoons of salt into a 4 quart bowl.
  2. Add two and one half cups of vegetable shortening.
  3. With fingertips or pastry cutter, work mixture until it resembles corn meal.
  4. Store in an airtight container in a cool area (or refrigerate) will keep several weeks.
  5. Always stir mixture before using.

This recipe makes about twenty three cups. You may cut it in half depending on the size of your family.

To measure for the following recipes, pile slightly into a measuring cup and level off.


  1. In a medium sized bowl, mix two cups of homemade biscuit mix, two eggs, one cup of milk and one tablespoon of honey.
  2. Beat all ingredients with rotary beater, pour 1/4 cup mix on griddle, bake and turn.

For Blueberry Pancakes, add one cup blueberries, two Tablespoons sugar.


  1. Heat oven to 450.
  2. Mix two cups of homemade biscuit mix, and one quarter of a cup of water, (or more if its a dry day) with a fork, drop from spoon or roll and cut.
  3. Bake 8-10 minutes

Coffee Cake

  1. Heat oven to 400.
  2. Grease round cake pan
  3. M ix 2 cups of homemade biscuit mix with two Tablespoons of sugar, one egg, and two-thirds of a cup of milk.
  4. Beat with spoon, spread on pan and sprinkle topping over batter.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes.

Streusal Topping

Mix one quarter cup of sugar, two Tablespoons of biscuit mix, two teaspoons of cinnamon, two Tablespoons of firm butter until crumbly.

Holly's Pumpkin Bread

This is a rich, spicy bread, perfect for gift giving at holiday time. Baked in the small baking pans, it goes a long way. It also freezes well and makes great toast.

  1. Cream three cups of sugar and one cup of salad oil together.
  2. Add four eggs and one 16-ounce can of pumpkin, mix well.
  3. Sift together three and a half cups of sifted flour, two teaspoons of baking soda, two teaspoons of salt one teaspoon of baking powder, one teaspoon nutmeg,one teaspoon allspice, one teaspoon cinnamon,one half teaspoon cloves
  4. Add dry ingredients alternately with about two-thirds cup of water.
  5. Pour into well greased and floured pans. Bake at 350.
  6. Pan size: 9x5 (2 pans) Baking time: 1 and 1/2 hours
  7. Pan size 8x4 (3 pans) 1 1/4 hours
  8. Pan size 6x3 (6 pans) 1 hour
  9. Let stand 10 minutes Remove from pans to cool.

New Mexican Spoon Bread

  1. Mix one and a half cups yellow corn meal, one half teaspoon soda ,one teaspoon baking powder, one teaspoon salt,one teaspoon sugar
  2. Stir in three quarters of a cup of milk,two eggs, lightly beaten, one third cup of oil and one #300 can of creamed corn.
  3. Mix batter with a spoon, pour half of batter into a greased 9x9 inch pan. 4. Put half of a small can of chopped green chili and about a cup of grated Longhorn cheese on top, pour on rest of batter, top with another half cup of cheese and the rest of the can of chili.
  4. Bake at 400 for 45 min.

Note: this can be done in the morning, refrigerated and baked just before you want to eat.

Grandma Fink's Coffee Cake also called "Pretzels"

  1. Soften two cakes of yeast in one half of a cup of lukewarm water with one teaspoon of sugar for about ten minutes.
  2. In a separate saucepan, scald one cup of milk, pour it in a bowl, add one half cup of sugar and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt. Cool to lukewarm and stir in softened yeast.
  3. Beat in two eggs, one at a time.
  4. Stir in two cups of flour.
  5. Add three quarters of a cup of shortening.
  6. Add five cups of sifted flour.
  7. Turn dough onto board and let rest 10 min.
  8. Knead until smooth, about ten minutes. Place in large greased bowl.
  9. Cover and let rise for one hour.
  10. Punch the dough down,cover it,and let it rise again.
  11. Turn the dough onto a floured board, make pretzels, braids, etc. Allow to the formed dough to rest for about ten minutes.
  12. Brush tops with egg yolk or melted butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 350 for a half an hour.