I have been planning on baking this bread for a long time. It has been one of my favorites since I was a little kid. My grandmother had a ritual: every Monday she would do laundry, and while the clothes were washing she would start a batch of six loaves of bread for family meals during the week. (Our family ate a lot of bread.) Grandma usually made white bread, but sometimes she would make bran bread, which I called white bread with brown specks. My mother was also a good baker, making family-famous breads, rolls, and sticky buns. I had one particularly bad year when I was around five or six years old. I was hospitalized five times, the last one for a tonsillectomy. When I awoke from the anesthesia, my mother and father were at my bedside. They asked if there was something that they could get for me. In my drowsiness I said that what I wanted most was some white bread with brown specks. That had to wait until after my rehabilitation with Jello, custard, and pudding. When I was able to eat more solid food, my mother baked the bread, this bran bread. From that time on, as a welcome gift, she always baked a couple of loaves whenever I returned home from college and even when my own family and I visited many years later.
The secret ingredient for this bread is All-Bran cereal. Probably my mother or grandmother got the original recipe from a cereal box. Another important ingredient, molasses, gives the loaf a slightly sweet, earthy taste. In any case, the recipe makes a delicious loaf with tight, flavorful crumb and a chewy, thick crust. For this bread, in particular, I have always wished that you could bake a loaf of nothing but ends (or heels as we always called them). The bread is perfect just slathered with butter, but it also goes well with cheddar cheese or fresh fruit preserves.
Grandma’s Bran Bread
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1 cup All Bran cereal
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 3 tablespoons melted butter + more for brushing tops of baked loaves
- 8 cups (about) unbleached all-purpose flour
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the warm water and yeast. Mix in the bran and allow to rest for a few minutes. Then add salt, sugar, molasses, and melted butter. Mix well.
- Add flour, a cup at a time. Stir thoroughly after each addition. You will be able to add about 6 cups of flour before the dough becomes too stiff to mix in the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a flat working surface covered with the remaining 2 cups of flour and knead until the flour is completely absorbed, and the dough has a springy consistency.
- Return the dough to the washed, dried, and lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel. Set in a warm place and allow to rise to double in volume. Punch down and let rise again until doubled.
- Deflate the dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a loaf, and place in two greased 9×5 inch bread pans. Let rise again until doubled. Bake in an oven preheated to 375°F for 1 hour or until the loaves test for doneness with a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
- Transfer to a baking rack to cool completely before slicing.