Myrtle Allen's Brown Bread

My favorite bread recipe book is Beard on Bread by James Beard. Among the many excellent recipes is this very simple no-knead recipe for a whole wheat bread. Beard describes how he found the recipe at Myrtle Allen's inn, Ballymaloe House, in Ireland. If you like a firm bread that is wonderful with butter and cheese, give this one a try.

3 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour (Beard recommends stone ground)
1/4 tsp. white sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (Beard suggests 1 1/2 packages)
2 cups warm water (100 to 115 degrees)
2 tablespoons dark molasses
2 1/2 teaspoons salt (Beard suggests 1 Tablespoon)


Put the flour and salt in an oven proof mixing bowl and place in a warm oven, with the oven thermostat at its lowest setting. Leave in the oven about 10 minutes. Both the flour and bowl should be warm when you mix the bread dough.

Take 1/2 cup warm water, add 1/4 teaspoon sugar and stir in the yeast. Allow to proof. Dissolve the molasses in the remaining 1 1/2 cups water. When the flour feels warm to your fingers, remove the bowl from the oven. Stir the yeast mixture into the molasses water and pour the liquid into the flour. Stir until you have a sticky dough, almost like a very thick batter. At times of low humidity you may need a little more liquid. If so, add water. If the dough seems too thin, add a tablespoon or two of flour and stir in well. Since you do not knead this dough, I have found that beating it for a minute or so gives a better texture.

Butter a 9 x 5 x 3-inch bread pan and put the dough in. Smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise by about one-third. As soon as you have covered the dough, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove the bread from the pan and leave it in the turned-off oven for a few minutes to make the crust crisp. Set on a rack to cool. I like to brush the top and sides with a little butter while the loaf is still hot.

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