During World War I bread was, indeed, the staff of life. Bread was an important part of every meal before the war. A hearty loaf, spread with a bit of butter or other fat formed a key “whole food” for soldiers and citizens in the European war zone. Getting the most from our wheat crop was an important part of Herbert Hoover’s Food Administration nationwide and voluntary food conservation measures.
In this recipe the addition of cornmeal and oatmeal stretched precious war-restricted wheat flour. The resulting bread is firm-textured and moist with a complex flavor. It makes wonderful toast.
Yeast War Bread
1 cup milk
1 cup hot water
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup Old Fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt, optional
1 package dry yeast
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups white flour
Scald the milk by heating it in a 2-quart pot until bubbles appear around the side and then remove from heat and add the hot water. Stir in the cornmeal, oatmeal, brown sugar, and optional salt. Set aside to cool until just warm, about 100 degrees. Stir in the dry yeast and let stand until mixture becomes bubbly. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the flour and knead until the dough is firm and somewhat elastic. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled. Punch dough down and form into three loaves. Place in lightly greased bread pan or on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Let rise until doubled and then bake in a preheated 350 F. degree oven until well browned. Loaves will sound hollow when tapped. Cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife. Note: this bread dough has less flour-gluten than typical bread dough. It may take a very long time to rise until doubled. The test batch I made for these pictures took nearly 5 hours from scalding milk to fully-baked loaves. Time will vary depending on the warmth of your kitchen and the oomph of your yeast.Recipe makes three loaves about 1 1/4 pounds each. Bake in an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan for a finished loaf approximately 8 x 4 x 3 1/2 inches. Make free-form baguettes that rise and bake to a finished loaf approximately 12 x 4 x 2 inches.