Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Memere's Oatmeal Bread

The theme for February's NaBloPoMo is "ties." I'm not sure if 1) I'll manage to post every day, or 2) make every post reflect this theme, but I'm going to give it a try again. It seems fitting that just yesterday I made my great-grandmother's oatmeal bread recipe for the first time. You know how I love to bake family bread recipes!

This generation has brought about major changes in the way our family connects. For several generations before, family on my mother's side lived in tight community - my mother grew up with her paternal grandparents living upstairs in a typical Massachusetts "double decker," her maternal grandparents only a few blocks away. While some of her siblings have moved out of state (to New Mexico and New York), three of the five have kept their families close by.

We grew up living just two hours away from all of our grandparents and most of our relatives. We saw them fairly often, and got to know our uncles and aunts and to some extent our cousins. We spent our childhood with four living grandparents and three living great-grandparents. What a blessing!

Memere was my mother's maternal grandmother. Thinking about her now, I realize I don't actually know a lot about her life. Named Edna, I know she was part Irish, but she was French-Canadian through-and-through, preferring to speak French. She lived to be well over 100 years old, though I didn't see her after she fell ill in her late 90s. I remember her to knit for us every Christmas, and recall her always in the kitchen - a petite elderly woman chattering away with my grandma in French. Was it Mem who made the poutins that became the stuff of family legend? Was it her mince meat pie that always appeared at holiday meals? Was this bread recipe passed down to her? I just don't remember. The next time I visit Grandma, I'll have to learn more about her mother.

my grandma (Mem's daughter) with Shoghi last summer

I got this recipe from my mom ages ago, and it was very easy to put together. When it came out of the oven, I actually didn't like the molasses fragrance, but I cut into the hearty bread this morning, toasted it, and ate it with butter and my raspberry jam, and wow... I think I have a new favorite bread. Earthy, mildly sweet, a smooth, dense texture - this oatmeal bread is fabulous. I hope Mem feels the love from a couple generations down today, and knows she's missed and loved. Five generations so far have been nourished by this yummy bread.

Memere's Oatmeal Bread

1c quick-cooking oats
2c scalded milk
1 pkg active dry yeast
4-6c flour
1/2c molasses
2t salt
1/4t ginger

Place oats in large bowl, cover with scalded milk and allow to cool to lukewarm. Soften yeast in 1/2c warm water and 1t sugar. Stir in molasses, salt and ginger to yeast mixture, and add to oat mix. Stir in 4 1/2 cups of flour and knead for five minutes, adding more flour as necessary to make a firm, slightly sticky dough.

Place in oiled bowl and cover with a warm, damp towel. Allow to rise to double (I preheat the oven to 170* and then turn it off. This decreases the rise time if your house is cool). Punch down and divide into two. Bake in a greased bread pan at 350* for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack and serve warm with salted butter and homemade jam!


  1. yum! love those family recipes!

  2. I made this yesterday and it is delicious! Shara was visiting and we had some fresh and warm with a big salad for dinner, and thought of you!
    Thanks so much for sharing this family recipe!

  3. Today dh made some into french toast, and that was also yummy!

  4. Zannalyn, how sweet! It's so cool to have met you and Shara - I can picture you sitting down to your delicious meal! :)