Beginning Baking (Again) With Bernard Clayton’s Rich White Bread

Toast Steve was starting to think he was so big. He started to think he was a better baker than most. It may have begun with his pâte brisée, or perhaps his pizza dough. Maybe it was when he made that batch of bialys or his “perfect” Parker House Rolls. Perhaps it was time he was taken down a peg. Perhaps it was time for Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads.

Actually, Steve’s comedown didn’t start with Bernard Clayton—it started with starter. Steve had decided he should move on from instant dry yeast and begin his own “mother” made from yeast found floating naturally in Gourmandistan’s environment. Using a technique adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, he began fermenting organic rye flour and spring water. After a few days, he’d produced something that definitely seemed alive, and quite possibly stemmed from Gourmandistani yeast strains. Unfortunately, our native strains seem to tend towards laziness.

Steve first tried the starter in a sourdough rye from Clayton’s The Breads of France and How to Bake Them in Your Own Kitchen, producing a flat, funny-tasting loaf that quickly went to the chickens. Seeing as how his starter was still bubbling away, Steve decided it might be Clayton’s fault, but decided to give the man another chance by combining starter with instant yeast in “Turnipseed Sisters’ White Loaf.” Again, things did not go well. A promising first rise became a slow second, and the chickens ate well once more.


Steve was about to give up on Mr. Clayton and declare him a fool, a fraud and certainly no friend of Gourmandistan. Michelle, remembering past successful recipes, suggested instead it was perhaps time for Steve to give up his starter and try something different. With the bitter taste of defeat (and the odd tang of starter) in his mouth, Steve agreed.

He went all the way back to the beginning of Clayton’s book, seeking a simple white loaf that would wipe away the taste of sourdough. Clayton’s “Rich White Bread” recipe certainly did the trick. Both lard and butter have turned out loaves of sturdy, tasty stuff we’ve enjoyed with egg salad and as toast. (Steve likes to call this bread “Mitt Romney.” Steve really needs to let that stuff go.)

Toast 2

As our weather is warming Steve is once more thinking about sourdough starter, and may give one of Clayton’s a try in short order. (He’s particularly interested in one made from grape must, but will wait until local grapes are found at our market.) While we wait for our new eukaryote friends to arrive, we will most likely try more instant yeast recipes from Mr. Clayton—and we possibly won’t feel quite so big about ourselves.


RICH WHITE BREAD (a/k/a Mitt Romney)

  • Servings: makes 2 loaves
  • Print

(adapted from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads)

  • 1-1/2 c. hot water (120°-130° F)
  • 1/2 c. nonfat dry milk
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
  • 2 TB lard or butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

Pour hot water into mixing bowl. Stir in dry milk, sugar, salt, yeast and 3 cups flour. Blend. Add the lard or butter and eggs. Beat until batter is smooth—if using a stand mixer the batter may require scraping. Stir in the balance of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough becomes rough and shaggy and begins to clean the sides of the bowl.

Knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, sprinkling on more flour if it remains sticky. Place the smooth, elastic dough ball in a greased bowl, cover in plastic wrap and leave in a warm place until at least doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.

Turn back the wrap and punch down the dough with your fingers, reshaping into a ball. Cover again and let rise for another 30 minutes or so, until just about doubled in bulk.

Grease 2 large (9″ x 5″)  loaf pans.

Knead the dough for a few moments, pressing out the bubbles. Divide the dough into two pieces, shape into balls, cover and let rest for about 5 minutes. Form a loaf by pressing a ball into a flat oval just about the length of the pan, then fold it in half and pinch the seam tightly. Tuck the ends under and place the dough, seam side down, into the greased pan.

Preheat your oven to 400°.

Cover the loaves with waxed paper and leave in a warm place to rise until the dough puffs about 1″ above the pan’s edge, about 45 minutes.

Uncover and bake the loaves for about 25-30 minutes, shifting the pans about halfway through baking, until they are golden brown and pull away from the loaf pans.

Remove the loaves from the oven, turn them from the pans and thump their bottoms with a finger. A hard hollow sound means the bread is baked. Cool before slicing.


  1. Jane Beck

    Where did you get that chicken toast holder? Mamo?? It is fabulous. As for starter … I think it starts to run your life. You are warned.

    • Isn’t it wonderful? Sheila gave it to me. I think she got it at some (rich, Lexington) antique sale. She said it came from Calumet Farm, I believe. Very, very tony!

      • Jane beck

        So funny! Just saw your title giving Sheila credit! Bad reader here. Anyway it is marvelous. As is your blog!

  2. Steve–You have my sympathies. Getting a starting going isn’t hard–all you need is flour and water–no grapes, no oranges, no rotting fruit. It takes about a week. Get Maggie Glazer’s Artisan Baking Across America–her directions are the best I’ve seen, perhaps rivaled only by those in The Handmade Loaf. What is hard, if someone can’t point it out to you in person, is learning to recognize the stages in a starter’s feeding cycle, knowing when it’s ready to rock and roll–or needs another feeding. My first loaves were duds. I put them above the lintel of our kitchen door and when one fell off and hit my teenage son in the face it nearly broke his nose. I’m more than sure you have the culinary sophistication to master the technique. I like Bernard Clayton, but only for what he do AFTER you already have a starter. Good luck. Ken

    • Steve

      Thanks for the encouragement, Ken! I do need to “start” again, if only to see how the stuff behaves over time. Perhaps someday, native Gourmandistani yeasts will proudly rise to the occasion!

  3. Mitt Romney never looked better 🙂

    Bread making still frightens the bejeezus out of me. I think I will let the pros continue to do their thing. At the very least, I’m staying clear of sour dough starter.

    • Glad you liked. 🙂 And, I know what you mean about bread making. I have just never done it enough to master it. It’s good that Steve is here. Otherwise, I’d never have homemade bread.

  4. I bet the chickens say, “Keep going with those starters!”
    That lard bread makes me wonder if I could use duck or goose fat. Lard is quite often used commercially in croissants – it could be a European trick to get the vegetarians by stealth 😉

    • Ha! And, yes, I bet you could use duck or goose fat to good result. I mean, what do they not go well with? We made a focaccia with duck fat a while back and it was delicious.

    • Thanks, Martha! I love the toast rack, too. It was a gift from my best Madisonville friend, and I’ve been waiting for a good reason to use it in a photo.

  5. Mitt Romney? Not to further encourage Steve, but HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    That is too funny! Looks like you have some very well-fed chickens too! Glad to hear that this loaf turned out. Sour dough starters are tricky. I only remember a foray into it years ago with an old boyfriend. Once I came home and asked him why it had turned purple. A pretty color, but a sure sign of imminent death, that starter got chucked and I haven’t tried it again. I should though!

  6. Interesting I haven’t thought of making my own yeast. This will be a good experiment hopefully I can make mine successfully. Anyways that bread look amazing and well risen.

  7. That IS the Mitt Romney of breads, although much better-looking.

    I’ve been futzing around with sourdough for several months now and have finally gotten the hang of it. (To be blogged soon.) I too used a rye-based starter — rye is an excellent basis for a natural yeast starter — and I don’t think the starter is the problem (although I think a starter needs a good ten days before it really kicks into gear). First, experiment with different flours. I didn’t have any success until I started using a strong Canadian wheat flour with a high gluten content. Second, ignore the people who say that you need a very loose dough. It should be looser than ordinary bread dough, but wet doughs make sad flat loaves. Third, include an overnight cold rise. I now start my bread in the morning by making a levain, make the dough after about four hours, let that rise, folding every hour or so, for the rest of the day, put in the fridge overnight, proof again in the morning until bubbles have risen to the surface of the dough (depending on your flour, anything from two to five hours more), then bake in a hot steamy oven. Works, I swear, but start by experimenting with good strong flours.

    • Steve

      Thanks for the advice! I intend to start again with an organic white flour, and now see that my doughs were indeed overly wet. And now, to the laboratory! 🙂

  8. You can also boost your initial efforts with just a tiny amount of active dry yeast (no more than 1/4 teaspoon). Yes, technically cheating, but good for trouble-shooting.

  9. Brad

    I originally found your entertaining site via a link or comment on the Evening Herault (irishherault.wordpress.com) blog, which is suddenly private. Do you have any information on that site or those good folks you can share?

    • Thanks for stopping by. I don’t have any info. I always enjoyed that blog and see that it’s no longer showing in my WordPress reader. Fingers crossed that they’re just reformatting or something and will return.

  10. Carolyn Melcher

    A very entertaining post. I too love the chicken toat holder, and the name of the white bread. You are so damn clever.

    • Thanks, C! Wasn’t that a great gift from Sheila? I have to say, though, that I don’t really “get” toast holders. I want my toast buttered immediately, not sitting there prettily and getting cold!

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