This morning I woke up and immediately wanted to bake bread. So I did. I opened my spice cabinet door where my favorite honey whole wheat bread recipe lives, allowed Red to pull up his stool to “help,” and then we measured and stirred and kneaded until two steaming golden loaves sat atop my counter. One loaf will go to a good friend who loves bread and is moving away soon. The other went to the new neighbors who moved in next door. Two loaves of bread, both headed to bless two families coming and going. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I can’t think of a better day than Good Friday to share my favorite bread recipe with you.
But first, let me try to capture in language what is on my heart as emotion, thick and stirring like the haze on a spring morning.
Do you know what we Christians celebrate on Good Friday? A death. A horrible, gruesome, criminal death of a perfect and loving God-son. Yes, that’s right. Today is the day we remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ some 2,000 years ago.
How on earth could such an event be good? First of all, because Jesus didn’t stay dead. He came back to life and was fine as frog’s hair on that sparkling Easter morning. The crucifixion allowed God’s power—the power that gives life to the dead (Romans 4:17)—to truly be seen. Secondly, because the act of Jesus surrendering His life on the cross was the same act that gave me peace with God, allowed me to stand in grace and gave me the joy of hope (Romans 5:1-2). In short, Jesus took all the wrongdoing in my life, wiped my record clean and redeemed me (2 Cor. 5:21). That’s good news for someone like me.
What does all that have to do with bread? Good question. Jesus called himself the “Bread of life” in John 6:35. “He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (Spiritually, that is.) And just before Jesus was arrested, he and his disciples were celebrating one of the greatest rescues in Jewish history, called Passover. (You can read the entire story in Exodus). Jesus took bread, “gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). That’s Jesus’ way of saying that his death, his horrible torture, was his gift of salvation for us. His way of rescuing me from, well, me.
So bread. Good Friday. We “break bread” tonight and remember that so many years ago God allowed Himself to be killed in order to redeem me. To bring humankind back to Himself.
I hope that didn’t sound too preachy. It wasn’t meant to be. Maybe it’s just an explanation of why I’m so grateful for today. So grateful to be able to share a couple loaves of bread and bless someone else today—because it was bread (figuratively) that blessed me so profoundly on the actual Good Friday.
I’ve been meaning to share this recipe with you for awhile because it’s my favorite. Before we had kids and when our counter space seemed endless like Kansas, I made these loaves every week. The recipe takes everyday, wholesome ingredients. It’s fast (ish). It’s easy. It’s soft, healthy and just sweet enough. Oh, I love it. Without further ado, this is the basic Betty Crocker Honey Whole Wheat Bread.
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- ⅓ cup honey
- ¼ cup shortening or butter
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 2 packages regular or quick active yeast (4½ teaspoons)
- 2¼ cups very warm water
- 3-4 cups all purpose flour
- Butter, melted, for brushing on top
- In a large bowl, beat whole wheat flour, honey, butter, salt and yeast with electric mixer on low speed until well mixed. Add warm water.
- Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough all-purpose flour, 1 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle.
- Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Grease large bowl. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 40 to 60 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
- Grease bottoms and sides of two 8x4 inch or 9x5 inch loaf pans with shortening or spray with cooking spray.
- Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half with hands or rolling pin into 18x9 inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. Roll dough up tightly, beginning at 9 inch side. Press with thumbs to seal after each turn. Pinch each end of roll to seal. Fold ends under loaf. Place seam side down in pan. Brush loaves lightly with butter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 35 to 50 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
- Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 375*F.
- Bake 30-45 minutes (or until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped). Remove from pans to wire rack. Brush loaves with butter, cool.
- Enjoy fresh or over the next few days!