Rita's Recipe for Homemade Bread

May 11th, 2009

I did it!

I finally managed to capture my mother-in-law, Rita in the midst of making her delicious bread.

As I mentioned previously, Rita raised nine kids on her bread and over the years, she has mastered the art form of baking bread.

Here is Rita’s homemade bread recipe.


To make four loaves of Rita’s bread you will need:

5 cups water

Approximately 8 cups of white flour

Approximately 4 cups of whole wheat flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon yeast

 1 T salt

1 T bacon grease



Rita uses a mixer to make her sponge.  

She mixes five cups of tepid or lukewarm water with the yeast.

She then adds the sugar, and gradually incorporates four cups of white flour and two cups of whole wheat flour.  

I am not sure how to technically describe a sponge for anyone who might not understand what it is, but it is just the first step or the first ‘rising’ in the process of making a batch of bread.






Rita keeps her white flour in an ice cream bucket.

She also keeps her compost in an ice cream bucket

I also keep my compost in an ice cream bucket.

You might want to double check your ice-cream just to make sure it is actually ice-cream, should you ever eat any at either Rita’s or my house.




Rita also wanted to point out that she did not always use a mixer to make her bread sponge.  

This is a recent development.  

She spent most of her life making bread using only her own two hands and an occasional twig from a sturdy oak tree.

Not really on the twig part.





Rita likes to mix up her big batches of bread in a large plastic bowl set down inside of her kitchen sink.  This allows her to work at a level that is more comfortable and also much more practical than say building a ‘baking center’ that you only use once a year in your brand new house.  

This method also keeps all the flour mess in the sink, instead of on the floor underneath the kitchen table, or sprinkled all around the kitchen cabinets, which is very nice.  







This is Rita’s sponge after it has doubled in size. 






At this point, Rita adds one tablespoon of salt.






And one tablespoon of bacon grease.

Normally, Rita would clarify her bacon grease by heating it up and letting the black specks fall to the bottom of the container so that they did not end up in her bread, but in this instance…

she couldn’t be bothered.






After stirring in the salt and the bacon grease,

Rita begins to incorporate the rest of the flour.  





Four more cups of white flour from the old ice-cream bucket.




And two more cups of whole wheat flour.





She uses a spoon to mix in the rest of the flour until the dough becomes too stiff at which point she starts to use her hands.





She frequently covers her hands in flour

to keep the dough from sticking.





How long does Rita knead her bread?

Here is a quote from Rita to help you…

“You work it until your shoulders hurt

and you get a little pain down the center of your back.  

Then you’ll know that you worked it enough.”





This is what Rita’s dough looks like after all the flour has been incorporated.

She then covers the dough and places it in a warmish spot to raise for around two hours or until it doubles in size.





When the bread dough has doubled,

Rita greases four bread pans with vegetable oil.






Here is what her dough looks like after it has doubled in size.






Rita then divides her dough into four equal sections.






After shaping three of the loaves herself, Rita let Ethan have a hand at shaping a loaf of bread.

First he put some oil on his hands to keep the dough from sticking to them.






Then he worked the dough into a nice loaf shape under his grandma’s tutelage.






Rita put cinnamon on Ethan’s loaf so we would know which loaf was his.







She covered the loaves in a warm sunny spot to raise for another two hours or until they too, doubled in size.






Here are the loaves ready to go in the oven!







Rita bakes her bread at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.







Here are the loaves fresh from the oven.

Is there a better aroma on the face of the earth than fresh baked bread?







Here are four of Rita’s grandsons drawn to the freshly baked bread like a flock of hungry crows.





But Rita is not about to let them have any of that bread yet!

First she brushes a light coating of vegetable oil on all six sides of each loaf.





She uses a dishcloth to apply the oil.





To avoid a ‘soggy bottom’, Rita likes to set the loaves on their sides for a while.






She covers the loaves and then after ten or fifteen minutes have passed, she will give the loaves another turn to avoid ‘soggy sides’.

At this point you may start to wonder if you are EVER going to actually get to EAT a piece of her bread!









Finally, Rita slices some bread.







Her bread is tender and fragrant, with a mildly sweet, yeasty flavor.







I wish I could send you a piece.  

Thanks Rita!



  • Gina:

    Wow, that last picture looks like I could just pick that up and eat it. Wish I could. :-)
    When my kids were little, beleive it or not, my hubby used to bake bread every weekend. He was a lot better at it than me. ha

    Happy Mothers Day! And enjoy your bread!

  • Bridget:

    Her bread looks wonderful! I have been looking for a whole wheat recipe. I Think I will give this one a try. Working in the sink is a great tip. Thanks for the tutorial. It looks like Rita could use a new cutting board for Mother’s Day! :)

  • Awesome!
    That lady deserves a KitchenAid for her retirement! No more kneading until the right pain hits.

    I’ve seen lots of bread made but I’ve never, ever seen the bacon grease. That is very unique. Does the flavor reflect it? It must be from the days of using lard. I will try it some time.

  • Rita rocks! Betting your boys never smell baking bread without thinking of their Grandma.

    I remember going to the garage freezer and pulling out a bucket of Blue Bunny Ice Cream, only to get it in the kitchen and discover it was left over stew.

  • Delicious delicious – well, apart from the whole bacon grease part, but I can always leave that out!

  • Southern Gal:

    Bacon Grease? Wow. I’ll have to give that a try sometime.

    I wish I’d done a tutorial of my husband’s grandmother making her famous pound cake recipe. She passed away at 92 and no one ever got the recipe….a little of this, a little of that. You’ve done a great thing for your boys.

  • Theresa in Alberta:

    Pure comfort food and you caught it all on digital film! Pass the butter please, yummy :-)

  • I wish she was my neighbor. I would find a way to go over there every other day to see if the bread was ready!

  • That looks so good! I may just have to try it. I’ve only tried to bake bread (excluding sweet breads like pumpkin and banana) once. It was part of some Y2K survival class. It came out dense and heavy as a brick.

    BTW, we have the same brand of compost bucket. I have an honest to goodness Tupperware container (bought at a garage sale) for flour, but the homemade pancake mix goes in an ice cream bucket. Ice cream buckets are useful for so many things. We have to keep eating more ice cream just to stay stocked on buckets. It’s a hardship, but we endure.

  • joann tx:

    with modern technology and the invention of the bread machine Rita’s bread making is a dieing art! those pictures are wonderful! the last one especially! it does look like we can just pick up a delicious slice and come back for more!

    i made bread once…in a bread machine and it was awful. :( my grandma used to make home made bread and sticky buns….yum! and oh, what a delicious smell fresh bread baking is!!!!

  • Maybe Rita would do a giveaway, and send those loaves by express mail to Morocco? No? Why not? Expenses be, um, darned. I feel she wouldn’t say damned.

  • M.R.:

    I love to bake bread and there I thought we were going to get a bread recipe using ice cream! Since I rarely eat ice cream, my kitchen is sadly short of this useful tool.

    My in-laws (who love every kind of gadget) got me a bread machine once and I used it for awhile because it was so easy. But the bread just isn’t the same as the bread I knead and rise by hand.

  • Well butter my butt and call me biscuit!! That bread looks soooooo GOOD!!! I might just have to make some, better yet, I’ll get my daughter to make some, she loves to cook. Thanks for sharing your mother-in-laws recipe.

  • I’ve been around a lot of bread baking in my day and I’ve never ever seen anyone use bacon grease! That must be her secret ingredient. I love that Ethan got to help. So, now that you know the secret recipe, are you going to start using that baking center?

  • Mmmm! I haven’t made bread in sooo long. I wonder how this will do at my high altitude? Only one way to find out!

    (My mother also kept her flour in an ice cream bucket – and always kept said bucket in the freezer. You always had to check which was which before going for a snack!)

  • Loved looking at all of the pictures. Have many memories of my grandmothers making bread – I can’t just get it right – might have to try Rita’s recipe. I see she keeps her bacon grease in the same container as I do – an old coffee mug.

  • This looks so good, but do I have the patience required ? I just don’t know. Why do carbs appeal to me so much ? I am ready for lunch, and these pics make me want to eat a loaf of bread !

  • Tree Dellinger:

    Too funny about the compost in the ice cream bucket. I use old mega-sized Folgers Coffee containers for my compost. I leave it out on the counter all the time because you can’t see the food scraps through the red plastic and I’ve never had any problems with odd smells even with the snap-on lid. However, I did have to label the containers “This is NOT coffee!” to avoid scaring the dickens out of any unsuspecting visitors looking for java.

  • earlene:

    I have started to make bread again after a 5 year lapse! My husband is thrilled to have something homemade again! I have a pretty pink plastic bowl from the $1 store for compost, but love the empty ice crem buckets!

  • FOURS LOAVES??!! Holy doughboy, Rita. You should be the size of a boat with all that bread. But you’re not. You’re a very slim bread machine. Thanks for the recipe. I’ll give it a try and hope that it turns out much better than my previous attempts (bricks or tortillas).

  • arlene:

    Wonderful photos! I love Rita’s hands. They are so beautiful. The things she has made with them would probably fill an ocean. I’d never heard of bacon grease in bread but will have to try it. (I’ve stirred bread until my joints hurt and now I have a Kitchenaid mixer which I love.) Thank you so much from another Kansan.

  • GreatAunt:

    Wow, that bread looks delicious! I wish I had the courage to try making it, but I don’t. ;)

  • That looks wonderful! I love making bread. I’ll have to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing!


  • here here!

  • Bravo!!! Bravo!!! That’s what I’m talking about. Before long you’ll come over to my side, and you’ll be a food blogger.

    I need more time to bake.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Liz:

    I’m making the bread right now! I hope it’s half as good as Rita’s looks!

  • Kellye:

    That bread looks delicious. I think I will try to make some this summer. Great photos!

  • Thanks so much for this! I love Rita and her bread looks fabulous. I bake bread every week, and I’ll have to give her recipe a try! Great blog.

  • Yum!!!!!!!!! I have never made handmade bread but this looks fabulous! I do make great machine bread though. I have a great book called ELECTRIC BREAD and I’ve never had a failure with their recipes. Bread is such a comfort food and such a sweet post to do at Mother’s Day. Your Mother-in Law is such a lovely lady.

  • I love Rita.
    The kichenaid would not make the same bread as those loving hands.

    I am going to make this bread.

  • She is an absolute treasure!

  • Just finished putting all the flour in the mix, forgot to add the salt, almost forgot the bacon grease. I have to run to the store and buy some bread pans during the rising process. Then run home put it in the pans, then go get the kids from school, hit the library and back home to get the loaves in the oven before going to cut wood after hubby gets out of work. Hope the bread turns out, sure would be easier to do for at once, then one in the bread maker. Has Grandma Rita ever frozen loaves? I might try it, but don’t tell. I doubt hers ever needed to be frozen she had plenty to eat it immediately.
    Thanks for sharing.