Shredded Wheat Bread doesn’t exactly taste like the cereal it’s named for, but somehow it wouldn’t be the same without it. The crumbled biscuits contribute a barely-there whole-grain quality to the bread’s flavor while the addition of molasses and sugar lend subtle fragrance and sweetness that many find irresistible. Also, like all homemade breads, this retro-inspired loaf boasts a hearty texture and a refreshing lack of preservatives.
For vintage recipe inspiration, I often turn to my own cookbook collection. I love nothing more than the spiral-bound community cookbooks prevalent at thrift stores and library book sales, and when I see a golden example from New England, I can’t help myself (space on the bookshelf be darned). This one, What’s Cooking in Massachusetts: Favorite Bay State Recipes compiled by the Massachusetts 4-H Foundation, appears to be from the 1960s, and beyond the Shredded Wheat Bread, it includes recipes for regional favorites like Copley Plaza Relish, Fish Chowder, Boiled Dinner, and Boston Cream Pie detailed with whimsical hand-drawn illustrations.
Shredded Wheat Bread is an old recipe, which make sense since Shredded Wheat cereal dates back to 1893. In the early 20th century companies often developed recipes to go along with products, and this bread was likely no exception. Early versions called for the bread to be steamed, but by the 1910s a recipe very similar to the one we’re using today that called for baking the bread in the oven was the norm.
Be sure to purchase the “original big biscuit” variety of Shredded Wheat when you make this bread. The little frosted squares, while delicious in milk for breakfast, are not going to cut it here! You’ll also need a robust, dark molasses for the bread’s signature light sweetness.
While a sturdy kitchen mixer is helpful in mixing the dough and getting the knead started, I think the biggest perk of baking bread is getting your hands dirty and kneading the dough until its smooth and elastic. Your hands will tell you when its ready, and the more you knead, the better you get at it. You may even start to look forward to it as a form of stress release or relaxation, plus you can’t beat the reward — homemade bread!
This recipe yields 2 loaves, and since my matched baking pans are never in the same place at the same time, I had to eyeball the right amounts of dough into the 2 loaf pans I tracked down. As you can see, they baked up beautifully and (after I brushed them with melted butter while they were still hot) shone lustrously.
It’s perhaps the hardest thing in the world not to immediately tear into a loaf of fresh bread, but I did, because I knew I wanted my first bite to be in the form of toast. I love toast, and this bread, with its subtle sweetness and slightly chewy texture, is the perfect vehicle for a pat of butter (just a pat!) and mug of tea.
Have you ever had Shredded Wheat Bread? If you haven’t, you should, and if you have, I bet it’s time to make some more!