Monday, April 21, 2014

Kansas--The Breadbasket of the Nation

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter! We had a full house, and lots of fun. And food. I think we ate all day, which is where my idea for today’s blog came from. That and the fact I lived in Kansas for ten years…

Across the state of Kansas you’ll see signs proudly proclaiming Kansas as the number one wheat producer—which is accurate. Since the 1870’s stats have been kept on the wheat production, and the only state closely rivaling Kansas over all the years has been North Dakota.

Wheat is one of the oldest known foods, and is believed to have been derived from wild grasses thousands of years ago. It wasn’t brought to the U.S. until the seventeenth century and not to Kansas until the mid 1800’s. Some early settlers grew wheat, but most grew corn. It wasn’t until a class known as winter wheat proved to thrive in the dry land that the crop really took off. Russian-German immigrants, used to dry land cultivation, started dedicating large portions of their recently acquired Kansas acreage to the plants.

Machinery to harvest the wheat quickly transformed from the hand scythe to horse drawn and steam powered thrashing machines. The railroads criss-crossing the state from the cattle days provided the farmers access to markets and mills. Grain storage also grew rapidly and most every town boasted a grain elevator and mill.

A longtime Kansas farmer was quoted as saying, “Wheat is the crop of first importance. It’s the backbone of our economy, and made Kansas famous around the world.”

Bread was a mainstay, and baked regularly. In some households daily. From a very old family cookbook, here is a basic bread recipe. (My mother used this recipe for years. I cheat and buy the frozen loaves when I have a craving for fresh baked bread.)
  • 1 tea cup milk
  • 2 scoops butter
  • 1/2 teacup warm water
  • 2 spoons active dry yeast
  • 2 big spoons sugar
  • 1 palm of salt (teaspoon)
  • 1 teacup of warm water
  • 6-7 teacups flour
Heat milk and butter until butter melts. Set aside. Mix yeast with the ½ teacup of warm water and stir until well dissolved. Set aside. Put sugar, salt, and 1 teacup of warm water in a large bowl. Mix. Add milk and butter. Add yeast. Add flour one cup at a time until it’s too difficult to mix with spoon. Turn onto floured board and knead in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth, not sticky. (Add flour if needed.) Grease a large bowl with butter. Put the bread dough into the bowl and roll until well coated. Cover the bowl. Let rise. Punch down and knead into loafs. Place in buttered loaf pans. Butter the tops and let rise again. Bake for 45 min at 350.

I have no idea why they signify ‘teacup’, but there truly is nothing like the smell of homemade bread baking! This stove is one my husband bought for me over twenty years ago and sits in my dining room.

One final next book, Never Tempt a Lawman, is set in Kansas and will be released May 1st. 

Western Kansas, 1866

Steady, wealthy and oh-so-safe—that's the kind of husband Bess Trundale wants. Someone like the local banker's son. Someone unlike Sheriff Kirk Landers. The lawman's confident swagger gets right under her skin…and into her fantasies. And though she's tried to ignore the chemistry surging between them, one night is about to change everything.

Kirk isn't planning on being anyone's husband ever again. But months of living under the same boardinghouse roof as quick-witted, feisty Bess have stirred desires he can't ignore. Together they could put their pasts to rest and claim a bold, passionate future—if he can tempt her to break all the rules with him….


Unknown said...

A great example of history that I didn't know. So much still to learn and this site had been most helpful to me in that respect...that and making great friends with like minds.

When I was growing up...and out...I had a friend whose mother made homemade yeast rolls every week. Those are still the best samples of bread I've ever tasted, and I'm sure she's in heaven handing them out...they were that good. :)

Julie Lence said...

Love that stove, Lauri! It's beautiful. Enjoyed learning about wheat, as I have traveled across Kansas many times and gazed out the car window at the crops growing.