Bread Therapy: Dairy Farmer Finds Passion in Family’s Past
Rich, smooth butter melting onto a fresh slice of homemade bread. It doesn’t get more delicious than that.
For dairy farmer Taunya Otten, who milks 4,500 cows with her husband in a small town in central Utah, bread not only connects her to a wholesome product she loves; it links her to her family’s past.
Otten had fun deciphering her Grandma Gilgen's hand-written notes to bring her family’s traditional Soufa (Züpfe) Bread to life. Otten’s Grandma Gilgen recorded the tradition in a recipe book she received as a wedding gift, which is now a keepsake and family heirloom.
For generations, breadmaking has been part of Otten’s family. Daughters have learned the family’s recipes by working side-by-side with their mothers. By feeling and looking at the dough, they knew just when it reached the right consistency. When the bread gave off the perfect aroma, it was time to take it out of the oven.
As a young girl, Otten watched her mother make bread, and a slice of warm, homemade bread broken up into a bowl with some milk and honey poured on top was Otten's favorite. Growing up on a dairy farm, bread with milk was a staple -- an easy, inexpensive meal or a great snack after evening chores and just before bed. For Sunday supper, her father would eat one or two pieces of bread topped with slices of onion, served with a roast and a glass of milk.
These inspiring memories motivated Otten to start baking her own bread in 2010. Though it was part of her family’s history, Otten hadn’t baked much bread on her own, and she was a bit daunted by the process. So she re-connected with her college friend, breadmaker and blogger, Beverly, founder of simplywheatbread.com, and set up a workshop with several friends. Then, as a birthday present to herself, she bought a grain grinder and mixer, and that Christmas everyone received loaves of bread as gifts.
Seven years later, Otten hasn’t looked back. She has expanded her repertoire to include a variety of different types of bread: European-style crusty breads, Challah, cinnamon bread and whole wheat loaves, and she has had fun experimenting with different baking methods from the slow cooker and Dutch oven to her recently restored great-grandmother’s cook stove.
When Otten isn’t keeping up with her six children or managing books for the farm, she can be found in her recently remodeled kitchen whipping up a batch of fresh, homemade bread. Often up late into the night baking, Otten’s husband asks, “What are you doing? Aren’t you making your life more complicated?” But for Otten, making bread is therapeutic.
“I am relaxing from my complicated life,” Otten says. "If I want to relax, I make bread.”
Among family and friends, cinnamon bread is Otten's most popular. She uses basic white bread dough, and you’ll notice from the instructions that making this bread is more technique than recipe.
Here’s how it’s done:
The Otten Family’s Cinnamon Bread
- Start with any bread dough recipe you like.
- Line loaf pan with parchment paper.
- Apply a light coat of butter on the bottom of the parchment.
- Lightly flour counter if working with white bread. With wheat bread, adding more flour will change the consistency of your dough and cause your crust to crack along the top if too much flour is in it. Instead oil counter with canola oil or spray counter with non-stick cooking spray.
- Flatten one loaf worth of dough with the palm of your hand.
- Spread about 1 Tbsp. butter on the dough.
- Sprinkle with about ¼ cup cinnamon / sugar mixture (mixed to your liking) Can also be done with brown sugar. Optional: Spread cinnamon drops in middle (about 1 Tbsp.)
- Roll like cinnamon roll, stretch and cut log of dough into about 10 pieces and then cut all the pieces lengthwise down the middle.
- Put half of the pieces in the bottom of the loaf pan to distribute cinnamon sugar through whole loaf.
- Pinch remaining pieces together and place on top of the pieces in the bottom of the pan to form a loaf-ish shape, and it will look almost braided.
- Brush with a bit of butter and sprinkle with a bit more cinnamon sugar.
- Raise for about 15 minutes.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes (or about 5 minutes longer than you would for a regular loaf of bread.
This story was brought to you by our friends at the Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada.