Indian Bread

I grew up in Baldwin Park, California.  When I was a young girl and involved with my local church, it was one of the happiest times of my life.  I met so many special people there who became lifelong friends and family members, including my sister-from-another-mother who I met in jr. high and still continues to be my BFF to this day.  The members of this church were a close-knit family and the adults were just as much fun as my peers.  One of them was a wonderful elderly woman who, along with her husband, had served a mission among an Indian tribe (I believe it was a Navajo tribe).   At the termination of that mission and her return to us in Baldwin Park, I was old enough to appreciate her special spirit.

As youth, there were days when we had activities at an unholy early hour of the morning, but waking up that early would be worth it when she would treat us to some of her warm, freshly-buttered, homemade Indian Bread, a recipe she learned while serving with the Navajo people. I think this was the year I became brilliant.  I was smart enough to ask her for this recipe and care for it to this day, through a marriage, births, deaths, re-locations, job changes and life in general.   I will be forever grateful that she shared this recipe with me.

The recipe says to divide the dough into 3 parts, but I usually make 6 loaves instead of 3.  This allows me to gift more loaves.  Also, the original recipe calls for yeast cakes (which can be found in the refrigerated deli section), but I have also made it with dry yeast packages.  Whenever I can, though, I use the cakes so I can keep the integrity of the recipe in tact.

Indian Bread
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3 loaves
  • 3 yeast cakes (or 3 envelopes active dry yeast)*
  • 3 cups warm water, separated
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 4-5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 2 cups bran flakes (no raisins)
  • Cornmeal for dusting pans
  • *each envelope of yeast = 2-1/4 teaspoons
  1. Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup warm water.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the brown sugar and honey in 1 cup hot water. Add 2 cups warm water, the salt, oil and yeast mixture.
  3. With a wooden spoon, add enough whole wheat flour to make a thick batter, like applesauce cake batter (about 2 cups).
  4. Loosely cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise until double, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
  5. Beat down dough with the wooden spoon. With dough hook or by hand, add white flour, rye flour and bran flakes. Add wheat flour, adding what is needed to bring dough together, around 2 cups.
  6. Dust counter top with wheat flour and knead dough until soft and elastic, about 7-10 minutes. Or, continue kneading with the hook attachment and knead until dough no longer sticks to the dough hook.
  7. Grease a medium size bowl and add the ball of dough, turning to coat all surfaces with grease. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again until double in size,
  8. Turn out dough and divide into 3 equal parts (or 6 for smaller loaves). Shape into round loaves. Grease 1 pie tin for each loaf or cookie sheets and duct with cornmeal. Place round loaves on the cornmeal-dusted pans and allow to rise again, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
  9. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake larger loaves for 40-45 minutes; smaller loaves for 25-30 minutes. Although these loaves are dark, check for golden edges for doneness. Also, tap and listen for a hollow sound.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly for about 10 minutes. Slice, butter and serve!!

Et cetera:  This bread would be perfect at your Thanksgiving table!  I still make this bread for my family, as well as present it to my neighbors at Christmas with a jar of my homemade jam.  It is a welcome change to all of the sweet gifts that are exchanged during the holidays and it makes me loved.  Even if it’s just for a day!