Recipe: Bonanza Inn oatmeal bread by Muffy Vhay
If you’re older, as we are, you might remember the old Bonanza Inn. It started in Virginia City, then shortly moved to Wally’s Hot Springs (now David Wally’s). The final move to Carson City occurred in 1958 — to the spot, originally a residence, now occupied by Glen Eagles.
The Bonanza Inn was the brainchild of Ginny and Halvor Smedsrud. They weren’t old hands in the restaurant business, having started the restaurant on a whim shortly after they married. Ginny had come to Nevada from New York for a quickie divorce when Nevada was the divorce capital of the country. Since Ginny was by all accounts an excellent cook and Halvor decided he could bartend, the decision was made to make a living as restaurateurs.
It must have been quite a learning curve, especially that first year in Virginia City. Ginny collected recipes from Eastern friends and from cooks who had worked for her New York family. At the bar, Kay Winters remembers that when you ordered a mixed drink — like a Manhattan — Halvor had to look up the recipe!
As I remember, the menu selections were elegant — mushrooms under glass — that sort of thing. And as my friend and classmate Vernalee Winters Correa remembers, you had to get really dressed up to go there.
Both my husband and I remember catching crawdads out on the Carson River for Ginny to use in a bisque. I’m sure the Health Department and Fisheries would frown on all that now, but that’s a fond memory from quite a long time ago.
The recipe for today’s column originally came from the Bonanza Inn and Ginny Smedsrud. We printed it in its original form in the fundraising cookbook Cooking as an Art from the friends of the Brewery Arts Center in 1984. I’ve made some changes which are reflected in today’s recipe. I’ve added milk, local honey, and an egg to the original.
BONANZA INN OATMEAL BREAD
Makes two large loaves, freezes well, and smells marvelous while baking.
In a small bowl, soften in 1/2 cup warm water and set aside one package dry yeast.
In the top of a double boiler, heat the following ingredients till small bubbles appear and mixture is steaming:
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
Put in a large bowl:
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons salt
Pour the hot milk mixture over the oatmeal, stir to mix and allow to cool to lukewarm.
Beat one egg until well mixed. Add the yeast and the egg to the oatmeal mix and mix well. Then add 5 to 6 cups of all purpose unbleached flour (I prefer King Arthur).
Stir as best you can, and then pour out on a floured board and knead till mixed and satiny.
Place in a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel, let rise until double then punch down, and shape into two loaves.
Put in two greased 9-by-5-by-3 loaf pans and let rise again. Bake at 375 for about 50 minutes, or until nicely brown on top and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool before slicing if you can wait!
David and Muffy Vhay own Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.