Archive for March, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

For the last two and a half years or so, I have been baking most of our family’s bread.  Over the last few months, I have had several friends ask for the recipe.  Since, I don’t have a recipe I follow, but more one that has evolved over time, I keep meaning to write my method down to share with those who ask.  Of course, it seems there is always something else more important to do, though, than type up a recipe.

This afternoon though, the kids are asleep (finally!), the floor is mopped, and the bread is in the oven.   It also helps that I am between crochet projects and novels, so . . . here I go!  I figured our blog would be a good place to do this, as baking bread is definitely a part of our day to day life, and this way if anyone else ever asks for the recipe, I can just easily point them here!

My reason for starting to bake our own bread is that I really like to eat simple, whole foods, and I have found it hard to find a bread without any extras (corn syrup, lot of sugars, preservatives, etc.) for a reasonable price at the grocery store.  Also, once I got started, I found out that it is pretty easy and makes he house smell great.  Not to mention, what toddler doesn’t like to help and watch things in the mixer?

Disclaimer:  I am in no way a professional.  In fact, I probably do some things wrong.  This has worked for us for quite a while though.

Here is my basic bread recipe.  This is what we use for sandwich bread and sometimes pizza dough, focaccia, etc.

2 cups warm water

1/4 cup honey

2 tbsp yeast

2 eggs

1/4 cup olive oil

5 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup oats

2 tbsp ground flax seed

2 tbsp vital wheat gluten

1 tbsp sea salt

I get my water warm by turning on the tap with hot water only and letting run until the water is hot.  In the stand mixer I then mix together the honey and hot water.  Then I throw in 2 tbsp of yeast (I use Fleschman’s bread machine yeast) and mix it a little until all the yeast is moist.  I let this stand for about 5 minutes until the yeast is all frothy looking.

Once the yeast mixture is ready, I add the rest of the ingredients (in any order) to the mixer.  Not all of the ingredients are really necessary.  I just find this is what works best for me.  If you don’t like oats, you can use 6 cups of flour.  I just like to get a little variety in the grains I use.  You could also probably use plain white flour, though I have never tried that.  I do sometimes use a couple of cups of stone ground wheat flour mixed in with the regular whole wheat and/or oats.  Just don’t use all stone ground wheat.  Every time I have tried using all stone ground whole wheat, it has come out resembling, well, a stone.   I know a lot of people who grind their own wheat, and I hear this makes for wonderful bread.  I don’t have a grinder, so I just by whole wheat flour.  I add the flaxseed for variety (and nutrients) too.  The key is that you need about 6 cups of whatever mixture you want to use.  The vital wheat gluten helps make the bread a little spongier and softer.  Homemade whole wheat bread often comes out really dense, so I find this helps.

Here is one of my biggest baking secrets– I almost always use sea salt instead of regular table salt when cooking and baking.  I get a lot of complements on this.  The big pieces of salt work especially well in sweets.  Sometimes you need to put in a little more sea salt than you would regular salt.  Sea salt doesn’t pack into a measuring spoon the way table salt does.  Otherwise it is a straight substitution.

Once everything is in the mixer, I start mixing it slowly using the dough hook.  Once it combines into a big lump of dough, I crank it up to medium or high.  This makes the machine shake, complain, and wobble around a lot.  Don’t worry.  I have been making bread once or twice a week for a couple of years in my kitchen aide, and it is still going strong.  I kneed it in this way for 5ish minutes.  If the dough is really sticky, add more flour a little at a time and keep kneeding.  Some recipes say to keep adding flour until the dough is dry and unsticky to the touch.  I actually like mine a tiny bit sticky.  This makes my bread softer and fluffier.

After kneeding, cover the dough (still in the mixer) with a clean dish towel and let it sit for about 2 hours.  I have forgotten about my dough for up to 4 hours or so.  It didn’t seem to hurt it.  Then, come back and kneed it on medium or high for another couple of minutes.  Remove it from the mixture and pat it into two loafs.  Place these in 9″ x 4″ loaf pans.  I like to spray mine with olive oil Pam first.  Take a knife and make a slit along the top of the loafs about 1/2″ deep.  This will help it rise well and take the shape you see in store bought bread.  Let it sit in the pans and rise again for 15-20 minutes.  It will fill the pans and come out the top a little.  While it is rising, preheat the oven.  Most recipes say to bake bread at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  When I did this, my bread always seemed under cooked.  I bought an over thermometer and found that if I set my over to 380 degrees it is actually 350 degrees in the oven.  Thus I cook my bread at 380 degrees for 30 minutes.  Once it is done, take the loafs out of the oven, remove them from the pans and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.

We usually store one loaf (that we are currently using) in a gallon bag in the fridge, and freeze the other one for later.  We leave the loafs whole and just slice off pieces as needed.  I hope all this info helps someone!

Here are a couple of helpful links.

This is a helpful link about baking whole wheat bread.

I use this for pita bread.

This is a good simple banana bread recipe that I also use to make sweet potato bread, butternut squash bread, etc.  You just need to add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg for the veggie breads.