It was my turn to select the recipe for the monthly Fantastic Bake Along, and I had a difficult time choosing what to make, but finally settled on a staple at our house, whole grain bread. I must credit DH with this recipe. He is quite the Rennaissance man, and decided to create his own perfect bread recipe several years ago. This came from his love of warm, home made bread, and his scientific nature, as well as his interest in economics. We are all the beneficiaries! You can get the recipe here, there is a hand made version and a bread machine version.
We do the bread machine version most weeks, and usually make one loaf a week. We haven’t bought bread for 4-5 years because of this recipe. 😄
For the Bake Along I did a loaf by hand just to be certain there were no big glitches, so it was a little new for me too.
First, we proof the yeast. If you are a novice, this is important, because it allows you to make sure your yeast is alive before you go to all the effort of mixing and kneading. I seem to continually struggle with the right temperature (my warm is often too hot), so I am a firm believer in this step. If the yeast is alive, they start looking sort of puffy. If you killed them, they dissolve, but nothing changes.
While I wait the 5-7 minutes for that, I grind my whole wheat flour. We have a hand grinder on the kitchen counter, and it is easy to do the 1/4 cup for this recipe. If I didn’t have the germ, bran and flax, I would do another 1/4 cup of whole wheat to replace it. If you like more whole wheat than white flour, you can usually go up to half white and half whole wheat without much trouble, but it will require some adjustments on rise time, and you may want to up the yeast to a tablespoon to help things along. Below, you can see the different add ins. Clockwise from the top is wheat bran, whole wheat flour, flax seed and wheat germ. Bran and germ add more fiber, and the flax is a natural aid to joint health.
I mix these in first, then start adding the white flour. Don’t know why, but all my 4-H books say to use a wooden spoon for mixing bread flour. Anyone know why that is?
I prefer to mix just enough flour to get the dough pulled from the sides of the bowl, then knead the rest in. Kneading bread is an experience everyone should have, it is very cathartic! I always set the timer, then I can just knead away and be lost in thought!
Knead your bread until it is elastic…smooth is a little difficult with whole wheat, so if you are a novice, just stick to the the timer. The kneading is what develops the gluten and allows the air bubbles from the yeast to form tiny air pockets in the loaf. That’s what makes your bread light!
Kneading is done, now we have the first rise. Put a dab of oil, maybe a teaspoon into the bottom of your dirty mixing bowl, and use your lump of dough to cover the bottom edges of the bowl. Turn the dough over to coat both sides (just a bit of glisten is what you want), cover it with a cloth and put in a warm place. The day I did this it was COLD! At 45 minutes my bread had barely risen, so I turned the oven on to 150 degrees and finished it in there. I don’t recommend this, but ND and MN 4-H bread guides actually tell you how to do this, because in the winter, it can be impossible to get a decent rise!
It took longer than the original 60 minutes for my bread, so I had to eyeball it…double in size from when I put it in the bowl. So, now I turn it out, and punch it done to get rid of the air pockets. As I smash it, I shape it into a rectangle of sorts. Some people use a rolling pin, but I just smash it well with my hands. Next we roll it up and pinch all the ends so that they stay sealed when it does its second rise. Looks kind of ugly, but it will be on the bottom of the pan, and the second rise will plump it up so it looks smooth.
The ugly looked pinched loaf.
Looking better in the pan.
Ready for the oven!
Baked and out of the pan
A look at the texture…I cut mine too warm, a common problem at our house!!
And, here’s the links to the others joining us this month! Do check out their adventures too!