Monday, July 21, 2008

Perfect Whole Wheat Bread

To save money on bread, I've been trying out homemade bread recipes. Spending $3+ on good bread at the store per loaf adds up quickly, especially when the same bread can be made at home for less than $1 a loaf.

I checked out lots of bread books at the local library; one was called Beth's Basic Bread Book. The recipe for this bread was inside and I was amazed at how easy it was. It kept getting better. A wheat bread that takes 3.25 hours is faster than my breadmaker, it makes 2 loaves at once, it's more reliable, it tastes great, they keep well for 3 days (or more in the freezer!) (Most homemade bread starts to go stale pretty fast without the store preservatives.) It makes great sandwiches, great toast, great snacks...we're in love with this bread!

This is a simple bread recipe, and the easiness makes it even more worthwhile. Try it out. You'll love it!

Perfect Whole Wheat Bread
(Also great for burger/hot dog buns, dinner rolls and more!)

1 cup warm water (105-115 F)
2 Tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
pinch brown sugar
1 cup warm milk (105-115)
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, elted
1 tablespoon salt
1 egg
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, fine or medium grind
3 1/2 -4 cups unbleached all-purpose or high gluten bread flour
melted butter or olive oil for brushing

1. Proof the yeast: In a small bowl or 1-cup liquid measuring cup, pour 1/2 cup of the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast and pinch of brown sugar over the surface. Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes. I use cool water right now in summer when its so hot to slow down the growth a bit)

2. Mixing the dough: In a large bowl using a whisk or in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining water, milk, 1/3 cup brown sugar, melted butter, salt, egg and whole wheat flour. Beat hard until creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in the yeast mixture. Add bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft, shaggy dough that just clears the sides of the bowl is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary if making by hand.

3. Kneading: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and springy, 1-3 minutes for machine mixed dough, 4-7 minutes for a hand mixed dough, dusting with flour only 1 Tbsp at a time, just enough as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be smooth and very springy with a slightly rough surface and sticky quality, but not dry. Do not add too much flour or the baked loaf will be dry and crumbly.

4. First rise: Place the dough in a lightly greased deep container (preferably with straight sides so its easy to see when it has doubled). Turn the dough once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until double in bulk, about 1-1.5 hours. Do not allow to rise any higher than double, or it may collapse and bake into a flat loaf.

5. Shaping and second rise: Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface to deflate. Lightly grease bottom and sides of 2 9x5 loaf pans. Clay pans are wonderful for this loaf. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. With the palms of your hands, roll into 4 fat sausages, each about 10 inches long. Place two of the pieces side by side. Starting in the center, wrap one around the other to create a fat twist effect. Repeat with second loaf. Place in pans. Brush tops with melted butter or oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough is almost double in bulk and about 1 inch over the rims of the pans, about 30 minutes. These loaves need only a 3/4 proof for the best baked volume.

6. Baking and cooling: Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush tops with more butter or oil. Place in center rack of oven and bake about 35-40 minutes, or until the surface of the loaves is golden brown, the sides slightly contract from the pan, and the loaves sound hollow when tapped with your finger. Remove the loaves from the pans immediately to a cooling rack. Loaves are best slightly warm or at room temperature.

You take them out of the pans immediately to keep them from getting moist on the sides. Store completely cooled unsliced bread or rolls wrapped in plastic food storage bags at room temperature to keep moist for 3 days or freeze. If you use black-finish or glass loaf pans, reduce oven temp. by 25 F.

1 comment:

Amy said...

I've been looking for a good whole wheat bread recipe - there are plenty out there but I'm much less wary if someone I know has recommended it. I'll have to give this one a try!


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