Monday, July 27, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread

Well, no time like the present to get into the meat of things and begin to present some real content. Today my son and I are going to have to bake some bread again. We almost always go for the whole wheat/whole grain loaves, as we all know those are better for us, right? I reserve the all purpose white flour for our Friday night pizza's and occasional pies and pastries.
I have seen all over the web the "no knead" recipes, 99% of which seem to be white bread... Nothing wrong with that from time to time, but I figure that your go-to bread should be something a bit healthier. As well, I actually don't mind kneading, it's not difficult, it doesn't take heaps of time, it helps work the fingers and forearms, which I need for Aikido training anyway, and it's a bit relaxing once you get into it.
Here's the recipe that my son and I use to make one loaf...

  • 1 1/4 cups of water (I often mix 1 cup of water straight from the tap with 1/4 cup of water I boil while making tea - this way it's warmed up a bit.)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons of yeast (I usually just use a really heaping teaspoon)
  • 3 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour (keep more handy, you'll want it...)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar, honey, or maple syrup, depending on your supplies or mood
  • 2 tablespoons of milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

I have also listed the ingredients in the order I prepare and mix them...
Mix the warm water and yeast together and set it aside to "proof" (I usually just do this right in the measuring cup - you'll see I do everything to minimize how many dishes I have to wash)
Just put all the other items into a large mixing bowl. If you use sugar, then you can reuse the same spoon for the powdered milk and finally for the butter.
Grease up another bowl to use for letting the bread rise.
After 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how many other chores you're doing, pour the water and yeast mixture into your mixing bowl, and start to mix it around. I just use one of our regular spoons at first, until the mix begins to get stringy and not obviously wet. Then I use my hands to wipe the spoon clean, and begin to mix the dough by hand. I mix it up quite thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl and bottom, almost to the point of the bowl becoming clean again. As you do this, you often find the dough getting sticky again. This is when I dust it with a bit more flour, and continue mixing/kneading.
Eventually you'll be satisfied that it's not too sticky any more, and does seem to have the texture of dough. Transfer it to the greased mixing bowl, and cover it with a wet towel or greased plate. I actually purchased a large, glass measuring cup that I can put the dough into and actually watch it rise...
To give it a nice, warm environment to rise, I put it in the oven, but am too cheap to actually turn on the gas, even on low... I just turn on the oven light - which is perfect!
Usually after a couple of hours, it should have risen up quite remarkably. I grease up a loaf pan, knead it back down for just a minute or two, shape it into a loaf and drop it into the pan.
I usually try to grease the exposed surfaces of the loaf with more butter, so that it doesn't dry out as it rises a second time. Pop it back in the oven, and it generally rises quite nicely in less time than the first rising.
Once you're satisfied that it's the height you want, just turn on your oven at 350F for 55 minutes, and you're done!
Kenny and I enjoy the process, and there really isn't anything that can compare with that bread coming straight out of the oven and getting slathered with more butter.
It freezes well, and we often use it to dip into soup or load up with chili.
Let me know if you try it and how things work out... I've learned that the most important thing seems to be kneading it and adding flour to keep it from getting too sticky. Dough that's too wet tends to fall too easily once you turn the oven on.
I'll try to take some pictures and add them to this post to show you how things work for me.

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