Friday, July 17, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread

I make my own whole wheat bread by hand. It is so good! It seems a little intimidating at first, but it's not that hard once you get onto it. I always allow 4 hours from start to finish. But you don't have to work on the bread all 4 hours; once you get it mixed it takes care of itself; you just have to be there to put it in pans, etc. What I like is that you get a lot of food for the amount of time you put into it. This recipe makes 6 loaves, so that feeds us for a while.

7-8 cups warm water (The temperature is right for the yeast when you put a drop of water on your wrist and it doesn't feel warm or cool.)
2 Tbsp. honey

Pour in a slow steady stream:
2 Tbsp. active dry yeast

Let stand 10 minutes. Mix in:
4 cups flour

Then add:
2 Tbsp. salt (Do not add salt directly to the yeast. You must first have some flour mixed in.)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice (as a dough enhancer to make it rise better)

Add enough flour to make a batter that is not too sloppy when you beat it. Beat for 5 minutes. (This helps develop the gluten so it will rise well.) Continue to add flour until it is too stiff to stir. Then mix in flour with your hands until it forms a ball of dough. (I have no real idea how many cups of flour to use. It depends how strong you are to get the flour mixed in and what the humidity is.)

Place dough on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary to keep it from sticking. You don't need to make it stiff or get as much flour as possible in. I just keep adding enough flour to keep it from being sticky. (The bread is ready to start rising when you poke your finger into the dough, and the dough springs back.)

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a lightweight towel and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place. (An oven with a pilot light is a good place. Just don't turn on the oven!) If you poke your finger into the dough and it doesn't spring back, you know that it won't rise any more. However, you don't have to wait until this point to continue. As long as the dough has about doubled in size, you are ready to form it into loaves.

Punch dough down and divide in 6 equal pieces. (Or weigh it, dividing it into 1 pound portions.) Form each piece of dough into a smooth ball. Roll and stretch the ball of dough one direction to lengthen it into a rope the length of your bread pan. Place in lightly oiled bread pans. Cover with a lightweight towel and let rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes. (Don't put it in the oven to rise unless you have a different oven to bake it in!) Once more, if you poke your finger into the dough and it does not spring back, it will not rise any more and needs to go in the oven right away.

Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Place bread in hot oven and bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is. Do not open the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking, or the bread may fall. When you think it is done, remove from the pan and tap the crust with your fingernail. If it sounds hollow and is brown, then it is done. If it is still somewhat soft, it needs to bake longer.

For a softer crust, remove loaves from the oven, wrap in a towel, and place directly in a plastic bag. Close the bag and allow the bread to cool. When it has cooled, remove from bag and towel. Place in a dry bag. Store in the refrigerator. You can also freeze the bread at this point.

If you want to use quick-rise yeast, mix the yeast directly into the first 4 cups of flour. Add this flour to the water and honey and mix. You don't need to let it stand for 10 minutes. Continue with the rest of the recipe in the same way as above.

Mixer variation:
I’ve never actually written down my Bosch mixer recipe, but it’s basically as follows: 8 cups water, 2 T yeast, 5 t salt, enough flour to make a thick batter. Process with wire whisk in Bosch or other mixer for 10 minutes. Switch to dough hook. Slowly add flour a cup at a time, overall mixing for about another 15 minutes. When dough comes away clean off the side of the bowl, add just a little more flour and turn off when it is mixed in. Divide into loaves, put in pans, let rise. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. So the difference is I don’t use sweetener or lemon juice anymore (it works fine without) and there is no double rise. It’s a science, though. Add flour too fast and it could get too stiff before coming clean. Add it too slow and you won’t get enough in. I think one secret is the long mixing time.

1 comment:

  1. Found your site through the CS forum :) I love making bread. I usually put flaxseed in mine, and I'd never thought of adding lemon juice... I'll have to try that! Thanks!