Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I know, in my soul of souls, that soaked, sprouted, or sourdough bread is the most healthful way to consume wheat products.

I also know that the commercially-available stuff is chalk-full of things that are less than good for me. Tired of paying $4-$5 a loaf for sprouted grain bread, I decided that making my own bread, even using the short fermentation time allowed by commercial yeast, but using organic grain that I ground fresh myself and not using any unpronouncable or soy- or canola-based ingredients was still better for me and my family.

I have made sourdough in the past, but currently have no starter. I really should get one going again. But for now, this is the recipe I make every Tuesday or Wednesday for our week's supply of sandwich bread. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Bread
Makes 3 2-lb. loaves

7 cups fresh-ground whole wheat flour
5-6 cups unbleached white flour. (The "sixth cup" is put in during kneading, so only put five cups into the bowl.)
4 tsp. ground sea salt
3 cups water -110 degrees F
1 cup milk - 110 degrees F
3 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. molasses
5 tsp. traditional yeast (active dry yeast)
1/4 c. olive oil

I put the flours and salt into a really big bowl and mix with a whisk. (Sprinkle flours into the measuring cup rather than scooping cup through the flour for a more accurate measure.) Meanwhile, I heat the three cups of water in a tea kettle, then put in an 8-cup bowl with the cold milk and add the honey and molasses. Stir to dissolve sweeteners. Use a candy or meat thermometer to test liquid (stirring occasionally) until it is in the 110-115 degree F range. Add the yeast, let sit for 5-10 minutes until it starts to grow at the top. Add oil into liquids and mix just a little, then pour into a well in the dry ingredients.

Mix in the bowl until moistened, then turn out onto a well-floured counter. Sprinkling on more unbleached flour as necessary to keep from sticking to your hands, knead for 8-10 minutes. This is the length of time it takes to activate the gluten in the wheat after it comes in contact with moisture. The dough will feel elastic and tacky, but not overly sticky, when it is at the right consistency. (Using a machine, you may need to knead for a few minutes, let it rest for a few minutes, then knead for a few minutes again--it kneads it harder and faster, but it still takes 8 minutes to activate gluten, so experiment with it a little.) Form into a ball. Spray olive oil into a clean, large bowl, put the ball into the bowl, mist with olive oil or turn around to coat. Cover with a clean towel to keep off dust and let sit in a warmish place until doubled--usually about 1 hour at room temperature.

Punch once to degas. Turn out onto counter (you do not need to flour the counter at this stage.) Use a serrated edge to cut into three equal (in weight) pieces. Form into loaves by gently patting into rectangles, turning up one side, then the other, seal by pinching edge tight to create surface tension on the loaf. Tuck the ends under. Try to form a loaf about equal to the length of your pan. Place in buttered loaf pans (I love Pampered Chef stoneware pans), cover, and let them rise again until doubled. Place in pre-heated 400 degree F oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Test for doneness by tipping out of pan--bottom should be evenly golden, and when you tap it, the loaf should sound hollow. Remove from pans immediately, let cool on rack until room temperature. Never store in the refrigerator (it will dry them out.) Freeze loaves you do not intend to eat right away immediately.

There are a number of variables that will affect your finished loaf: humidity, flour, quality of the yeast, etc. If you are using store-bought whole wheat flour instead of fresh-ground, you may find you need less white flour. If it is a humid day, you may need more. Figuring out what will give you the right consistency takes time and experience, and I'm not all the way there, yet! :-)

Also, I have made almost every mistake possible when making bread: forgot almost every ingredient (well, except the flour and water--I usually remember those. :-D) Cooked it the wrong temperature, the wrong time, made the loaves wrong. They usually still end up edible. (I once had to add the oil during kneading--it turned out a different consistency, but still turned out.)

I find that the whole process takes 4 hours, and that is if I'm grinding the flour that day. Without that, it takes 3 1/2 hours-ish.

Bon app├ętit!

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