I have a little confession to make...for the last year, I've been baking all of our bread. Honestly, I've actually not purchased a single loaf since last April and I'm still sane (or nearly so, ha ha!!). Part of baking my own bread is just me enjoying getting back to basics in that Little House on the Prairie sort of way. Another part is my way to keep my family healthy by eating cleaner and eliminating as many preservatives as I can from our everyday diet. And another part is sort of paying homage to my fantastic new kitchen and really making the most of my beloved new space. In any case, what seems like a kind of daunting addition to a busy schedule, has in reality turned into a fairly easy weekly task. And the payoff has been great. Who doesn't adore the smell and taste of fresh baked bread?!! Read on and I'll tell you how you can start baking your own too.
I know it kind of sounds impossible but this bread mixes up in about 10 minutes. Then all you do is let it rise for a couple of hours, deflate it, pop it into buttered loaf pans, let it rise again and bake. As long as you've got a few hours at home in a row, you can do it and still get everything else you have to get done as well. Once you get into the habit, you won't even think much about it all.
One thing I really love about this particular whole wheat bread is that it's very light and almost fluffy. One reason for this is that instead of using stone ground wheat, you actually use white whole wheat flour (easy to find in most supermarkets and definitely online) which gives you all the goodness of whole wheat flour but without some of the bitterness and heaviness that occurs with pure whole wheat. My family really loves this one!
It's great toasted with butter and jam and makes the most delicious sandwiches (that's one of my husband's special creations below!!) I can't encourage you enough to get on the bread baking band wagon. Especially now with all of the food scares, cooking at home with ingredients you know and trust, seems ever more important. Besides, home-baked bread is going to make you super popular and admit it, that's what we're all after right?!!
Whole-Wheat Sandwich Loaves
Makes two 9x5 inch loaves
Prep Time: About 2 ½ hours but only about 10 minutes of this is hands-on time; Bake Time: 40-45 minutes
- 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (384 grams)
- 3 cups white whole-wheat flour (384 grams)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 cup milk (at least 2% or higher)
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- ½ cup boiling water
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- softened butter for greasing pans
1. Place both flours, salt and yeast in a large bowl and whisk together. In a separate bowl combine the milk and vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes. Then add in the boiling water, water, and honey and stir well until the honey is dissolved. Pour into the large bowl with the flour and add the oil and egg. Use a large rubber spatula to mix all the ingredients together well, until all traces of the flour mixture is gone and you’re left with a sticky ball of dough. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 ½ -2 hours in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size.
2. Preheat oven to 375ºF and make sure oven rack is in the middle of the oven. Generously butter two 9x5-inch loaf pans. Uncover the dough and use two forks to deflate the dough by pulling it away from the sides of the bowl, turning the bowl as you do so that you’re eventually left with a ball of dough.
3. Use the forks to split the dough down the center into two halves. Transfer each half to the prepared pan —sometimes the dough is a little sticky and hard to move—that’s ok.
4. Let the dough rise in the pans in a warm spot for about 25-30 minutes or until the dough crowns the rim of each pan. Often I let it rise for about 40 minutes--loaves with whole grains sometimes need a little more time to rise up, so don't be afraid to take the tuime
5. Bake the loaves for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown and firm. Remove from the oven and turn the loaves out into cooking racks. Turn loaves on their sides and let cool until serving. Bread will keep well wrapped in a cool spot at room temperature for 5-7 days.
Note: Recipe adapted from Bread, Toast Crumbs by Alexandra Stafford.