{In case you're wondering, that means "Everyone to the table to eat!" in Italian}

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Little Slice of Heaven (Homemade Bread)!

I have always been intimidated by baking bread. It's one of those things, like pie crust, that people think is hard to do right. But we are eating so much bread lately (about 4 loaves/week) that I figured I better learn. I will only feed my family whole-grain bread, and that gets expensive! It is a little tricky, but now that I've done it and had it turn out great, I have an opinion on why it's known for it's difficulty: the wrong ingredients. Seriously, I really think it's that simple. This bread is 100% whole wheat, and unlike most homemade whole-grain breads, it is NOT a brick! On the contrary, it is fabulous- light, soft, fluffy, and delicious. It slices easily, so it's perfect for sandwiches. If you have any left. We devour it warm by itself or with butter and jam, and hope there's some left for sandwiches. The secrets I've learned: vital wheat gluten, new instant (or rapid-rise or bread-machine) yeast, and the right whole-wheat flour are essential. The flour I've always gotten is too coarse and weighs the bread down. You've gotta find a really fine flour, and I especially like soft white spring wheat flour (as opposed to hard red winter wheat, which if it doesn't specify, it probably is). The kind I found I like is Wheat Montana Prairie Gold Whole-Wheat Flour ). I got it at Wal-mart. A 5 lb. bag will make about 6 loaves of bread. You can usually find the gluten by the yeast. Enjoy!
100% Whole Wheat Fluffy Homemade Bread
Mix together:
3 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. vital wheat gluten
1 heaping tb. instant yeast
Mix in:
2 1/2 c. hot tap water
Mix for one minute, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes (this is called sponging).
Now mix in:
1/3 c. oil (I use canola)
1/2 c. honey or sugar
1 tb. lemon juice
1 tb. salt
1 egg
1 tb. flax seed, optional
Lastly, add in:
2 to 2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour, a little at a time.
Dump dough onto your counter. Only add enough flour that your dough is barely not sticky. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand, or until the dough feels nice and elastic (you could also use a mixer for all this if you want- I use my Bosch and only knead for about 5 minutes). Heat your oven for 1 minute to warm it for rising, then turn it off. Divide dough in half, roll into 2 logs. Place dough in large greased loaf pans, then flip and kind of flatten the dough and squish it into the corners of the pan. Place in warm oven to rise about 30-45 minutes, or until it rises just about an inch over the top of the pans. If you let it rise too much, it may cave in when you bake it. When risen, turn on oven to 350 degrees, set timer to bake for 30 minutes. When finished, remove from pans, brush top with butter for a soft crust, and let cool for 1-2 hours before slicing (if you can stand it!). Freezes well, but slice it first and wrap it well.
Makes 2 loaves.

*You can also use this recipe for rolls, cinnamon rolls, or cinnamon raisin bread. YUM! If you want to use the dough for pizza, this amount makes enough for 3- 15" crusts.


The Matthews Family said...

thank you so much for posting this. I LOVE homemade bread but as you said, yes, it totally intimidates me and I've never tried because if i fail at it once i will most likely never try it again. Thanks for going through the trial and error for our benefit. Now to try it!

Lauren Webster said...

If you do fail, don't give up! I tried another recipe first that didn't have gluten in it (and it was only half whole wheat) and it was a total brick. But once you get it down, oh my, is it worth it!