Monday, July 6, 2009

Bread, Revisited

It took me a while to find a really good bread recipe, and I was completely happy with it! Then I got the idea that I might play with it a bit and try changing a few things about it. Why? New ingredients have inhabited our cupboards for one thing, and because I was reading about the method of soaking whole grains. Now, the idea of soaking whole grains is meant to be done for a nutritional benefit. I've not read enough yet to boast that, but I was also hearing great things about how it could make your baked goods lots softer despite using whole grains. I have nothing against the hardier wheat bread and other "brown" products. However, I have a few family members who prefer the softer white things and I wanted to see if I could make everyone happy at one time. So I began experimenting. I took my normal bread recipe and looked around at several others and then came up with something that works just as good as ever and gave us a really nice soft loaf of wheat bread. The thing is, soaking some of the grains in this recipe means it will take longer to make. I tend to start this recipe when I pull the last loaf of bread out of the freezer. I mix up the first part of the recipe in our giant "popcorn/bread" bowl, put the lid on and set it aside until the following morning.

Here's what we do:

Day 1: Mix together 4 cups of whole wheat flour, 1 cup of oat bran, 1 cup of wheat bran. Add 3/4 cup of yogurt (or buttermilk, I tend to have yogurt on hand and vanilla yogurt doesn't taste sweet or vanilla"y" in the final product!) and 2 1/4 cups of warm water. Mix it all up in a large bowl and put a lid on it and set it aside for a few hours. Mine usually sits about 12-24 hours before I return to it.

On Day 2:

Put 2 c HOT water in a large measuring cup/bowl and add 2 T coconut oil (or any other oil you wish to use, if using coconut oil let it melt before adding to the dough mixture) & 1/3 c honey; mix well. Pour it in the bowl with the soaked bread dough and then add 4 cups Whole Wheat Bread flour, 3/4 c gluten, 2 1/2 T yeast. Mix this up by hand or with an electric mixer.

I don't have a high powered mixer, so I do the best I can with it, adding the remaining flour. I let my machine mix it until I hear it struggling (which doesn't take long). Then I dump it out on my counter and knead it for 7 minutes.

When I'm done kneading it the dough is soft and usually looks like the above picture. I then place my big mixing bowl on top of it and let it rest for 20 minutes.

I usually set the timer and clean up the rest of my mess, when the timer goes off I dump it back in the mixing bowl and sprinkle 1 1/2 T of salt on top of it and let the mixer go at it until the salt is fairly well mixed in, or until my mixer begs me to turn it off. Seriously, not a strong mixer! Don't panic about the amount of salt, this is making 3 loaves of bread!

I dump the mixture back out on the counter and continue to knead for another 7 minutes. If you have a wonderfully high-powered mixer you probably won't have to mix it by hand, but then you won't have incredibly strong arms like me either.. I'm only throwing it out there so you won't feel too bad about me having to knead three loaves of bread by hand at one time.. I plop the dough back into the bowl and cover with a towel.

After an hour (sometimes more depending on weather and the temp of our house) this is how high the bread is in my bowl. You can barely see my finger poke where I tested the bread, it should leave an indent that doesn't spring back very quickly.. Then I turn the bread out onto the counter and break into three reasonably equal portions and shape into loaves or rolls or both.. The best advise I can give on shaping bread into loaves (if you struggle with it or find big gaping air holes in them) is to borrow the book by DK from your library on Bread Making. It's a very good book with LOTS of pictures. This is the same way we shape our bread loaves and it works great!

Then I set them on the stove top and let them rise again (without the oven on) for about thirty minutes, then I turn the oven on 180 (350) and let it heat up. By then I've usually got at least one loaf ready to go in. I made rolls this week with some of the dough because hamburgers are on the menu. Plus I have a little boy who thinks bread rolls (especially big soft ones) are even better then sliced bread, so we keep some on hand for him!

This is how high my bread loaves are when I pop them in the oven. See how one is slightly smaller then the other? I probably should have let that one rise some more because it didn't rise as much as I wanted in the oven. That's okay though, it still tasted yummy! Remember, the bread will rise a bit more in the oven, so don't over rise it on the counter or it'll fall in the oven. If you poke your bread gently and it bounces back then it's done and ready to go in. Bake it for about 30 minutes. I pull it out of the oven and hold a tea towel in one hand, I dump the bread into my "tea towel" hand and knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow then I know it's done. The taller loaf required a bit more cooking time then the shorter one.

For some reason we didn't get a picture of them cooked, so you'll have to pretend they are a few inches higher and a beautiful golden brown! I let them cool on a wire rack before slicing (about 30 minutes and then no one can wait any longer) The extra loaves/rolls go in the freezer. I usually wrap each loaf in foil and drop in a zip style bag. Rolls just go in a zip style bag. I let it thaw on the counter, in the foil but out of the bag, for 24 hours before we dig into it.

Here's a printable version of the recipe if you want it. (It's another pdf so it may take a minute to load..) Just print, cut, fold, and glue. Then you can tuck it in your recipe box. Just a quick note about this bread recipe: It's just as good without soaking it, but not as soft, and while it takes more time to soak it, it's worth it if the gang likes it! I didn't win my whole wheat hater over on this bread, but he was highly impressed with how soft it was and said he'd be much more willing to eat it if, heaven help him, he was completely out of white bread (which I snuck oatmeal into.. but don't tell him.) Enjoy!

1 comment:

Debbie said...

That bread looks so yummy!