I've had quite a few attempts at this bread-making thing, starting in college when I tried to make whole wheat bread in my mom's bread machine and ended up with inedible rocks (well, if you poured butter on them, you could get them down. My dad was really nice about eating some of it to spare my feelings). That turned me off from bread machines forever! Next, I found out about sourdough and how fantastic it is for you, so I made my own starter and whipped up a batch. It was sour, alright! And dense and flat.
Last year, I discovered sourdoughhome.com, a fantastic resource that has incredible details about sourdough and bread-making in general. I mailed away for a sourdough starter and had some pretty great success with fluffy, light whole wheat sourdoughs. After a few weeks of this, however, my husband announced that he wasn't really as wild about the flavor of sourdough as he thought. So much for that. My kids will eat anything made from wheat, so to really be successful here, baked goods must pass the husband test. I learned so much from sourdoughhome.com, though, that I felt much more confident in my bread-making skills. I just had to find the perfect recipe.
Here were my qualifications: it must be 100% whole wheat (if a bakery can do it without white flour, I should be able to too!); it would be fantastic if I didn't have to add gluten; it has to be light and fluffy enough for everyday use; and I'd like to either sprout the wheat ahead of time or soak the flour.
Imagine my delight when I was cruising around Kitchen Stewardship last month and saw the latest series over there - Seeking the Perfect Homemade Whole Wheat Bread! Katie is trying dozens of variations of bread recipes, and then reporting on them and even scoring them for things like softness, rise, ease of assembly, and the like. I tried the first bread, which she calls "Sweet and Simple." Success!
This stuff is good. Not "edible fresh from the oven or maybe the next day if it's toasted and buttered," but the kind of stuff you can make sandwiches from all week and actually use like store-bought bread. In addition, it doesn't have any perishable ingredients in it, so I feel comfortable leaving it on the counter instead of refrigerating it (it won't get all dried out in the fridge!). Plus, I didn't have to significantly change the recipe to work at high-altitude. My only tiny change was adding whey to the 1 cup of water instead of replacing water with whey to equal 1 cup...does that make sense? I figured it's so dry here that a little bit more moisture won't hurt.
I altered her instructions a little bit, but kept her ingredient list the same:
1 c. room temperature water
1/4 c. coconut oil
2 Tbs. honey
2 1/2-2 3/4 c. hard red whole wheat flour
1 3/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 tsp, salt
She gives instructions for soaked bread without added gluten, which is the version I used, but I changed things up a little at this point because I hate melting coconut oil ahead of time. Here goes:
Heat water (to at least 80 degrees) and pour into medium mixing bowl (I used my stand mixer). Add coconut oil and stir until coconut oil is melted (I started with slightly hotter water, so it melted pretty quickly). Add flour, honey, and 2 Tbsp yogurt whey, and mix until combined. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
Note: make sure the water and oil aren't too hot when you add the other ingredients, so you don't kill the healthy bacteria in your whey.
In the morning, or whenever you're done soaking, add yeast and salt, and mix until incorporated. At this point, you could knead by hand or use a mechanical kneading-aid, like a bread-hook on a stand mixer. Knead until gluten is developed. Dough will no longer be super-sticky, and if you tear off a piece of dough and stretch it out, it will pass the "windowpane test." That is, you will be able to stretch it until you can see light through it like a stained-glass window, and it won't tear.
Fold the dough around itself and tuck under to form a little round lump that is stretched on the top (this is called a gluten cloak). Rub a little olive oil on the surface so it doesn't dry out, then cover and let rise until doubled in size. Then, punch down and form into loaf-shape, with the gluten cloak on top again. Place in greased loaf pan and let rise again until doubled.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. I live at 9000 ft, so I bake mine 'til my thermometer jabbed into the top reads 190. At sea level, I think you're supposed to bake it to 205 degrees F. Cool on wire rack.
Now, I know that if you bake your family's bread already, you probably have your own favorite tried-and-true recipe (will you share it with me? I'd love to try it too!). But it you're not satisfied with your recipe, or you're just getting started with baking bread, this recipe is a fantastic place to start.
Posted at Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Meatless Monday at Veggie Converter, Tuesdays at the Table at All the Small Stuff, Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, and Works for Me Wednesday at We Are That Family