Friday, August 22, 2008

Farm-Style Whole Wheat Bread

After a little experimentation, I have come up with a whole wheat bread I like. OK, not 100% whole wheat, but let's not get picky. I call it "farm-style" because it more like the bread my mom used to make (not that we ever lived on a farm) than the artisan-style breads I usually bake. I have discovered a few things about bread along the way. 1. Make sure you have quality ingredients. Make sure your flour is fresh and your yeast is active. 2. Knead the bread thoroughly. Work that gluten, baby! 3. The oven is a great place to let dough rise. Turn it on for 1 min to slightly warm, then turn off and stick your dough in. And 4. Good bread takes a little time but it totally worth it. This is a nice tender loaf that stays fresh for a few days and is perfect for sandwiches. The boys love it and prefer it to the bread we sometimes buy from the bakery downtown. In your face, professional baker!

- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 2 cups soy milk (room temperature)
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup loose packed brown sugar
- 2 tbsp ground flax
- 1 tbsp sea salt (must be sea salt, or it will be too salty)
- 1/3 cup vital wheat gluten
- 2 cups white bread flour
- 3-4 cups all purpose whole wheat flour

1. Mix sugar into water, then whisk in yeast until dissolved. Set aside to foam (if it doesn't, your yeast is no good.)
2. In a large mixing bowl (I use my KitchenAid bowl), mix together soy milk (zap quickly in microwave to bring to room temperature) and vinegar. Add sugar, flax, salt, yeast mixture, vital wheat gluten, and white bread flour. Mix well. I use the batter attachment of the KitchenAid and really beat it well, until gluten strings form and mixture is very smooth.
3. Add in enough whole wheat flour to make a soft and slightly tacky dough. How much depends on humidity, type of flour, etc. Generally 3.5 cups works for me. Knead for 10 mins. Although I am a big fan of hand-kneading, I let the KitchenAid do most of the work, then knead the last few mins by hand.
4. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1.5 hours). Punch down dough, then gently stretch the ends of the dough outward. Then, fold in like a business letter. Turn dough 90 degrees and repeat. Try not to rip the dough. Re-form into a ball, cover, and let rise again until doubled (about 1 hr). Repeat above process, re-cover, and let rise for 30 mins.
5. Divide dough into two using a serrated knife and shape into loaves. Cover with a towel and let rise until about 1 inch over the top of the pan.
6. While bread is rising, preheat oven to 375 convection (400 regular). Slash tops and bake for 22-25 mins (30-35 regular). I like to remove the bread when it is just done and still a bit on the moist side. This makes for a nice loaf the next day--not too dry. I will admit I have only baked this in a convection oven so I am guessing a little on the times for the regular oven.