We may, on occasion, take things to extremes here in the Green Life household. On Sunday, I biked to church, and a fellow parishioner commented on my “extreme cycling.” Perfectly dry pavement, no precipitation on the radar, and almost 32° F? NOT extreme, especially not with the help of my trusty balaclava and super-warm mittens. Sometimes one person’s extreme is another person’s normal.
So, bread. We’ve been making our own bread for quite awhile now, but our neighbors inspired us to branch out a bit. First, we borrowed their Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook. Good concept, but lacking our beloved whole grains. This led us to the follow-up Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which had a couple of recipes that seemed close, but not quite right, due to the presence of some white flour. Surely we could make a great, basic whole wheat bread with 100% whole wheat!
Enter “Healthier Soft Whole Wheat Bread,”
our Matthew’s take on their “Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread:”
Healthier Soft Whole Wheat Bread
Ingredients (makes 3 loaves)
5 c. whole wheat bread flour
2 ½- 3c. spelt flour (maybe even a bit more)
1 ½ Tbs. granulated yeast*, or 2 packets
1 Tbs. kosher salt (may increase or decrease to taste)
1/2 c. vital wheat gluten
2/3 c. extras (optional) (One mix: 2T rye flour, 2T millet, 1T poppyseeds, 1T ground walnuts, 1T sunflour seeds, 1T sesame seeds)
2 1/2 c. lukewarm water (no warmer than 100° F) + 1T water
1/2 c. to ¾ c. of sweetener** (Use one or a mix of honey, malted barley syrup, molasses, maple syrup — I use about 3/8 c honey, 1/8 c malted barley syrup, 1/8 c molasses, 1/8 c maple syrup.)
5 large eggs (1 1/4c eggs) + 1 egg for eggwash
2/3 c. neutral flavored oil, or olive oil, or melted unsalted butter, or ground flax seed
Mix together 5c wwbf, 2 ½ c spelt flour, yeast, salt, and wheat gluten, and any extras in a 5 quart bowl or a container that is not airtight. Make a well to pour liquid ingredients into.
Beat eggs in a bowl or 4 cup measuring cup, then beat in sweeteners, oil, and water. Pour your liquids into the well you made in the dry ingredients. The liquid will overflow the well. Mix them with a wooden spoon.
You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour incorporated. If the dough is still more moist than a stiff muffin batter, add a bit more flour. Dough will be very moist, but should be a dough that could be worked with wet
Cover with a clean linen towel and let rise at room temp for 2 hours (or up to 3 or 4) until it collapses or flattens on top. Use now, or refrigerate for up to 5 days.
When you’re ready to bake it, grease a loaf pan with butter or another solid fat.
I use it all at once, dividing it into three equal pieces, or two 2lb pieces and one smaller piece. To use, dust surface of dough with flour, and transfer it to a well floured bread board or, my favorite, a floured pastry cloth.
Knead 8 times, keeping the outside of the dough floured enough to not cling to your hands, although a little sticking is fine. Shape the dough into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides. Then gently shape it to get it roughly the shape of your loaf pan, and set it in the pan.
The dough should fill the pan about 3/4 of the way full. Cover the filled pans with a clean linen towel.
Let the bread rise at least 40 minutes if dough was not refrigerated, at least 90 minutes if refrigerated. (I let mine rise up to twice that long and typically wait for the loaf to be about an inch above my loaf pan before proceeding.)
Put 1 cup of water on to boil, preheat oven to 425° F with the broiler pan on the bottom of the oven, and beat one egg with 1 T of water. Gently apply egg wash to top of loaves with fingertips or pastry brush. When oven has preheated, apply a second coat of egg wash.
Put loaves into oven; then carefully, but quickly, pour the boiling water into the broiler tray and swiftly close the oven door to hold in the copious steam. Drop oven temperature to 350° F and bake for about 40-45 minutes until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when taken out of the pan and the bottom of the loaf is tapped with the handle of a wooden spoon.
Cool completely on wire racks (this will take at least an hour) before slicing. For easy fresh bread every day slice the cooled loaves and then freeze it double bagged with twist tied bread bags. When you’re ready take out what you are
ready to use, either toast directly, or thaw at room temp in a sealed bag or container for optimal quality.
*A note on yeast: Over the last year, we learned the hard way (i.e., lots of barely risen bread) that yeast freshness matters. We erroneously assumed that yeast would stay fresh indefinitely if frozen — not so! When in doubt, take the time to proof your yeast. Yes, it’s an extra step, and some wasted yeast, but it’s better than the disappointment of investing your time and nice ingredients in a big batch of bread, only to discover the problem later.
Proofing Yeast (directions from breadworld.com)
To proof yeast, add 1 teaspoon sugar to 1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°F). Stir in 1 envelope yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons); let stand 10 minutes. If the yeast foams to the 1/2 cup mark, it is active and you may use it in your recipe.