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Kneading and eating

I have been making our family’s bread for a few months now. It sounds like a huge undertaking, but it really isn’t that time consuming. Once you get in the routine of it, it doesn’t seem to take long at all. I make 2 loaves every 4-5 days.

today's bread

today's bread

Here is the recipe that I use. I got it from some online source a few years ago, but I have altered it a bit to produce better results….like adding the gluten flour. I think that I am able to make a nice look that doesn’t have a hole in the middle by adding 1-2 Tablespoons of gluten flour to the dough. The holey bread is my biggest problem, but it has cleared up since adding the gluten! (thankfully, our family isn’t anything close to being gluten intolerant.)

1/4 c sugar

1/3 c oil

1/2 Tablespoon salt

2 3/4 c hot water (not boiling)

2 Tablespoons baking yeast

1-2 Tablespoons gluten flour

about 7 cups of 100% whole wheat flour

At the beginning, I turn my oven on to 350 F. This provides me with a nice, warm rising spot on the stove top, and the oven is the perfect temperature for baking when the time comes. Combine sugar, water, oil, and salt into a big mixing bowl. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Measure out 2 cups of flour, and briefly mix in the gluten flour to those 2 cups of flour. Then add that flour mixture to the big bowl, and whisk until well mixed in and smooth. Add baking yeast, and beat again with the whisk until will mixed. Add 2 cups more flour, and stir well to thoroughly combine. Dough will be getting thicker and stickier, but not keadable yet. Up until this point, I am using a whisk. Now add 2 MORE cups of flour and switch to a mixing spoon and mix in the flour to the dough. With the remaining 1 cup flour, sprinkle a generous amount on the counter and turn the dough onto the counter. Sprinkle the top of the dough with a nice handful of flour, and begin kneading. As you need more flour to prevent stickiness, continue using that from your 7th cup of flour.

I rarely use the entire 7th cup. I have found that there is a balance to be made with whole wheat flour: if you use TOO much flour, it will be very dense and rock-like, but if you don’t use enough flour, the bread will just crumble when you cut it. I was always guilty of adding more and more flour, because if you just keep on kneading, you will ALWAYS need to keeping flouring your counter surface, and so on. So, just knead long enough to produce a nice, stretchy, beautiful dough. That isn’t a very good description, isn’t it? Next time I bake bread, I will try to remember to take pictures along the way.

Anyhow, once your dough has been kneaded enough, clean out your mixing bowl, dry it out, add a smidgen of oil and grease the bowl up. Then gently and reverently place the dough into the bowl, place on your now-warm stove top, and cover with a damp, wrung-out dishcloth. Let it rise until doubled in size. For me, this takes anywhere from 30-60 minutes.

Butter up 2 loaf pans. Don’t use oil unless you want to spend a good 10 minutes cursing and trying to use a knife to get your bread out of the pan, and then end up with a butchered, sad loaf that makes you never want to bake bread again.

Punch down the doubled dough with your fist, and knead it just a few times on your counter, to get all the air bubbles out. Cut it in half, and plop them in the pans. Press gently down to helpt he dough fill the entire pan. Return to your warm stovetop and cover with the dishcloth again.

Let them double in size again. This doesn’t take nearly as long; maybe 20 minutes? Maybes less? Depends on how warm your kitchen is. Don’t let them over rise, though.

Stick them in the oven and wait until bread aroma fills your whole house. That’s how I know they are almost done. I never time how long they bake. If I had to guess, I’d say 30 minutes. But every oven is different. When they are a beautiful brown and sound hollow when you tap on the bottoms, then they are done.

Turn them out and let them cool before slicing. Except we never wait until they are cool. It’s too irresistible! The taste of fresh bread is like nothing else! Just make sure you slice gently and use a bread knife if you are going to cut them before totally cool.

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