Handmade Wheat Bread

Homemade Wheat Bread Update:

I've been using bread machine yeast added directly to the dry ingredients instead of proofing the yeast. To free up my mommy hands the mixer has taken the role of dough kneader. Still using the same recipe found below I've found Lazy Wheat Bread. I wrote the article on HubPages so follow the link for step by step instructions with photos.

I've always been picky when it comes to grocery shopping. In the five years I worked as an analytical chemist I encountered my fair share of chemicals and their safety sheets. So, I always read ingredient labels with a high level of scrutiny. Loren Cordain, the author of the Paleo Diet also made a very good point in his book. "If you have to add vitamins and minerals to make something nutritious, why are you eating it?" It's amazing to me how many ingredients are listed on a loaf of bread, even the bread in the bakery section of the supermarket has a similar list.

I've made bread in the past, but I've always used the bread machine to make the dough. When the machine beeped I would shape it and bake it myself because I don't like the texture of the crust when baked in the machine. Pizza dough has always been one of the top reasons to pull out the bread machine. I'd add the ingredients before going to work and set it to finish right before I came home. Voila, homemade pizza!

I've never been a fan of the wheat bread purchased in the store but wanted to make some of my own. In the past I tried making wheat bread but always made bread bricks instead. I love food and cooking, so when I haven't mastered something I MUST try again. So, the other day I pulled out the wheat flour and followed the directions on the bag. In my previous attempts, it turns out that I didn't let it rise 3 times. All of the white breads I've ever made only required 2 risings.

My next hurdle was proofing the yeast. I have never activated yeast separately in a bowl of warm water. I had no idea what it should look like. The recipe said to dissolve the yeast in water and let it sit for 5 minutes until it starts to foam. On the first attempt, I stirred the water and yeast together. It wasn't sure if I had foam or not so I Googled some images. The pictures I saw reminded me of scum growing on top of a pond. Since I stirred mine together it looked more like watered down baby food. I dumped it out and tried again. This time I sprinkled the yeast on the surface of the water. It looked better, but after 10 minutes I still had dry yeast on the surface. I felt the water temperature and it already felt cold. I was afraid I'd make more bricks if the majority of  the yeast wasn't activated.

On my third attempt I used a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water. I remembered seeing something online about 110 degrees. Then, I very carefully sprinkled the yeast over the surface as evenly as I could. This time it looked more like the images I saw online. So I added it to my dry ingredients and began to knead. The recipe said 8 to 10 minutes, but I went for 10. I covered it in a bowl I oiled with olive oil. After letting it rise for 1 hour I kneaded it again for 5 minutes or so. The dough went back into the same bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and I let it rise another 45 minutes.

When the dough doubled in size for the second time I became hopeful that I was on the right track. After kneading the dough for the 3rd time I was happy to put it into my parchment lined bread pans. (If you've never used parchment paper before, I HIGHLY recommend trying a roll. When you see how easily things can be removed from a pan you'll be hooked too.) For the next 45 minutes I let the dough rise for the last time. I popped it into the oven until it was golden brown on top.

The bread was supposed to sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. It made a noise, but I wasn't sure if it was because I had made another brick or if I finally got it right. When I cut into the loaf it was perfect! I slathered a piece with butter and it was delicious. To me, store-bought wheat bread has a flavor that I'm not crazy about. This bread had the homemade texture, the nutritional benefits of wheat, and it didn't have that store-bought flavor.

Besides having delicious bread I found a great sense of pride and satisfaction that I made bread, from scratch, with my bare hands. Sure the overall time span was close to 4 hours, but I'd say it was well worth it. This weekend I plan on doubling the recipe and freezing a few loaves. Here is the recipe I used on the back of a bag of Stone-Buhr whole wheat flour:

1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) of active dry yeast
1 1/8 cup of warm water
1 Tbsp of brown sugar
1 Tbsp of olive oil
1 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup of unbleached white bread flour*
1 tsp of salt

This is how I put it together: Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm water. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients and add the olive oil. When the yeast mixture is ready add it to the dry ingredients and mix together. On a floured surface knead the bread, adding more flour as needed, for 10 minutes. Oil the bowl where the dough will rise to prevent it from sticking and cover with plastic wrap. After an hour, knead the dough for 5 minutes and let it rise for 45 minutes in the same bowl. When the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes, knead it again and put it into the bread pan(s). Cover the dough with the plastic wrap and let it rise for another 30-45 minutes. In a 400 F oven bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

*Since I was essentially out of white bread flour I made up the difference with all-purpose flour.

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