Light Wheat Bread

I love to bake bread.  If you’ve never tried making bread at home, it’s not as hard as you might think.  Yeast is magical and creating a rich and fragrant loaf is so satisfying.  This is a soft sandwich style wheat bread.  It has 1/3 whole wheat flour to 2/3 white flour, which is a reliable ratio for most bread recipes.  Whole wheat flour requires more hydration and patience to yield a soft and light texture, but with these proportions you’ll get good results.  The addition of milk and butter also tenderize the wheat but could be left out for a dairy free bread.  I used my stand mixer and dough hook for this recipe and it was very easy.

Light Wheat Bread

recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour ( I use King Arthur All Purpose Flour)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons powdered milk

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/4 cups water at room temperature

  • Stir together the flours, sugar, salt, powdered milk and yeast in a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter and water, stirring until the mixture forms a ball.  If needed, add a little more water until the dough is soft and supple.  It’s better for the mixture to be a little bit too wet than too dry.
  • Knead for 10 minutes by hand or 6 minutes in a mixer.  Coat the dough with oil and cover the bowl to let it rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in size.

  • Tip the dough onto a floured surface and press out into a rectangle.  Form into a loaf by rolling and pressing the dough into a log, then sealing the ends and tucking under.  It is important to shape the dough so that it will rise evenly without any odd lumps.  If you have never worked with shaping bread before, here’s a video from King Arthur Flour to help you get started.  
  • Place the dough in a greased bread pan and mist the top of the loaf with water and cover very loosely so that it won’t stick as it rises.  Proof for about 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, rotate the pan and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes.  The bread should be golden brown and register 190 degrees in the center.  Remove bread from the pan immediately and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or eating.

 

  • Enjoy with lots of butter!

 

Sourdough Bread

IMG_8710Bread is tricky and anyone who tries to tell you that it’s easy is lying. .. or they have a very different standard for bread than I do.  It’s true that many breads are easy to make at home.  I have a bread machine and can consistently make a soft and fluffy loaf.  I also find other sweet breads and rolls pretty simple.  My challenge and my goal however is to bake a crusty, perfectly shaped, beautiful and tasty loaf of bread with no added sugar, milk, eggs or other nonsense.  I want a subtle flavor that comes from fermentation.  I want large, uneven holes and a good chew.  I want a crust that is so crisp it shatters.  All this can be achieved by going to a good bakery in a large city and purchasing fresh bread.  This perfection can also be accomplished in a home oven, but it is very tricky.

I’ve been practicing my bread skills for about 5 or 6 years now and I still fail regularly. IMG_8713 My conclusion is that it just takes a lot of practice because I have steadily improved with experience.  I’ve had to throw out entire loaves of bread in the past and that never happens now.  It just takes time to get accustomed to the feel of dough, how to handle it, roll it shape it, poke it and slice it.  Typically my problem is with the final rise and I end up with a loaf that is too dense.  Here are some links from my past forays into bread baking.  There is a constant pursuit of the perfect bread for a perfect tomato sandwich seen in this no knead bread.   My son’s favorite is the sweet and rich Easter Bread.  Country French Bread with help from Julia Child is really delicious!  A surprisingly easy and fun recipe is for Pita Bread.  These are all yeast breads.  Sweet quick breads such as Banana Bread and Pumpkin Bread and scones are in a different category altogether.

IMG_8717My mom recently gave me the gift of a shortcut to excellent flavor in my bread: a sourdough starter.  The starter is basically a slurry of flour and water that smells very ripe and sour.  When I feed it more flour and water and leave it on the kitchen counter it bubbles and froths and runs down the side of it’s mason jar to make a pasty mess.  It’s so good.

Even though it’s very ugly and consistently leaves a trail of crustiness on the counter and in the fridge, I love it and will try to keep it alive forever.

I’ve been using this recipe from The Kitchn for Easy Beginner Sourdough.  It’s easy and for beginners because it doesn’t rely only on the starter for the rise – you add some yeast as insurance and to speed up the process.  Click through for more detailed information and the complete recipe.  It’s worth noting that none of my efforts have ever looked anything like the pictures on that website.  They’ve all been tasty though.  The dough is very wet and a little tricky to work with.  You will need a good mixer with a dough hook or some serious experience kneading heavy, wet dough.  I find better results with a shaped loaf than a bread pan for this recipe.  Contact me if you would like some starter – it multiplies quickly and I’d love to share.

IMG_8733p.s. I grew this mammoth, unblemished, perfectly ripe, beautiful and delicious heirloom Cherokee Purple tomato in my little garden and it was even prettier in person.