Today was bread baking day (again) and I have to tell you–warm weather made such a difference! The rise went a bit faster than they have been lately, and my loaves really turned out beautifully. This first photo depicts a tip I gleaned from Smitten Kitchen–dust your loaves with flour before setting them for their second rise, so they won’t stick to the plastic wrap! I’ve had a few tops of loaves lose their beautiful domed shape because they’ve been pulled by the wrap, and this fixes that problem beautifully.
I did have one kitchen conundrum here–I forgot to add the salt. It really does make a big difference in the flavor. These are still delicious, but the flavor’s are much better with a bit of salt. Oh well!
This recipe has been adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.
Here’s what you need for some plain-jane wheat bread.
3 to 3 1/2 c. bread flour (white)
1 T active dry yeast (or just one package–I added a bit more for a little more lift. Since I buy yeast in bulk from the Harvest Market nearby, I can just measure out whatever I want. Your typical envelope of yeast contains 2 1/4 tsp, which is 3/4 tsp shy of a tablespoon. Look, I can do fractions!)
1 3/4 c water
1/3 c packed brown sugar (I like dark, but use what you’ve got!)
3 T butter (they say “or margarine or shortening, but who are we kidding?)
1 1/4 tsp of salt (I should highlight this)
2 c whole wheat flour
Put a wee saucepan on a burner on med/med low, and add butter, chopped up (watch your fingers–that’s a kitchen accident I’m not repeating, and neither should you). As it’s slowly melting, add sugar, water, and salt. Allow to just warm up until the butter’s almost melted. You don’t want the mixture any warmer than 130 degrees or you’ll cook the yeast. A kitchen thermometer is handy to tell (you want it over 110) the temperature until you’ve done this enough times to know by feel.
Put 2 c of bread flour and the yeast in your mixing bowl. Add water mixture, and turn to low (using the paddle) for thirty seconds. Scrape down, and crank to high for three minutes.
At this point I swap out the paddle for the dough hook, but you can do it by hand. Add the 2 c of wheat flour, and mix in. Add enough of the bread flour to make a stable dough. I do this while the dough hook kneads–I used nearly the total amount with just a couple minutes of knead time. If you’re doing this by hand, it’s 6-8 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Put into an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in bulk 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Mine rose substantially in just under an hour, since it’s finally over 65 today, and because I added that bit of extra yeast.
Punch down, turn out, and split into two pieces. Shape into a loaf, and place in a greased loaf pan. Sprinkle with flour, cover, and let rise a half hour to 45 minutes. If your loaves rise too much more than double, the crust will get all striated and you run the risk of collapse. So be on the lookout! Typically mine rise just under double, because I fear the collapsed loaf, and I’m impatient. But these two were beauties–they rose just over the edge of the pan.
Preheat oven to 375, and bake 35-40 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped. Carefully take the loaves out of the pans to cool. It’s better for the crust.
Again, bread’s easy to make once you’ve tried it, and there’s nothing like the smell of baking loaves. As you can see, I didn’t wait until even after the picture was taken to snag a piece. Yum.