Monday, December 5, 2011

Basic Wheat Bread Recipe

Baking my own homemade bread was something I didn't do too much of until recently.  My local grocery store sells a loaf of their store brand bread for around a $1.50 so I didn't see much point.  I have been trying to eliminate the amount of preservatives and gross chemicals that my family eats and the ingredients on this store brand bread were a little terrifying!  Let's face it, from scratch recipes are almost always better :)

I rounded up all of the costs and figured the ingredients for my bread cost around .80 for 2 small loves that equal the size of the store bought loaf.  I also know my furnace runs less on days I bake, and I make it a point to do all my bakingon one day.  This keeps the oven from having to run as much, plus it is just easier for me to do it all in one day.  In the winter I assume the costs of running the oven is covered by the fact my furnace does not have to run as much. I think my bread has a much better taste then the store brand, and has a lot less ingredients (to me this is a big plus!).My loaf is more comparable to the fancy loaves of bread that they sell in the bakery for $4.00.  It may be just me, but I like the idea that I am the only one who has handled the food my family and I are eating.  All these pros were enough for me to switch to making homemade bread.  Let's face it, from scratch recipes are almost always better :)

This basic homemade wheat bread recipe has few ingredients which makes it a really simple wheat bread recipe.  I find a mixture of white flour and wheat flour is best but you can change the ratios however you want. 

Simple and Basic Wheat Bread Recipe

 2 c warm water (not hot, just warm to the touch)
2 Tbsp Instant yeast or 1 packet of active dry yeast (if using active dry, let yeast, water, and honey proof or sit for 5-8 minutes or until it has a foamy bubbly top)
1 Tbsp honey (optional)
pinch of salt
4-5 cups of a mixture of flours, we use 2 cups self rising flour or all purpose flour (sift with 1 tsp baking soda a pinch of salt), 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour, and a 1/2 c wheat bran.  You can mix and match these to your tastes.  I have also used 1/2 c quick oats instead of wheat bran.

Mixing and Kneading

Put the warm water, honey, and yeast in a bowl.  Oil a large bowl, making sure all of the sides are covered.  You only need about a Tbsp of cooking oil. Mix the flour into the yeast mixture.  You can use a large spoon, but I just use my hand ;).  Sprinkle 1/2 c of white flour onto a clean work surface.  Place dough on work surface, fold dough in half and press down with the heel of your hand.  1/4 turn the dough, fold, and press down again. 

Repeat this process until the flour is incorporated fully.  The process of turning and pressing the dough is meant to build up the gluten.  If you press the dough and it springs back slightly, it is good to go.  If not repeat the process a couple more times.

Letting the Dough Rise

Put your dough into the oiled bowl and turn to coat the entire thing.  You need to let your dough rise in a warm spot. We use our oven, placing the dough on the middle rack, and placing a pan full of boiling water on the rack below.  I am sure you know to be very very careful with your pan of boiling water.  This works the best for us, especially in the winter when the house is usually too cool for dough to rise well.  Let the dough rise until doubled in size. 

While you are waiting clean off the work surface you used to knead the dough. Now you can either bake the bread in 2 small pans or 1 large pan.  Either way, if you have a glass pan, spread butter all over the bottom and sides of the pan, then brush flour over all buttered surfaces.  This will keep the bread from sticking when it is done.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down, form it into either 2 dough balls for 2 small bread pans, or 1 large dough ball for 1 large bread pan.  I sometimes roll them in cornmeal before I put them in the pan, but this is optional. 

Cover your loaves of bread and let them rise in a warm area until doubled in size.  This will take about an hour so set your timer for 45 minutes, and preheat your oven to 350 at the end of the 45 minutes.  This should give your oven enough time to get to temperature.

Baking the Bread

When the dough has doubled and the oven is fully heated, place the loaves or loaf in the oven on the middle rack. If you have baked 2 loaves I find 30 minutes to be fine.  If you want a crunchier crust you can do 35 or 40.  For a large loaf I do 50-60. 

It is important to realize every one's oven is different, so check your loaf.  If you knock on it and it sounds hollow, and it has a nice golden color it is probably done.  You may have to experiment.  If you make this bread often you will get into a nice rhythm and all of your loaves should turn out great :)  Enjoy!

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