I am trying to get back into baking my own bread, but I need help!
We were getting bread free from a giveaway thing at church, but that's sort of petered out and now we're back to buying bread -- and it is expensive! DH loves sandwiches and toast, and both kids will eat 2-3 pieces of bread at a meal. Me, too. We can easily go through a full loaf of bread in a day. We can't afford it, esp. because we buy the good stuff.
So, I'm trying to start baking bread again, but I'm discovering the same problem I've always had with bread -- I just cannot get it right. It's always hard as a rock, or too bland, or falls apart in crumbles when I cut it, or the crust is so crunchy you'll break your teeth, or it's too soft and you can't spread butter on it, or or or. I think the trouble is largely that I don't have a good bread recipe that will work for whole-wheat flour that might incorporate some other whole grains, too.
Anybody have a great bread recipe that they're willing to share??? TIA!!
You may want to check out the Tassajera Bread Book and Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book for good basic whole wheat recipes and tips for making a good loaf. They have been in print forever, so you can probably find used copies easily. Your library probably has them too.
I like the basic Tassajera recipe. First, you make a sponge of proofed yeast, sweetener and flour and let it sit for 45 minutes before moving on to adding all of the ingredients and kneading the dough.
I like Laurel's book for the step-by-step detailed instructions and tips. Two that helped me at first:
The windowpane test - to tell if you've kneaded the bread long enough. After kneading, take a golfball-sized chunk of dough and use both hand to hold it in pincer-grasp. Pull gently on the dough to stretch it out. It should stretch without tearing into a paper-thin sheet and when you hold it to the light, you should see the strands gluten within the dough.
The fingerpoke test - to tell if it has risen long enough. With a damp finger, poke the dough. If it feels spongy and the hole doesn't fill in, it's finished rising. If it feels firm and the hole fills in, it needs a little longer. If the hole sags a little, then it's probably risen a little too long.
Just a note about making whole wheat bread. I find it's messier because the dough is wetter and stickier than a white bread dough, even after you've reached the end-point of kneading. If you keep adding flour while kneading to get a smooth, easy-to-handle ball of dough, the loaves will be dry and heavy.
Tassajera Whole Wheat Bread (makes 2 loaves)
3 cups lukewarm water (about 100F)
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
1/4 cup honey or sugar
1 cup dry milk (optional)
4 cups whole wheat flour
Sprinkle yeast over warm water.
Add dry milk and stir to dissolve.
Add flour, a cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Beat it about 100 times by dipping the spoon into the batter and lifting it up and over to incorporate air into the dough, until smooth.
Cover with towel or a plate and let it sit for 45 minutes in a warm place.
4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup oil
3 1/2 (approx.) cups whole wheat flour - this is going to depend on feel.
Sprinkle salt on top of dough and pour on oil. Do not cut the dough as you mix them in. As you stir, turn the bowl a quarter turn for good mixing. Stir around the sides and lift batter into the centre to mix. Start mixing in the flour about 1/2 cup at a time. I always mix in at least 3 cups, and then add extra until the dough "feels" right - sometimes 1/3 cup, sometimes 1/2, sometimes more. When the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl, it's ready to knead.
Kneading - there's lots written about kneading technique, but I basically bang away at it until it passes the windowpane test.
1st rise - about 50 to 60 minutes until doubled. Test with fingerpoke method. Deflate.
2nd rise - about 45 minutes or less. Again test with fingerpoke method.
Deflate, shape into loaves.
3rd rise - about 25 minutes.
Bake at 350F for about 50 to 60 minutes. Make sure your oven has properly pre-heated. I like to preheat for at least 15 or 20 minutes to ensure it's at the right temperature.
I have had success with the recipe for Whole Wheat Bread for Busy Families at the Rhythm of the Home site. It's nice because after you've done the initial mixing, kneading and shaping, you leave it to rise in the refrigerator for the day. No constant attending to rising, deflating, and rising again. It makes 3 loaves, so you only have to make bread once per week.
I can't get away from this recipe. Love it.
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