My baby sister and her hubby often give recipes on his blog, replete with pictures and method. They grow a lot of their own produce and make snazzy salads with nasturtiums and such things. I am a less groovy cook. I’m more a functional cook, and my cooking has actually simplified more and more over the years as I gravitate more towards a raw and vegetarian diet with a sprinkling of meats, topped off with raw organic juices.
One of my specialties, though, is homemade whole wheat bread. So I thought I would share my recipe and method.
I use hard red winter wheat primarily. I also throw in a cup or two of soft wheat, which adds a softness to the crumb. Soft has little gluten, so cannot be used alone except in items, like cookies, that use baking powder or soda as a rising agent. My grinder is a high speed metal-toothed grinder. I would prefer the slower, cooler grind of a stone mill unit, but this is what I can afford.
Commercial millers concentrate on using the endosperm of the kernel to make a lighter and whiter product. They even use gas to bleach the flour. Enriched flour adds back in some nutrients that were stripped out, but they are not natural or in proper proportion. And that whole wheat flour on the shelf is either rancid or has been stripped of its vitamin E for a longer shelf life. Preparing your own flour is best.
Most measurements in bread making are approximate because the art of it is knowing the dough as it responds to environmental conditions. One of those variables is in the wheat. Some batches of wheat may have a higher moisture content than others, and different varieties from different parts of the country may yield a lesser or great volume of flour. But typically, about 10-12 cups of grain yields about 14 cups of flour.
When the grain is grinding, you cover your ears because it wouldn’t do to have all those good B vitamins, omega oils, E vitamins, protein, magnesium, potassium, iron, and fiber to eat and then lose your hearing.
These are the ingredients:
- ½ c. organic extra virgin olive oil:
· Lubricant—allows loaf to expand easily during rising and baking
· Makes it a softer crumb and more tender
· Preserves the bread
· Enhances flavor
· Helps bread rise
2. 2 T. sea salt:
· Adds flavor
· Strengthens the gluten—bread rises higher
· Without salt—crumbly with a porous top
· Helps control the action of the yeast—makes the dough more predictable in action. Too much salt inhibits growth of yeast.
3. 3 T. active yeast:
· Exists floating in the air and hiding in the soil
· When you “proof” the yeast, you test its action.
· Must be fed to activate—combination of air, food, and water
· Any doubt as to its effectiveness, then test
· Releases carbon dioxide, which is trapped by the gluten fibers
· Adds flavor
· Develops and mellows the gluten so it can trap the gas easier
4. 6 c. warm water:
· Gives a crisp crust
· Milk gives a softer, thinner texture and adds protein and calcium
· Too hard water can retard the yeast action.
· Too soft water can make the bread sticky and low.
· Warm—about 100 – 110 degrees
· Too hot—kill the yeast
· Too cool—yeast will be inactive
5. And in this batch chia seeds: Chia seeds are very high in protein, but I use others as well, like flax, sunflower, and / or poppy.
6. 2/3 c. gluten: This is an elastic protein that stretches when wet and so expands to trap the gases given off by the yeast. In the very dense whole grain loaf, it allows for a higher and lighter loaf, even with such a small addition.
7. Oh, and don’t forget the honey—½ c! There really is no such thing as organic honey, no matter what the label says, because you can’t tell those bees where not to fly!
· Tender crumb
· Feeds the yeast
· Naturally preserves the bread and holds the moisture
· Too much will cause the bread to burn.
I have a Bosch mixture, which I have had for over 25 years with but one bearing repair. Fabulous and durable machine! I have used it for our own family needs; but I have also at different times made bread for sale. At one point in the city I lived in, I would make 60 loaves of bread in one day, as well as muffins and sticky buns. Sometimes I was up to 1 a.m. doing the dishes. The next day, I would deliver. When we moved to a new city, we were in a brand new tract. There was a certain trust and camaraderie since everyone was new. The kids would take bread around in their little red wagon J . They personally made 25c a loaf, and the rest of the profits paid for their homeschooling books for several years.
All the ingredients and 8 cups of flour go into the mixer. You pulse to get an initial mix going, and then cup by cup add about another 6 cups until the blades and dough clean the side walls. About is the key word in all of this. If you add too much, your bread will be dry and crumbly. Too little and it will be hard to handle. If you don’t have a mixer and are doing this by hand, follow any basic bread mixing instructions. The principles are the same: only add enough flour to be able to handle it on the bread board without sticking.
The mixer kneads for 10 minutes. By hand, it would take 20, and more if you’re a wimp!
Oil your hands and take the dough out. Knead by hand to shape into a ball.
Place the top side head first in a bowl with some oil in it—couple of tablespoons. Then turn over. This coats the top and bottom. Cover with tea towels and set in a warm place to rise. In the desert, most months finding a warm place is not a problem, but if you live in chillier climes, you may want to warm the oven, turn it off, and set the bread in there to rise.
The rise time depends on the temperature, the humidity, and politics. Well, maybe not politics. This batch took about 45 minutes. In the hot summer, it may be faster; winter, slower. It should look about double, and if you gently stick a finger in, it will depress and not fill in.
This next part was something my kids enjoyed, though they were often more zealous than was required. You want to punch the dough to release the carbon dioxide gases, but not enough to bruise the dough.
Once deflated, the dough is ready to cut up into 5 equal sections and shaped into loaves. The Little House on the Prairie mom was not a real bread maker. She patted the dough like she was patting a baby bottom. Kneading takes the heel of the hand and pushes hard and outward. You turn the bread quarter turns and knead again, but not too much so as to break the skin. You want to knead just enough to shape and get a smooth skin on top. Seal the ends with the side of your hand, tuck under, and place in a greased pan. I don’t use shortening any more, but I still have not gotten away from Pam. Nothing else seems to work that also does not give too many added fat calories.
Set in a warm place to rise to about double. If the loaves rise too much, they will start to collapse and smell beery. If they rise too little, they will be too dense and will burst.
When ready, bake for 40 minutes at 350.
Some say, you should never eat the bread till it’s a day old. Good luck with that one! Pass the honey and cinnamon.
· Get the feel of the dough!
· Humid: may use more flour
· Dry: may use less
· Kneading: breaks up the proteins, straightens out the strands, and develops the gluten to hold the gas for the rise
· Under-kneaded: dough will tear easily; will not rise because gluten is not strong enough to hold the gas
· Over-kneading: gluten disintegrates and gets wet and sticky
· The gentle punch down releases the gas so it doesn’t harm the yeast and the dough. Without it you also have big holes in your bread.
· Hot temperature: faster rise
· Cold: slower rise
· Too short a rise: hard loaf with tough crumb
· Too long a rise: arched curve on top or collapsed loaf, beery bitter taste, crumbly