Monday, February 10, 2014

Diane’s Whole Wheat Bread

You can see a seam at the end of one of my VERY first loaves from back in September, but they came out pretty well!
My husband comes from a line of bakers and bread-lovers.  My family of four goes through 3-4 loaves of bread a week, which quickly gets expensive!  My mother-in-law (Diane) retired last April, and one of her goals was to start making all of her household's sandwich bread and rolls.  She has perfected this whole wheat bread and shared the recipe with me, so I'm now trying to keep up with my family's bread demands by making all of it!  The Beast is sort of the nerdy bread expert in the family, so he has helped both Diane and myself learn to shape loaves perfectly.  And, in this post, he's going to help you, too! 

I will share the recipe, then photos, then videos.

I now double the recipe, so the videos show The Beast dealing with a HUGE batch of dough and getting ready to shape four loaves.  The recipe is only for two.  And's Diane! (With my comments in green, parentheses, and italics.)

Here is the recipe that I have adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown. This is the cookbook that I used to learn to make bread when I was in college. It has great tips, illustrations, and is clearly written. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in making bread. When my neighbor Kate and I were both stay at home moms, we started baking bread together once a week. We talked and laughed, the kids played, and everyone enjoyed eating freshly baked bread! We all loved it.

This recipe makes two loaves of bread. It takes about 4 hours from mixing the ingredients to taking the baked loaves out of the oven. But most of that time is spent allowing the dough to rise and bake—it is not 4 hours of work!

I raise my bread in an oven that has been heated to a low temperature, 75 to 100 degrees, and then turned off. Any temperature above that will kill the yeast, and the bread will not rise. (I initially heat my oven, but then I use my oven's light to maintain the temperature for the process.  I determined it maintains 87 degrees by placing a jar of water in the lit oven for a few hours and checking the temperature.)

Here’s how to make the bread:

Heat the oven to 75 degrees, then turn it off. In a very large stainless steel or ceramic bowl, add the ingredients below to make a sponge. The sponge, when completed, will be beatable and look like a thick mud. Brea’s bowl capacity is 2 gallons. The bowl size matters! If your bowl is too small, the sponge will bubble over the top and end up on the bottom of your oven. Take it from me, this is not fun to clean up!

Stir together:
3 cups warm water
1 tablespoon dry yeast --- I use Red Star Yeast. (I get it in a jar and store it in the fridge after it is opened.)
¼ cup honey

Stir in, one cup at a time:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour

Beat the dough about 100 times. (I stir it hard with a wooden spoon because I don't have a hand mixer.) Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and raise the sponge for one hour. The dough will be bubbling due to the yeast activity when you take it out.

Remove the sponge from the oven. Stir it down, folding in the ingredients as you go:
½ cup vegetable oil --- I use safflower or canola oil (I use olive oil.)
1 ½ tablespoon salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour

Knead on a well- floured surface, adding more flour. The dough will start out very sticky, and as you add more flour it will form into a ball. Flour your hands as needed and push the dough down and forward, turning it a ¼ turn each time, until the ball of dough is elastic and shiny. Kneading usually takes me 5 minutes or so. (See video below for tips and tricks from The Beast!)

Re-heat the oven to 75 degrees, then turn it off. Wash out and dry your bowl, and then rub oil in it. Place the ball of dough, top side down, into the bowl. Flip the ball over so that the oiled side is up. Cover with a cloth. Raise in the oven for 50 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the oven, and punch down the dough with your fist several times. Cover with a cloth. Re-heat oven to 75 degrees again, then turn it off. Raise in the oven for 40 minutes.

Now to shape the dough! Remove the bowl from the oven and punch the dough down and divide it into 2 balls. Let them rest on a floured surface for 5 minutes. Shape the balls into 2 loaves. Do this by kneading and turning the dough about 5 or 6 times. Roll up the dough into a log shape, then turn it over and pinch the seam together all the way along it. (See video below for a demonstration of all this!)

Use butter or oil to coat the bottom and sides of the loaf baking pans. (Brea and I use glass loaf pans.) Place loaves seam side down into the pans and cover with a towel. Re-heat the oven to 75 degrees again, then turn it off. Raise the loaves for 20 minutes.  Remove loaves from oven. You are now ready to bake the bread!

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the loaves until golden brown on the tops and sides. Baking in my oven takes about 55 minutes. If you are using metal pans, bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes. Turn the loaves out of their pans and cool them on a wire rack.

Then eat and enjoy!

This bread freezes well and makes great sandwiches and toast. (To freeze, we put each loaf into a bread bag or similarly-thick plastic bag, get as much air out as we can, close with a twist-tie, and place in the freezer.)

After you get comfortable with the recipe, you can experiment by substituting in other flours, such as: rye, soy flour, cornmeal, buckwheat, oat flour, or millet. Try substituting small amounts at a time to see how your family likes the different flavors.
This, again, is my first attempt.  The crumb (the inside of the bread) comes out perfect for sandwiches!  My kids LOVE it!
The sponge before rising in the oven.
The sponge after rising in the oven.
Dough before kneading.
Dough after kneading.

Dough in bowl before rise.

Dough in bowl after rise

Dough punched down before second rise.

Dough after second rise.

How to knead the dough!

How to shape the loaves!

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