Posts tagged: whole wheat bread

Mar 21 2011

On Serious Baking, and a Whole Wheat-ish Bread Recipe

I bake a lot. I’m regularly bringing things I bake to work or to friends, since part of the fun of baking is being able to share, and seeing other people smile when they eat your yummy creations. Last time I brought something to work, one of my coworkers asked me how long I had been baking. I answered without thinking, “I’ve been baking seriously for about 15 years.” Her response “what’s seriously baking?”

Good question, and one I had to think about. I believe I did give the right response. I’ve been baking my entire life, but for years and years I was like most people and just pulled out a random chocolate chip cookie recipe or something every once in a while. But 15 (or so) years ago, it all changed.

It wasn’t really intentional, I didn’t set out to become a baking geek. A friend of mine had a bread machine, I saw what it could do, and thought it was the greatest thing ever. I bought a second hand machine off of Ebay for next to nothing, and discovered I could bake very good bread very cheaply. Financially, bread baking made a lot of sense for me at the time. I joined a bread maker Yahoo! Group, and found that the science behind baking was really interesting and fun to play with.

I still think I tend to approach baking as more of a science than an art – most bakers would agree (in fact, “if cooking is an art, baking is a science” is one of my favorite quotes). I tend to think about what I want as the end result and back into a recipe from there. I think that’s different than what most chefs do, which seems to be more adding ingredients to see what the end result will be, playing with various combinations that seems like they’d work well together. Baking is a bit more complicated.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m a perfect baker. I screw up ALL the time. That’s part of playing around. I always have a couple of recipes I’m working on perfecting, and more and more I tend to make “kitchen sink” bread where I open the fridge/cabinets and throw stuff in randomly. I made an awesome loaf last night this way (and will share the recipe below), but often have disasters. My recent explorations into ciabatta baking have resulted in a number of disasters. My one successful loaf looked like ciabatta, but was fairly tasteless – there is a lot more perfecting to do.

These days, if I want to bake something specific and don’t know how, I tend to read a bunch of recipes and combine them into something I like. But if it’s totally unfamiliar (like ciabatta) I will follow the recipe to the letter until I get the technique and procedure down.

Enough blabbering, onto the recipe. I fully intended to make a pizza for dinner last night, but when I started pulling together the dough, got a bit carried away, and it mutated into something else. This obviously isn’t a tested recipe by any sense of the word, seeing as I only made it once (I wouldn’t put it up there with my perfect French bread or anything), but it is good, healthy, whole-wheatyish sandwich bread. I am out of real sugar at home, which is why the splenda, substitute real sugar if desired.

Ingredients:

3 cups white bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt (this made for a slightly salty bread, which I think worked well with the other ingredients)
heaping 1/4 cup splenda
dash of honey (this was for the yeast more than anything else, there isn’t enough for flavor)
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup non-fat milk powder
1/2 cup seeds & grains (I use this – I love everything about KA’s harvest grains blend except for the poppy – this lets me make my own).
2 tsp yeast

Throw all the ingredients in your bread machine set to dough, OR…mix the yeast, honey and water, let sit. Mix all the dry ingredients, then add the yeast/water mixture and olive oil.

Once the dough is kneaded (if by hand, about 20 minutes kneading should do it), let it triple for the first rise. In my case, this means I have to pull it out of the bread machine – the machine will automatically knock the rising dough down before it can fully triple. Took about an hour.

Now to decide what to do with the dough! I made this into 4 rolls (for dinner that night), and 1 big loaf. The rolls baked at 450 for 15, the loaf at 375 for closer to 30. Both batches were sprayed with water 5 and 10 minutes into baking.

Allow to cool off completely before slicing, then enjoy!!

Dec 21 2007

How can a nation be great if the bread tastes like kleenex?

…quote from Julia Child

This recent article from the NY Times made me laugh.

As any true bread-lover will tell you (and I am a bread geek of the worst kind), whole wheat and whole grain bread is the only kind of bread worth eating. White bread is generally bland, over sweetened and buttered stuff left for dinner rolls, challah, and real traditional sourdough. Other than that?? Whole wheat/grain bread is healthier, ends up with a much better texture, and tastes about a billion times better. White bread’s also boring to play with as a baker. The fun comes in when I play with the other stuff.

King Arthur Flour (the god of all flour companies) has made white whole wheat bread for ages now. It�s not bad, although it still doesn’t act quite the same as real whole wheat. Still better than white bread, though, and marketed as a way to get the wonder bread generation eating whole wheat bread.

I love baking bread. To me, it�s a fun, enjoyable, edible hobby.

I still do buy bread on occasion, the best bread takes time and hours of love, and if I�m not going to do it right, I�d rather not do it. It�ll take me a minimum of 4 hours to bake a basic loaf from start to finish, but can take weeks if I really want to make that fantasy bread of every baker that crackles as it comes out of the oven. The perfect bread is crunchy on the outside, slightly dense, chewy on the inside with the big air bubbles that no storebought yeast will ever produce.

The ingredients in a basic loaf of bread are extremely simple. Some mix of different types of flour, and some mix of additional ingredients, depending on what I’m trying to get out of the bread (light and fluffy vs denser sandwich bread, etc). I�ll use butter or oil, eggs, powdered milk, but I rarely use sugar. If I’m making real, heavy whole wheat, I’ll add splenda, and dinner rolls just have to have a ton of sugar and butter, but other then that? The whole point of making bread at home is that it isn’t that icky sweet sticky storebought fluff balls they call bread.

That said, if someone is going to start baking bread for the first time, the transition is smoother if they use use some sort of sweetener, especially if they’re going to try to get kids to eat the bread. Just makes the transition a little easier, and after a while, you’ll find yourself making up your own recipes. Bread’s one of those great things you can throw half the refrigerator into. Even if you don’t make it part of the actual dough, you can always wrap dough around stuff and suddenly you’ve invented something.

Baking bread is easy, fun, and nowhere near as difficult as people think it is. It’s edible playdough. Beat that.

Below is my recipe for my simple version of whole wheat bread. It�s light, fluffy, has a crunchy crust, and tastes better then anything you�ll find in the store.

Ingredients:

2 tsp yeast
1 � cup white flour
1 � cup regular whole wheat flour
2 tbl honey
4 tbl butter, unsalted
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 egg
� tsp salt
1 � cup water

Mix, let rise (about an hour), pound down, let rise again (about 45 minutes), shape, let rise one last time (until dough has doubled). Bake for 30 � 40 minutes on 425 in a VERY well preheated oven. You’ll know the bread’s done if it sounds hollow when you thump on the bottom.

Once you get the hang of the basic recipe, you can mess with ingredients – the only way to truly “fail” at baking bread is to forget the yeast (or flour, obviously). Play with shaping the dough – any bread loaf can also be made as rolls, or braided, or whatever, and play with the baking temp and time. Ideally, bread should be baked in the hottest possible oven you can get for the shortest period of time.

I’ll write another entry with general tips tomorrow.

Have fun, and happy eating!!

(oh, and thanks for the unanimous recommendation on what host to use, that made my choice easy!)

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