HB here with a little bread making tutorial.
When I first began the journey into nourishing foods, I knew I would eventually make my own bread. A very generous friend loaned me her grain mill (a super cool small appliance that grinds wheat berries into flour) and I set to work at figuring out how to bake really good, moist wheat bread. I began to ask around among foodies who make bread from scratch and researching recipes online. The common theme to good bread making seemed to be the use of a Bosch mixer. I have tossed and turned over whether or not to shell out the $360 for a Bosch and decided against it for now. I have a wonderful Kitchenaid stand mixer that my wonderful hubby gave to me as a Mother's Day gift a few years ago that has helped knead several loaves of dough into shape.
After much expirimentation, several brick-like loaves of bread and lots of toast (my favorite way to salvage substandard bread), I've figured out the key to making bread without a Bosch. Below is the recipe with pointers and pictures. I got the original here and halved it for a Kitchenaid. Enjoy!
Soaked Whole Wheat Bread (yielding 2 loaves)
Before I launch into bread making instruction utopia, I need to warn you that bread making is a science. I have found that I must follow the below recipe precisely or the bread is not nearly as good. By not nearly as good, I mean that the bread will be either really hard or really crumbly and no one will eat it but your very small children who don't mind dry, cracking, messy bread.
Combine the following ingredients, cover and soak for 12-24 hours:
1/2 cup kefir, buttermilk or whey
1 1/2 cups water
4 1/2 cups ground wheat flour
1 cup whole rolled oats
1/2 cup honey or 1/2 cup sucanat*
1/3 cup coconut oil, butter or olive oil, melted
After soaking, activate the yeast by combining:
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 1/4 tablespoon of active dry yeast (NOT instant or quick rise yeast)
After activating the yeast, combine it with the soaked flour and add the remaining ingredients:
3/4 tablespoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoon dough enhancer (I use Blue Chip Baker dough enhancer)
1 cup unbleached flour (I use King Arthur's unbleached flour, it's never bromated so it's sort of your friend as far as white flours go)
*if you used sucanat instead of honey during soaking, you will need to add about 1/2 cup water so that your dough is not too dry
Knead with your mixer's dough hook for about 10 minutes. It is important to not add too much flour. The dough should be slightly sticky at the start of kneading and the dough hook should just clean the sides of the bowl once the kneading progresses. Too much flour = crumbly bread.
During kneading, you will need to stop occasionally and lift the head of your mixer and loosen the dough so that all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and combined. At the start of kneading, the dough will probably look like this.
The mixer will work very hard during the entire kneading process. Don't be alarmed unless it starts smoking. :) Do not lock the mixer into the downward position. Let the top part of the mixer move freely and your bread will knead much better and it will not wear out the lock mechanism. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. :) Note that the mixer is in the unlocked position.
After kneading for 10-15 minutes, test the dough to make sure the gluten is fully developed. A good way to test the dough is to remove a golf balled sized portion, stretch it between the thumb and index finger of both hands and the dough should stretch and not tear readily. If it ain't stretching, keep kneading. If you would like to baby your mixer, you can knead the dough in two batches.
Remove the kneaded dough to a greased bowl and cover it with a towel. Let sit until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Here's my dough at the beginning of the first rise:
By 4:00 pm (90 minutes later), it had doubled sufficiently:
Always put your dough in a dark, warm place to rise. During the winter, I use my laundry room because it is so warm. During the Spring/Summer, I put it in a safe place in my garage. The heat in the garage gives me the best rise I've achieved so far.
After the dough has doubled, punch down and divide into two loaves. At this point, some people like to roll the dough into a rectangle with a rolling pin and roll it a nice, tight loaf and put it in the bread pans. I, on the other hand, do not have time for that. I'd rather smoke a cigarette with my extra five minutes. Just kidding. Anyhow, I place the dough halves into the greased pans and gently pat the dough down until it's somewhat even/flat on the surface and put the pans in a warm place to rise. The key to this step is patience. Leave the dough alone and let it rise. You will be glad you did. This step takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Here is my dough at the beginning of the second rise:
My best rising time has been about an hour, which is a bit longer than recommended. Some say that thirty minutes is plenty of time, but I tend to stretch the time just a smidge. Check this beauty out, right before baking:
I do not always allow the bread to rise this high, as over rising can allow the structure of the loaf to become weak and the bread may fall or sink completely during baking, but I had to run to the store and this is what my bread looked like when I returned. Look at that cute baby in the background. :)
After you are satisfied with the rise of the bread, gently place the bread in your preheated oven at 350 degrees. Bake until the loaves are nice and brown on top. Keep in mind that the bread will darken more than a typical (white) bread because the flour is a darker color, thus the finished product will be a darker color. Mine usually bake for about 35-40 minutes, but my oven is an old, cantankerous woman, so your bread may take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. After removing the bread from the oven, let it rest in the pans for around 20 minutes and gently remove from the pans.
Get a good bread knife, slice your bread, slather it with (raw) butter and enjoy the fruits of your labor! Or, make your husband a sandwich:
A few tips to keeping your bread fresh:
- slice it as you need it. I usually slice one loaf at a time and freeze the remaining loaves whole. I've found that wrapping the loaves in saran wrap and then tightly in foil keeps them quite fresh in the freezer. Remember to recycle that stuff or you'll feel guilty for not being "green" whilst trying to be a bread making hippy.
- handle your bread gently (i.e. don't let your toddler put the loaf in the pantry)
- eat it before it ages too much. :)
- I've heard that stick of celery in the bag with the bread retains freshness, but I've yet to try it.