So as I said, it has been a journey. It started with making the decision to have a natural birth and breastfeed our baby. Then we decided to cloth diaper our kiddo, not vaccinate her, and remove as many chemicals as we could out of her environment. This meant making all of our own houshold cleaners from common household items (I <3 vinegar and baking soda!!). Then it was the organic food...the raw mik...pastured meats and eggs... And about a year ago- I really went balls to the wall with it... My husband got real scared when he started seeing jars of milk sitting out on the counter for days (on purpose). And he was even more horrified when he saw me eating these "science experiments" and then feeding it to our daughter. I vowed to become more self-sufficient by making small changes, at least one a month. One of my first big changes was to begin making anything and everything I could from scratch. No more storebought crackers, cereals, breads, condiments, etc.... So first on my list was learning how to make a good loaf of 100% whole wheat bread.
To be fair to REAL bread, I don't even know that you can call traditional storebought bread bread. It's more like unsweetened cake...Think twinky with no sugar. My husband said it doesn't even feel like real bread. But he is spoiled now that he has been eating real bread for over a year now. I often catch him bragging to his friends about my breadmaking skillz, saying, "Look- it even looks like real bread!" I always remind him that it IS real bread.
He hasn't always been that lucky- my bread making skills took MONTHS to perfect. Okay I just want to say to ya'll, making bread is NOT an easy task...ESPECIALLY when you have never seen it done in real life. It's not as simple as just following a recipe. Breadmaking is an ART. It takes finess and the wisdom of trial and error to successfully complete. So here's to hoping that the months of my life in which I forcefed my family hard, dense, better would have been used for a doorstop, bread was not in vain :) Enjoy...
Step 1: Fill up yer sink. Any good flybaby would have already done this... I hate messes, kitchen messes especially. They are toxic to my motivation for cooking. This really does help, I promise!
Step 2: Grind ya some wheat. You are making 3 loaves of bread so you're going to need 9 cups of whole wheat flour. Even though 1 c of wheat berries will yeild appx 1.5 c of flour, I ALWAYS grind 8-9 c of wheat berries. You will want extra in the event that your soaked dough is too wet and you need to add some dry flour to bring it up to consistency. Also, you need some for dusting your work space later on. Trust me. If you have left overs, make some pancakes. It's a win win situation if you ask me... Just sayin.
Step 4: Next, measure out your flour and throw that on top of your liquid mixture. Mix well. When making bread doughs, you ALWAYS want to add your liquids in first with flour on top. This goes the same if you're using a stand mixer, a breadmaker, or doing it the old fashioned way- by hand. If you do it the other way around, the flour gets thirsty and steals all the liquid you just took the time to measure. You'll end up with crumbly, rough, dough. You'll swear that you need more water. And you probably would to get it thoroughly mixed.... So just don't do it! Resist the urge people.
It should end up looking like this...And it should just start to clean the edges of the bowl but still be REAL sticky.
Step 7: While your yeast is busy growing, get yourself a medium sized bowl and start measuring your dough enhancer.
Okay...here we go- this is the KEY to GOOD whole wheat bread. YOU DO NEED A DOUGH ENHANCER. You can purchase premade dough enhancers all over the internet. But lucky for you, I'm just too freakin cheap to buy that crap. Do you think great grandma sent away for King Arthur's dough enhancer? No, I didn't think so. I first learned about dough enhancers here. I could kiss this woman for the wisdom she has bestowed upon me...but that would be awkward so I will keep my lips to myself. Basically- there are 4 things each loaf of bread needs in order to be light and fluffy: sugar, acid, gluten (which is protein), and starch. Bread has yeast in it- yeast needs sugar to grow. When the yeast eats the sugar, it creates bubbles (aka air). These bubbles are going to be what creates your fluffy soft bread. So you have to protect your bubbles. GUARD THEM WITH YOUR LIFE! If you're not willing to give life or limb for your bubbles, you may substitute with gluten (yes, I mean vital wheat gluten). You also need to strengthen your bubbles and you do that by adding in an acid. What to use? I'll give you a hint...it's one of my favorites for making my homemade cleaners and it's CHEAP... Yup, you guessed it- vinegar! Lastly, you need starch. What this does is it creates an outer shell for your bubbles. A frugal way to do this is by adding potato flakes to your recipes. Yes I'm sure that potato starch would work...but a) I don't know the measurement and b) potato flakes are extremely frugal. Potato starch on the other hand...not so much.
Anyways- in your medium sized bowl, add to it 3/4 c dry NONinstant milk, 3/4 c potato flakes, 3/4 c vital wheat gluten, and 3 tsp of sea salt.
Throw your dough enhancer mixture into your yeast mixture and MIX dang it! (Hehe)
Step 8: Remember mama dough? She's about to give birth....get ready for the miracle of bread. But not just yet. She's in transition right now. Put mama dough on back in yer work bowl (birth tub) and get her and yeasty well acquainted with each other. Think of yeasty as her doula of sorts...She's going to be there, supporting her till the very end. *Tear* I just love doulas. Aren't they great ya'll?
Step 9: No- I didn't forget about the acid for my dough enhancer. Did you? Add in your vinegar. It's important not to add your acid until this step. If you do it all at once you run the risk of killin your yeast which would be bad news for the bubbles you have taken such care to protect. (3 tbs) Yes I know there are better vinegars, but those, I feel are better used in salads and places in which you might actually taste them. Oh yea, mix it in.
Step 10: Now it's time for assessment. As I said before...breadmaking is not an exact science. Some days this requires no additional flour...some days I need a whole extra cup. (You'll be thankful that you ground some extra flour if it does.) How will you know if your dough is ready for kneading? Ask yourself the following questions: Is the dough cleaning the sides of the work bowl? When I touch my dough, does it stick to my fingers? Does my dough feel like more like oatmeal or playdough? If your dough still seems pretty wet, it sticks to your fingers (i.e. some actually is on your fingers after touching it) and your dough feels a bit oatmeal-ish...you're going to need extra flour. This is where sprouted flour would be nice. If you don't have sprouted flour, don't fret. The amount of flour needed is small (hopefully) and your bread is still much more nutritious than those bread wannabes sitting on your grocer's shelves. Now I want you to listen very closely to me...when adding additional flour, you must add it little by little. Adding too much at once will result in tough dough. You'll ruin your bubbles and sacrifice your bread's texture. Add to your dough 1/3 c of flour. MEASURE it (this means you, Sarah lol).
Step 11: She's Pushing. Let mama dough knead for 10 minutes! Bosch speed 2. KA? I don't really know...you guess...not fast not slow....somewhere in the middle. Oh yea- set your ovens to warm. As soon as the oven preheats, turn it off. You should actually have done this back when yeasty came in the picture. Oops! If your gluten is properly developed, your dough will pass the window test. Pinch off a bit of dough, roll into a ball, flatten her out and then hold her up to the window like this. Can you see light? Yay for you if you can!! If not, keep kneading.
Step 12: She's pushing...Quick!! Get the camera!! You're about to witness the miracle of bread!
Now, if you are blessed enough to own a Bosch, your bread is probably crowning right about now. (If not, you have to do what is called a 2nd rise. That is where you grease up a bowl, throw in mama dough, cover her up and let her have a rest...errr rise....for another hour or so, or till she's doubled in size.) My mama dough is crowning though- so we can skip that 2nd rise business. That is one of the many benefits of owning a Bosch.
Triplets!! How beautiful!! It's a miracle!! Oh...my cup runneth over!! Sweet beautiful babies... I think I will name them Yeasty, Bubbles, and Brown Boy. (If the picture wasn't self explanatory, divide your dough into thirds)
Step 13: They sure to grow and change fast... Roll out each section and form into loaves. "But how, Jayna?! I've never baked a loaf of bread before!! How do you make such pretty loaves?!", you ask. I'm about to show you....Geez. Patience!
Make a rectangle of dough....or an ameba if that's as good as you can get it. Your rectangle should be appx the length of your rolling pin and about as wide as your bread pan.
Step 14: Once you have gotten all three babies into their beds, cover them up so they don't get cold and put them in that warm oven I had you preheat and then turn off.
Step 15: After they've doubled in size, it's time to start baking!! You know that the dough has completely risen if you poke your finger down in your dough and the hole stays. Also, don't let your babies grow bigger than 1-2 inches above the edge of your pan. They will rise a bit more when you turn the oven on. Rising too much can be a BAAAD thing. You'll get a) flat loaves or b) a loaf of bread with a ginormous hole in the middle. If that happens, congratulations: they'll make great croutons or a wonderful bread pudding. Hey. When life throws ya lemons, what do ya make?
Step 16: Close your oven and turn it on to 375. Yes, you are going to leave the kids in the oven while it is preheating. Do not be alarmed. Set your timer for 15 minutes.
Step 17: Now buttah yo bread, baby. Then put em back in the oven and set your timer for 25 minutes. (PS: buttering your bread will prevent a thick nasty crust from forming. This step is completely optional, a matter of preference really.)
Step 18: Babysit your loaves. When they reach your desired brownness, stop the timer, pull them out and tent them with foil. Then throw the babes back in the oven to resume baking.
Doesn't your house smell good right now? Ahhh...there is nothing more feminine than the smell of baking bread.
Step 19: Look at those brown beauties??!?! Few things in life excite my heart such as the sight of this...Feel free to butter them again. I know I'm going to...
Step 20: Pull the loaves out of the pan. Tap the bottom of your loaves- they should sound pretty hollow. If they don't- you should probably let them bake another 2-3 minutes. Sucks a big one when you go through all this trouble, only to cut into a cooled undercooked loaf of bread.
Step 21: Tuck the kids sweetly into bed. When completely cooled, do what you want with them. Me? I slice em using my handy bread slicing guide, bag em, and freeze them till I need a loaf of bread. Store your fresh bread in a dark place such a cupboard or a bread box. Some folks swear by storing in the fridge- I think it makes the loaves a bit tougher...probably just me. Who knows.
There you have it, the miracle of bread. *Tear* Look at these guys all grown up.... Kinda chokes me up every time...
Soaked Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
9 c whole wheat flour
1-2 c of water
1 c whey, buttermilk, or kefir
1 c honey
3 tbs butter, melted. (Feel free to mix your oils- you could easily do coconut oil or a combination of both. I prefer the flavor the butter gives the bread. I have heard others say that coconut oil helps keep your bread longer. I have tried using coconut oil but have not seen a real difference.)
Combine water, whey, honey, and butter using the dough hook. Add flour and mix together until completely incorporated. Remove from work bowl and place in a glass bowl. Cover the dough itself with plastic wrap to prevent moisture loss. Put a lid over the top of your bowl and allow flour mixture to soak for 12-24 hours.
3 tbs yeast
3/4 c water
1 tbs honey
3/4 c dry noninstant milk
3/4 c potato flakes
3/4 c wheat gluten
3 tsp sea salt
3 tbs white vinegar
1-3 c whole wheat flour
Proof yeast by combining 1st 3 ingredients in your work bowl. Let sit till bubbly, about 5 minutes. While yeast is proofing, in a small bowl, combine the dry milk, potato flakes, wheat gluten, and salt. Once yeast is proofed, mix the dry mixture into the yeast mixture until well combined. Now take your soaked wheat mixture from the night before and place it back in your work bowl. Try and evenly space your wheat mixture around your dough hooks. This will make mixing the yeast mixture into the wheat mixture much faster. Once well combined, add your vinegar on top and mix until well combined. Set your mixer to Bosch speed 2 (medium low) and knead for 10 minutes. If using a KA or other type of stand mixer, you will need to do a 2nd rise. Just grease up a bowl, put your dough in the bowl, cover and let rise for about an hour or till doubled. When the 2nd rise is completed, punch down your dough and go on to forming your loaves. For us Bosch users, skip the 2nd rise and go straight to rolling out your dough to form loaves. Place formed loaves in greased loaf pans. Cover with a dishcloth and let rise in a warm oven until doubled. Be sure not to let your loaves rise more than 2 inches above the edge of the pan, as they will rise a bit more while baking. Once doubled, pull off dishcloths, and bake in the cold oven at 375. The total baking time will be appx 40-43 minutes. However, after 15 minutes, pull your loaves out of the oven and butter. This will help prevent a thick crust from forming and also aid in even browning. Place back in oven and set timer for 25 minutes. Check on your bread every so often. You may find that your loaves are browning quite rapidly. That is okay- simply pull them out and tent with foil. Resume baking. At the end of the last 25 minutes, remove the foil, butter again if you like, and remove the loaves from their pans. Tap the bottom of the loaf. Does it sound hollow? If not, place back in the pans and bake an additional 2-3 minutes. When loaves are done, remove from pans, wrap in dishcloths and allow to cool completely before slicing and bagging. Or, feel free to enjoy warm :o)