At some point in my pursual of a healthy diet I had to face my “fear” of making bread. It wasn’t that I was really afraid to do it, but my tendency is to avoid complicated or time consuming recipes. Bread seemed to be a little of both, because you have to know how to work with yeast, take time to knead the dough, and allow it to rise properly. From my inexperienced point of view I thought it was a lot of work.
But now that I have taken the time to understand the process and have developed a couple of simple recipes, I thoroughly enjoy making bread and having it for meals! It really doesn’t seem very difficult. It does take some time, but most of it consists of letting the bread rise or bake. That means I can go do something else while I wait.
There are rewards that come with making your own bread. First, there is a sense of quality and guilt-free simplicity …no more unknown ingredients as in store-bought bread. Also, there is nothing comparable to the wonderful smell of home-baked bread in the oven. The best of course is the taste, which far exceeds that of store-bought bread.
My first attempts to make bread were disappointing, because I didn’t know how to work with yeast. The yeast package listed a water temperature, so I took that very literally… only to find that it was too hot and killed the yeast. Yeast can actually be active in water that is lukewarm or just a little warm to the touch. The cooler it is the slower it bubbles. It is too hot if you stick your finger in and it feels hot.
I have seen recipes that require 10 minutes of kneading. I was intimidated by this. I know that is a good workout if you don’t have a mixing machine, but who has that kind of time? There may be a reason I don’t know about for a long kneading time, but I have had good results with bread that was well mixed and kneaded for 3-5 minutes. What I do before adding the liquids is make sure the dry ingredients are mixed together well.
I keep fresh baked bread in the freezer until needed (to seal moisture in). Then I warm it (usually unwrapped) in the oven or toaster before cutting and serving.
Healthy Whole Wheat Bread
Note: Alternates for ingredient No. 4 and 5
You can experiment with the added grains, using other options in the same quantities. You can also add nuts or seeds. I have also made a very good bread using 1 teaspoon each of dried rosemary and onion flakes instead of grains.
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (this includes the wheat bran)
1 c unbleached all purpose wheat flour (or semolina, or other)
1/2 c gluten flour
1 T millet grain (optional, or other grain)
1 T flax seeds or meal (or Caraway seed for Rye)
3/4 t salt
2 1/4 t active dry yeast (or 1 pkg)
1/8 c olive oil
3 T honey or 2 T sugar (disolve in warm water)
1 1/4 c warm water
Dissolve honey in warm water. Add yeast, and let sit 10 minutes or until frothy. In the meantime mix all dry ingredients together, then add yeast, water and oil. Knead until elastic and not sticking to your hands. Let dough rise in a warm draft-free oven (in bowl with wet towel over) until double (45 min – hour).
Punch the air out of the dough, but do not overwork the dough at this point. Simply cut and shape it, working out blemishes as desired.
Shape into a loaf and lightly coat with olive oil. Either place it on a flat baking pan or in a bread pan. Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves. Let rise in a warm, draft free oven for another 25-30 minutes. Bake at 375º F for 20-25 minutes, or until golden.
For Burger Buns:
Divide into 8 parts and form as buns and lightly coat with olive oil. Place on flat baking pan. Let rise in a warm, draft free oven for another 25-30 minutes. Bake at 375º F for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then put in freezer or refrigerator overnight. Before serving, warm it in the oven. Slice and serve.