Sunday, December 11, 2011

The VERY Best Wheat Bread Ever

Pin It

So, I log onto the blog thinking it's only been a few months since my last post, and hits me like a ton of bricks.  I haven't posted anything in over a YEAR!   What hit me even harder was reading up on past posts and seeing how much everything has changed in a year.

It was fun to see how far we've come in our Big Life and our Little Garden in such a short time.  I am so excited to get the blog back up and running so I can share all the fun experiences and knowledge we've gained!  The change that struck me the hardest was that I've gone from the "queen of couponing" eating pretty much nothing but processed food and what we grew in the garden to becoming full blown, what most would call, health freaks.  Our quest to green our household has sent us on an amazing journey into the world of whole food living.  Quite some time ago, we had a chance to see the documentary "Food Inc.".  What an eye opener!  One documentary led to another and things started changing in or house faster than you could say "high fructose corn syrup".  Which, amongst many others, has become quite the buzz word in our house.  Lots of posts about that subject to come :)  

Amazing though...some things never change.  My last post was a precursor to the best wheat bread recipe ever.  Low and behold, what was I planning on posting when I logged on and discovered I was in denial about what a year really feels like?   ...The best wheat bread recipe ever.  Coincidence, I think not.  With all the changes to our eating habits, one thing has remained steadfast--homemade bread.

I started making our bread almost three years ago as a less-expensive alternative to store bought wheat bread.  I had found myself buying the cheap, store-brand, white bread and even in the midst of financial crisis was very sure that was a pretty unhealthy habit for my family.  Desperate to do the right thing and not break the bank, I started making my own bread.  For those of you who are cost-conscious and making the switch to healthier, you know that the jump from white to wheat flour is not the easiest to execute.  So, in search of the most cost effective solution and some advice from some great friends, I turned to milling my own wheat.

Over the years, I've tried and tweaked many different recipes, and  finally have a forever keeper.  This recipe makes either two one-pound loaves and a baguette, or two larger loaves.  I go with the two loaves and a baguette most of the time, not just because it's fun to watch the family fight over the baguette while it's still warm, but it also makes a nice, healthy addition to any dinner.

So...without further ado...the recipe

5-6 c fresh milled organic hard white wheat flour (*can use store-bought if you prefer)
3 c water or leftover whey from cheesemaking
4 Tbs dry active yeast
1 Tbs sea salt
2 Tbs honey (I use raw local)
2 Tbs organic olive oil

*if using store bought flour, I recommend King Arthur's Whole White Wheat Flour

In mixing bowl, combine 1 c flour, 2 Tbs yeast and 3/4 c water.  Stir with wooden spoon ~100 times.  Cover with clean kitchen towel and let set for an hour.  This is called the poolish.  After an hour, the mixture should have visible air pockets (bubbling).

Add the remaining 2 1/4 c water, 2 Tbs yeast, 4 c flour (reserving 1 c ) and salt.  If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook to combine.

Once all ingredients are well combined, add the honey and olive oil.

Your dough may look very wet at this point depending on the condition of the air in your kitchen.
If using a STAND MIXER, the dough should be forming a ball, but barely not sticking to the sides of the mixing bowl.  Add remaining flour as needed to obtain the right consistency.  On occasion, I have had to add more than the suggested 6 cups.  This happens mostly on a humid Florida day.  Allow the mixer to knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth.

If you are hand mixing, go ahead and turn the dough out onto a floured surface and continue adding flour as you knead the dough until the point where it is still sticky, but not sticking to the surface as you knead.  Knead until soft and smooth...about 15 minutes.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rise until doubled in size.  This usually takes an hour or so.  Don't get nervous if it takes longer...the air temperature is a huge factor.

Heat oven to 450.  Punch down the dough, divide into two 1-lb loaves and a baguette or 2 larger loaves.  Shape, place in greased pans and cover until dough doubles in size again.

Lower oven to 350, place a pan on the bottom shelf of the oven with 1 c. of ice.  Bake loaves until golden brown on top and when tapped on the bottom sound hollow.  This can take anywhere from 20-45 minutes.

Remove loaves from oven and cool on cooling rack.

The baguette is great warm.  I do suggest allowing the other loaves to cool all the way before slicing to get a better slice.  The dough is still cooking until it cools off.  Loaves freeze well if they don't get eaten on baking day.  I double the recipe and freeze them to get all my bread baking done for the week.

Happy Baking!!

No comments:

Post a Comment