Apr 02 2011
With the exception of the height of summer, I no longer have any excuse to not bake my own bread. I’ve baked this loaf a few times now, playing with the proportion of whole wheat to all purpose or bread flours, and I’ve found my own little nirvana when it comes to a regular loaf of bread.
Each slice is soft but with a little extra heft, courtesy of the whole wheat flour. It’s easy enough to bake as often as you need bread, and it doesn’t require any special equipment. I enjoy the “me” time of kneading bread; the repetitive motion is both mentally relaxing and stimulating. It can be meditation, it can be time to work through a problem. Kneading bread is whatever you want it to be.
It takes no specialized skills, either. If you’re new to bread-making, just set a timer and lose yourself for a few minutes. The whole process of bread baking will make your house smell fantastic, from the yeasty aroma during the rise, to the beckoning scent of fresh-baked bread wafting from your kitchen.
It makes a great sandwich, and when it gets a bit stale, use up the rest to make French toast, or make some croutons or bread crumbs that will taste far better than any you purchase in a store.
Note: The bread I photographed was half whole wheat, half bread flour, though that’s not my preferred combination; my favorite is the recipe I included below.
adapted from King Arthur Flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cold whole milk or half and half
1/2 to 3/4 cup hot water*
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
*Amount of water needed will depend on the humidity in your home. The more humid it is, the less water you’ll likely need. Coming off a dry winter, I’ve used the full 3/4 cup of water in one of my loaves – the flour was that dry. Combining the cold milk with the hot water will result in lukewarm liquid, perfect for the yeast.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Dump the dough out (save the bowl) onto an oiled surface and knead for 6-8 minutes, or until the dough is soft and very easy to work with. Grease the bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Roll it around so it’s coated. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until puffy, about an hour or two.
Shape dough into an 8 inch log. Grease 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan and place dough into pan. Cover with kitchen towel and let rise until the dough is 1 inch above the top of the pan.
Bake at 350*F for 30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped. (If you prefer to check the temperature with an instant read thermometer, it should register 190*F.)
Cool on wire rack. Store in plastic bag at room temperature.