Good bread is no accident! While most bread recipes are simple and most bread ingredients are readily available in any grocery store, the fine art of baking great bread takes practice and mindfulness. No written directions can replace the knowledge of a good baker in determining when bread dough is ready. Watching Barbara work her magic in our kitchen is like watching an alchemist turning lead to gold.
As a kid in rural Minnesota, I often stayed at my Grandmother’s house. Each morning I woke to the smell of fresh bread wafting out of her kitchen. Those smells and my pleasure now are found in our kitchen. I still react like I was 10 years old and can’t wait to eat that first warm slice with butter melting and honey oozing off the edges of the crust.
When Barbara and I were making the transition from a teaching career to homesteading, we began baking our own bread for healthy eating and low cost. We used a bread machine while we were teaching because of time constraints and now use a dough hook on a stand mixer prior to hand kneading. The results are incredible bread at a low cost either way.
While there are countless bread recipes, our default is simple, wholesome bread made from organic whole wheat that requires no exotic ingredients and is easy, especially if you are just learning the art of baking bread.
Basic Whole Wheat Bread Recipe
Ingredients: 2 teaspoons granulated yeast
1/2 cup warm water
6 cups whole wheat flour, if possible stone-ground
2 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
1. Dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl; set aside until foamy, about five minutes.
2. Meanwhile, measure the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix.
3. Measure the 2 cups warm water and add the oil and honey; stir to dissolve honey.
4. Make a well in the middle of the flour; pour in the water/oil/honey mixture and the dissolved yeast. Mix well, either with a machine equipped with a dough hook or by hand with a large spoon.
5. Knead, either by machine or hand (turn out onto a floured board), until the dough is smooth, pliable and stretchy, about five minutes by machine or up to 20 minutes by hand.
6. Form the dough into a smooth ball, return it to the bowl, cover loosely with plastic or a damp towel, and let rise until doubled in volume. This will take from 45 to 90 minutes depending on the temperature of the room.
7. Deflate the dough, form once again into a smooth ball, and let rise a second time in the bowl until doubled; this second rise will take 30 to 50 minutes.
8. Divide the dough in half, form into loaves, and place in two greased 4”x8” loaf pans, and let rise until the dough arches up over the tops of the pans. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425 degrees.
9. Place the loaves into the hot oven. After ten minutes, reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes, until the loaves are an even golden brown color.
10. Turn out the loaves onto a rack for cooling. Brush the top crusts with melted butter if you wish while the loaves are still hot.
Note: This recipe was adapted from The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, by Laurel Robertson, with Carol Flinders and Bronwen Godfrey. Consult this complete guide for detailed instructions on the art of bread making. For more information on Laurel’s Kitchen food books, see our book reviews at www.grow-cook-eat-beans.com.
At a time when ONE loaf of bread of comparable quality costs $4.00 or more in most markets, these TWO loaves of bread found their way to our kitchen table for just a bit over two dollars, a little time, and some skill in baking. Great, healthy food that is easy on the budget.
If you are still working full time, you can get excellent bread with a bread machine with about five minutes of prep time. If you are like Barbara, who thrives on cooking “hands-on”, you can use a stand-up mixer or a big bowl and stirring spoon for the first mix and knead by hand. Whichever method you choose, I wish you joy in baking and eating your own fresh bread.