Monday, January 7, 2013

Homemade Bread of the Honey Wheat Variety

This is one of our family’s “staple” recipes for homemade bread. I’ve made it so many times that I have the recipe memorized. It’s classic, hearty, goes with anything, and can be eaten at any time of the day. Best of all, it’s pretty simple to make. If you’ve never made homemade bread before, I challenge you to try this now! (Warning: allow at least 3 hours to make this.)

Here are the ingredients you’ll need. I bet you already have it all. (That's all-purpose flour in the bin in the back and milk in the glass measuring cup on the right.)

First step: put your milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds. While it’s heating up, dump your yeast in the bowl and pour hot (but not scalding) water over it. 

The trickiest thing about a bread recipe is finding the right temperature to activate the yeast – if the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast, but if it’s not hot enough, the yeast won’t be activated and the bread won’t rise. The water actually needs to be pretty hot, but it shouldn’t burn your hand when you test the temperature. Also, make sure the yeast isn’t too old, because it can go bad. 

Now that that’s behind you, add the milk (making sure it’s not hotter than the water), the honey, and the applesauce. The original recipe called for oil, but we found applesauce works even better – not only is it healthier, but it also adds to the flavor. 

Oatmeal comes next – so fun and easy to mix in, and it adds texture too! 

Then comes the toughie – all purpose flour. Stir all those lumps in… I once tried to sift the flour in, but it doesn’t really make a difference. There will be lumps, and they will have to be stirred into shape. 

Finally comes the 2 cups of whole wheat flour. Isn’t it gorgeous? It smells great too. You can see it’s still a little dough-ey. 

So we spread out some flour, get the dough out of the bowl, sprinkle some flour on top, and knead! Your first kneading can be a little weird, but it becomes fun. Just think of it as play dough. Keep turning each side over until it’s coated with flour and stops feeling sticky. 

Then put it in a greased bowl – look how little it is! But it needs to be in a biggish bowl so it has plenty of space to rise. Now comes the waiting… one and a half hours! You may think, great, I can go get something else done. But no, once you smell the goodness of homemade bread, you will be entranced. You will want to sit in the kitchen and keep baking. Be strong – the best is yet to come! 

To help it along in the rising process, we discovered this little trick of filling a pot with hot water, then setting the bowl on top using a cooling rack. (I know, ironic, isn’t it?!) A towel on top helps it not to dry out too much. 

So… one and a half hours – time for a story! One time (before we knew the awesome hot water trick and used to set it in the sunny windowsill), our cat Tuttie Fruiti, who was a little runt and always got cold, decided to find a warm place to sit. I returned to check on the bread and found her like this! 

Confession: when I first saw her, I freaked out, picked her up, yelled her name (laughingly) several times, and carried her out of the room. But then when I saw that she did no damage whatsoever to the bread, I put her back on the bread (temporarily) just to get this picture! Thanks to the towel, she got her soft, warm cushion, and we still got to enjoy the bread! We can’t be too hard on her – after all, she used to sneak onto the stovetop after dinner just to get warm. 

OK, so it’s been one and a half hours, and your bread looks like this! Great! 

It’s time to transfer it to a (greased) loaf pan and let it rise again. Only 45 more minutes, then it can go in the oven. 

As you drool over the tantalizing aroma that only homemade bread can offer, and promise yourself that you will make your own bread for the rest of your life, you can realize that it’s time to take it out of the oven when the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it with your knuckles. 

So you let it cool for 10 minutes or so (I know, torture!) and then slice it and enjoy the best bread ever. Make it often and enjoy! (P.S. Who knew I could write 800 words about making bread?!)

Honey Wheat Bread (adapted from All Recipes)
¾ cup warm water
1 (.25 oz) package of active dry yeast
¾ cup warm milk
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp applesauce
1 tsp. salt
½ cup oatmeal
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
  1. Sprinkle yeast in bowl with warm water. Stir until dissolved and let stand until creamy. Add warm milk, honey, applesauce, salt, oatmeal, and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour. Blend well. Stir in whole wheat flour and mix well. Add the remaining all-purpose flour, a half cup at a time, until the dough is soft and workable. (You may not use all the flour.)
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and turn the dough to grease the top. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1½ hour.
  3. Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Punch the dough down and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Form dough into a loaf and place into the prepared pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
  5. Enjoy warm with honey!

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