Monday, October 18, 2010

My Quest For Perfect Bread

I've been baking my own bread for several months, now, and really enjoy doing it.  I wrote a post when I first started and showed pictures of my new mill I had ordered and some loaves of my first attempts at bread baking.  The bread had a wonderful flavor and my family seemed to like it, but they were using it more for toast than sandwiches.  It came out on the small side, not rising well and sometimes a little crumbly.  So, I started researching and experimenting with different recipes.  I'm happy to say I've found the way to make sandwich size loaves of bread with great flavor and holding together just like store bought.  I can attest that peanut butter and jelly tastes so amazing on it, just like the old white Wonder bread I remember, but this is whole wheat. 
This is the "sponge" when it is ready.

Second rise is complete and bread is ready to bake.

I start out heating up a cup of water to no hotter than 110 degrees.  I add it to 4 1/2 teaspoons of yeast that I have ready in my Kitchen Aid bowl, mix together until well blended by hand with a whire whip.  I then grind about a cup of hard white wheat berries on the fine grind and add it to the yeast and water mixture and mix it in with the wire whip.  I then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave it for about an hour. This is called making a "sponge."  When I return the mixture is active and bubbling.  To protect the yeast I add 1 1/2 cups of warm water with 2 more cups of the  freshly ground hard white wheat mixing it in by hand, still, and then add 1/2 cup of honey, 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 cup of high gluten flour.  By now I'm tired of mixing by hand, so I put on the dough hook for the Kitchenaid and start it on low and add about 1 to 2 more cups of hard white wheat flour.  You don't want the dough to sticky or too dry, so I add enough flour to where the dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl and to where when it is ready to rise I can pick it up without it sticking to my hands.  I let the Kitchenaid knead the dough for about 10 minutes.  My daughter's Kitchenaid couldn't handle the 10 minutes, so we divided the dough in half giving each a turn for the 10 minutes, mine does just fine.  After the 10 minutes I take the dough out and rub some olive oil on it and return it to the bowl for the first rise, covering it with the kitchen towel.  The first rise is done when the dough has doubled in size.  Time to punch it down and divide into two and shape each one into a loaf and set in bread pans.  Cover, again, with towel and let rise until bread is risen 1 inch above rim of loaf pans and then bake in 350 degree oven 35 to 40 minutes.  I find my bread is done in 35 minutes in my glass loaf pans.  I like to use lecithin to grease the pans, my loaves fall right out when done cooking.  This recipe makes 2 loaves of delicious bread.  My family eats 6 to 8 loaves each week, keeping me busy baking bread!

Sliced and ready to eat.