Saturday, February 19, 2011

How To: Homemade Bread

I know, I know- you're busy!  Making your own bread may seem like something that only our ancestors had time to prepare, but trust me, it will be so worth it once you get the hang of it.  Plus, the great part is this recipe makes 3 loaves. So take a little time now to make them and freeze the rest for later.  The results?  Homemade fresh bread right at your fingertips.  Not to mention, you know exactly what ingredients your family is eating.  No crazy, hard to pronounce chemicals and preservatives here-no sir! 

I know there is a "gluten-free" craze going on right now, and unfortunately you won't find that recipe here. Maybe another time… once you get the hang of this one. For simplicity sake, I wanted to give you a recipe that is foolproof (for those of you novice bread makers), and one that won't have you trekking across the city to find ingredients you've never heard of, and most importantly, a recipe that is healthy.  You’re welcome. 

Now on to the actual recipe:

Healthy Honey Wheat Bread


3C. warm water (110 degrees)
2 (.25oz.) Packages Active Dry Yeast, or 2Tbsp if you buy in bulk.
2/3C. Honey, divided
2Tbsp. Ground Flax Seed
1/2C. Wheat Bran
2 1/4C. Bread Flour
5 3/4C. Whole Wheat Flour
1Tbsp. Salt
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

The Stars of the Show!

Baking my own bread used to be something that terrified me.  I'm talkin right up there with spiders and sky diving, but like all things, you just gotta jump in head first and conquer your fears! 

First, you gotta proof your yeast.  This brings your yeast to life and is crucial to making your bread turn out properly.  So how do you proof yeast?  You  put them in warm water and feed those little buggers SUGAR!  That sparks them right up and gets them all foamy and ready to go. 

1) In a large bowl mix yeast,  3C. warm water, and 1/3C. honey.  (Specifically 110 degrees) Any colder and your yeast won't get foamy, and any hotter and you will kill the yeast!  Be kind.  Don't kill the yeast. 

Let the yeast activate for around 5-10 minutes.  The mixture should get nice and foamy like this picture.  If it doesn't, then you will have to start over. 

2) Add 2Tbsp Ground Flax Seed, 1/2C Wheat Bran, 2 1/4C. Bread Flour, and 2 1/4C. Whole Wheat Flour (all found in your grocer's baking section).  Let sit for about 30 minutes until big and bubbly.

3) Mix 1Tbsp. Salt, and 1/3C. Honey to the flour mixture.  SLOWLY, add remaining Whole Wheat Flour about 1/2C. at a time, or else your Kitchen Aid mixer will start spewing flour!  You want the dough to pull away from the sides of your mixing bowl and cling to your dough hook.  You should be able to see the bottom of the bowl.  Knead your bread on speed 1 or 2 for about 5-10 minutes, in your  mixer, or by hand if you have Arnold Schwarzenegger’s strength

4) Remove the dough ball from your mixing bowl, and spray with PAM cooking spray.  Place the dough ball back in the mixing bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.  Place mixing bowl in the oven (turned off), but with oven light turned on.  Let rise until doubled in size. 

The oven light adds just the right amount of heat to get your dough to rise.

5) Lightly oil your counter and dump dough onto counter top.  Using a sharp knife, cut dough into 3 equal parts.  You could get very technical here and whip out your kitchen scale to be sure each loaf weighs the same, OR you could just eye ball it and not get too Miss Perfectionist on me here. 

6) Take one ball and spread it out.  Flattening with the heels of your hand. 

7) Roll up the dough from one side. 

8) Now, taking your hands Karate chop the dough on either side.  Feel free to yell HIIIIIIIYAAAAA while doing this!  Tell yourself, it will help the bread taste better!  Fold the two sides that you just Jackie Chan-ed under, like an envelope.

9) You should have a cute little baby loaf.  Hold and cradle the little baby in your hand here. Now, on to my favorite part- the therapeutic art of bread making.  Take that cute little baby loaf and SLAM it on to your counter 2-3 times to get the air bubbles out.  Feel free to take out any aggressions or hidden frustrations that you have here.

10)  Place the loaf into your greased loaf pan and let rise for the 2nd time until the loaf is about 2 inches above your pan.  This should take about 30-60 minutes, so go fold your laundry, or pour yourself a nice hot cup of tea and relax. 

While we are waiting here, let's talk about what to do with those other 2 loaves of bread.  Take each dough ball and wrap them individually in Saran Wrap.  Place one dough ball into a labeled Ziploc Freezer bag and freeze.  Whenever you need homemade fresh baked bread, just pop the frozen dough ball into your refrigerator and thaw.  Once thawed, place in a greased loaf pan, let rise again and follow the steps below.

I like to top mine with a little bit of good old fashioned oatmeal.
 11) While you are waiting on your bread to rise again, preheat your oven to 350.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.
* A tip to know when your bread is baked*  Using a hot pad to hold the bread pan, knock on the bottom of your pan with your knuckles.  If the bread makes a hollow noise, it is done.

12) Brush bread with 2Tbsp. melted butter and cool completely on a wire rack. 
* Do not slice until it is completely cool.  Here's where a test of your patience comes in because it will smell and look so good! 

That was easy!  Now you've got the tips.  Impress your family and friends and go make yourself a loaf of bread! 

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