When my husband and I got our first apartment, we were super poor. We struggled to buy groceries and usually settled for the most important items. When we moved into out second place, I started really thinking about the things we were eating. I’m not particular about the health benefits of food, but I am a very picky eater. And once I learn the ingredients to certain things, I can’t bring myself to eat them anymore.
One such item was bread. I knew that fresh baked bread usually went stale in a few days. Why, then, could I buy bread from the store and have it for 10 – 14 days before getting kind of wonky? And why are there so many things listed on the label? It started to kind of skeeve me out. So, one day in 2010, I decided I wasn’t going to buy bread anymore.
Thus started my quest to bake the perfect loaf of bread.
Even after making bread for the last 5 years, I can’t say that I’ve exactly mastered it. Things like room temperature, type of flour, additional ingredients (like honey) can make it more of an art than a science but I thought I’d share my lastest recipe which came out pretty darn good.
Honey Whole Wheat Bread Recipe (makes 2 loaves)
- 2 cups warm water
- 4 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine (melted, cooled)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached flour (plus extra to flour board)
- Handful of oats (optional)
Before you start, prepare a warm place to proof your yeast. I usually preheat the oven at about 200 degrees. Leave it on for 5 minutes and then turn it off. Test the temp – the oven should be warmer than the room but not so hot as to kill the yeast. If you can touch the rack and it’s warm, you’re good. If it burns you, it will burn your yeast.
I recommend taking out your milk and butter/margarine at the same time you put the yeast in the oven. Both should be at room temperature or a little warmer.
- To proof the yeast: Pour the two cups of water into a large bowl. Add the 2 teaspoons of sugar and stir until well mixed. Add the yeast and stirred until dissolved. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and place in oven for approximately 10 minutes. Yeast is proofed and ready when there is a foamy, frothy layer on top. If it still looks like murky water, your yeast may be old and you should start over with fresh yeast, water and sugar.
- Remove yeast mixture from the oven and stir until the frothy layer is incorporated. Add milk, butter, salt and sugar and still until dissolved. Add honey and mix well.
- Slowly add the whole wheat flour, mixing constantly and scraping the sides of the bowl.
- Add the unbleached flour 1/2 cup at a time, continuing to mix and incorporate until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Turn bread out on a floured surface. Make sure your hands are dry and sprinkle a small amount of flower onto the dough.
- Begin kneading the bread. If you don’t know how to do this, here is a video from All Recipes to give you an idea. Continue kneading the bread until the dough is smooth and moist but not sticky. Remember to add flower in small amounts so as not to make the dough too stiff. If you aren’t sure, try the windowpane test to determine if you still need to work the dough.
- Once the dough has been worked, place in a well oiled bowl or stock pan, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the fridge for 6 – 10 hours. Note: I placed the dough in the fridge and then ran errands all day, so I ended up getting back to it much later than anticipated. Keep in mind that the longer you leave the dough to rise, the more yeast flavor it develops.
- Remove dough from fridge and leave on counter for about 30 minutes too warm it up a bit. In the meantime, grease two bread pans.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Press the dough until it has deflated. Separate into two equal sized balls and place one off to the side.
- For each ball: Flatten into a rectangle (like those terrible Pizza Hut Flatizzas. Yeah, I went there). It will resist being shaped so you may not get it exactly into a rectangle. The purpose is to stretch it so that you’re able to make a loaf. Once shaped, roll the dough length wise with seam side down. Tuck the ends under so that the it won’t unravel when it starts to rise
- Place in individual bread pans, cover with a damp towel and allow to rise at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. I recommend checking at the 20 minute mark. Your dough should rise, just about doubling in size. Be careful not to let it rise too much or it will fall and turn into a dense cracker a few minutes after you put it into the oven.
- Preheat the oven to between 390 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When bread has risen, slice across the top, lengthwise. Place bread in oven and let bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown, and when tapped, sounds hollow. Note: If the bread begins to deflate, it will start to deflate. If this happens, turn out the pans and repeat step 11. Additionally, my oven is very finicky so baking time varies based on how long it can maintain temperature. Therefore, I have given a ballpark as to when you should check your bread. This can take a little finesse on your part, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
- Once done, turn out of pans and let cool. Loaves can be frozen in ziplock bags (remove air w/ a straw) or wrapped in cellophane and then foil paper. Let defrost in storage medium and then unwrap and heat in oven until warm.
And there you have it folks, honey wheat bread! Good luck and let me know in the comments if you have questions.