Here in RVA we’re still enduring days of “wintry mix,” so The Gracious Posse has focused on the scads of indoor activities to occupy your minds and hands until the azaleas bloom. If you’re in the mood to bake some yummy bread on one of these cold days, look no further than this post:
Yeast bread baking is not difficult; many otherwise adventurous home cooks are reluctant to tackle the yeast bread process fearing failure. In the many years I have worked with yeast breads, only once has the yeast failed to do its job of leavening. So long ago it happened, I chalk it up to a newlywed mishap. Stay with me, and you’ll enjoy the thrill of this accomplishment.
The process of many yeast breads can be boiled down to 3 simple steps:
1. mix the dough – first rise
2. punch down – roll out – second rise
For this recipe you will need the following items in addition to the ingredients. If you don’t own them, borrow from a friend or neighbor if you’re doing this for the first time:
1. candy thermometer (see photo below)
2. 2-quart pot
3. stand mixer
4. 2 loaf pans
5. large bowl
Whole Wheat Bread
3 cups whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package or 1 heaping tablespoon dry yeast
2 cups milk
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup water
Step 1. mix the dough – first rise
In a stand mixer, combine the flours and yeast.
In a 2-quart pot, heat milk, oil, molasses and water to a temperature between 120-130 degrees, using a candy thermometer to take the temperature. Be sure the tip of the thermometer does not touch the bottom of the pot. A thin layer of bubbles will form on the surface of the liquid when the temperature is just right. Remove from heat.
Start the mixer on low, slowly add the liquid to the flour mixture until combined. Dough will be very stiff and thick. Grease the bottom and sides of the large bowl. Turn out the dough into the bowl, cover the bowl with a warm damp towel, and let sit in a draft-free area for an hour. This is called the first rise.
Step 2: punch down – roll out – second rise
Remove towel from bowl, and your dough should have doubled in bulk:
Now it’s time to punch down the dough. Sprinkle a small amount of flour on top of the dough, then ball your fist, and punch down the dough. You’ll feel the air escape, deflating the dough.
Turn out the dough on a large work surface covered in flour. Divide dough in half (I use a long knife). Roll out each half into a rectangle, approximately 11″ x 14″. Fold the long sides inward to the center, then roll into a loaf starting at a short end. Seal off the ends, tucking under the loaf. Place in loaf pans. Cover with another warm damp towel and let rise for an hour. With 15 minutes remaining in the second rise, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Step 3. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool loaves on cooling rack. Try not to eat in one sitting. Gloat and enjoy.
Aside from the hearty taste of this bread, I love that it uses healthy ingredients, and only a few at that. The simplicity suits my wintry mood.