This year I decided to embark on a new kind of project, not a resolution, but rather an exploration. I have decided for 2017 to experience a year of living breadfully. By now you are probably wondering what I am talking about, and it is, quite simply, a year where I explore making different breads.
The goal is to explore baking bread at least once a week, trying new flours, new recipes, or new ways to incorporate bread into our everyday eating. Bread has such a history, it has sustained civilizations for thousands of years, and it was actually through watching historical documentaries that the idea came to me to spend the year exploring this humble food.
Ironically, focusing on bread seems so contrary to modern society, a society that maligns “carbs” and puts “gluten-free” upon a pedestal. However anyone who has followed this blog knows very well that I don’t mind being contrary, so celebrating a food that sometimes receives negative attention seems apt.
I am looking forward to a year of the smell of freshly baked bread filling my home, a year of eating warm bread out of the oven, and having the chance to photograph some amazing loafs too.
#1 Whole Wheat Bread
The first bread of the year is whole wheat bread. I tweaked a recipe that I have used for years, and it will probably be the basis for many of the loaves I make over the coming months. I used a combination of stone ground hard whole wheat flour and all purpose flour for this bread. We enjoyed the bread sliced for dinner along with butter, cured meats and cheese….and it was amazing.
For those who are interested, here is a list of the ingredients to make two loaves:
warm water – 2 cups
sugar – 2 tablespoons
yeast – 1 tablespoon
butter (melted) – 2 tablespoons
salt – 2 teaspoons
whole wheat flour (hard stone ground from Bulk Barn) – 3 cups
all purpose flour – 2 cups
(***bread was baked at 400F for 40 minutes)
Now I will be the first to admit I am not new to making bread, the first loaf I made was actually 26 years ago, with bread made at least once a month….so that is a lot of bread. What I have found is that bread making is actually much simpler than many people make it out to be. Making bread also is not that time consuming, but rather more about time management. So instead of detailed information about how to scientifically bake bread I will give a quick run down as to how I do it.
- measure out two cups of warm water, stir in your sugar, sprinkle your yeast over the water and let it sit 5-10 minutes….whatever it takes to get all bubbly. While this is happening I usually go and do something else and come back to check on it.
- once the water and yeast are all bubbly I add it to the bowl of my stand mixer (best purchase ever!), add in the melted butter, the salt, and two cups of the whole wheat flour. Turn on the mixer (bread hook attached) and let it work for a couple of minutes. This is a good time to check your email, or Instagram accounts.
- after a few minutes add in 1 cup of whole wheat flour and let the mixer work for another minute or two. Then add in the first cup of all purpose flour and again let the mixer work it in.
- with the final cup of flour add it in a bit at a time. Part of making bread comes down to the feel of the dough, you don’t want it to be too wet (sticky) or too dry (crumbly), so adding in the last cup of flour a bit at a time will allow you to monitor the dough to be the right squishy dough consistency. Sometimes you need less flour, sometimes you need more, just go off the feel of the dough.
- once all the flour is added, and the dough seems right, I let the mixer work away for at least another 5 minutes. Another great opportunity to do something else while the mixer works.
- now that the dough is ready, I remove the bowl from the mixer, take the dough out, spray the mixer bowl with oil or cooking spray, and put the dough back in. You can also rotate the dough in the bowl once so that the top of the dough is oiled.
- I then cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let the dough sit. (Rotating the dough in the bowl so the top of the dough was oiled means the plastic wrap won’t stick to your dough once it has risen, making things much easier.)
- usually I let the dough rise for 30 minutes to an hour. I usually line this time span up with going for a walk , doing errands or picking the kids up from school. I don’t need to be around for bread to rise….making bread is all about time management.
- one thing to note is if your house is a little on the cool side, you can let the dough rise in your oven with just the light on. Sometimes that added warmth gets the yeast working and the bread rising.
- once your dough has doubled in size (30 minutes to 1 hour later), I punch down the dough and shape the bread into loaves. For the loaves above I divided the dough in half, shaped each piece into a ball, placed the ball of dough on an oiled baking sheet, and flattened the ball
- I then put the loaves on the baking sheets into the oven to rise a second time. This can again range 30 minutes to an hour. I usually pop it in, go do something, and then just check back later.
- once the loaves have risen, I take them out of the oven, then turn the oven on, and bring it to temperature.
- the loaves then go in to bake for about 25-40 minutes. This particular recipe was 40 minutes at 400F.
- a ready loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom
- when I bake bread I always rotate the position the bread is in the oven part way through, swapping bread on the higher rack for the bread on the lower one. Also, I never bake on the bottom rack….no one likes burnt bottoms on their loaf.
As I said, this is a rough idea as to how I personally bake bread. It is actually a stress free form of baking with lots of waiting times. Usually bread is baked to go with our supper, so I start around lunch time to have hot loaves to go with our evening meal. It is all about time management.
I think my project of “A Year of Living Breadfully” will be an interesting one, with so many types of bread to explore……and eat.
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