Sunday, October 24, 2010

Simple Whole Wheat Bread

Day one, post one. It's 9:30am and I just finished wiping down the kitchen after cleaning up from Goody (me) vs. Whole Wheat Bread, Round I.

I've never made bread from scratch and I've never blogged.

Ok, both of those are kind of lies - the bread was made in a bread machine at my dad's when I was a kid so that really doesn't count.

As for the blog, I think I've created two blogs before and deleted both of them immediately after publishing... so that doesn't count either.

I picked bread for my first post for a few reasons:

  1. The art of bread making is old - really old. And in my 31 years all I've known about it is that there's an aisle at the store, or, in some cases an entire store, with bread for me to buy. Easy enough, right? But what really goes into making bread?
  2. I've been reading another blog (Kath Eats) and for some reason I'm hooked. I have no idea who this person is (although I suppose that's the deal with the blogging world) but I'm fascinated with her day to day ramblings, her recent move and her husband's opening of a Great Harvest Bread Company (enter the bread making idea).
  3. We just finished a kitchen remodel and I'm obsessed with cooking at the moment (more so than usual) and have been trying all sorts of new things...

So, with that in mind and Bob Dylan's "Highway 61" as a soundtrack it's onto the bread making....

I choose what seemed to be a simple and popular recipe to get my feet wet... the key word here being seemed.... I also selected whole wheat because it's healthy and tasty and well, it's not Wonder Bread. Here's the recipe.

I started at around 7:30 this AM and got myself organized:

After mixing the active yeast, water and honey I patiently waited for signs of life... moments passed and alas, the yeast started to bubble up. Game on.

I mixed in my bread flour about a cup and a half at a time, taking care to incorporate all of the dry ingredients. Here's what I came up with:

At this stage of the game the mixture took a little rest, about 30 minutes or so. Then I added the honey, oil and whole wheat flour.

Now it was time to turn it out and start the kneading. I have to admit, here's where I was a little nervous. While I love to cook, baking has never been a strong suit and is usually left to The Lady. But I was past the point of no return and it was all or nothing at this point.

I kneaded away for about 7-8 minutes until it pulled off the counter but was still still sticky to the touch. This required about another 2 cups of whole wheat flour to kept the dough the proper, elastic consistency.

After kneading it was time for another rest. I oiled up the ball of dough and dropped it in a ceramic bowl (actually the insert to my slow cooker since I don't have a large metal or ceramic bowl). I put in the oven which had been on warm for the last 20 minutes. I killed the heat and let it cool slightly before putting the dough in. This was all done to give it a warm place for hibernation.

After 60 minutes it had doubled in size and it was time to make the loaves. I separated the dough into two loaves (the recipe says it will make three but they seemed too small when I did this) and into the pans they went.

I set the oven to 350F and waited another 30 minutes to put them in. It took about this long for the dough to continue to rise about an inch above the loaf pans. Then, into the oven they went.

After 25 minutes the tops were golden brown and I pulled them out of the oven. After 5 minutes of resting I turned them out onto a cooling rack and brushed the tops with some melted butter.

I have to admit, I surprised myself, they actually looked GOOD!

I took the puppy for a quick run - it was an unreal 70 degree fall day and great to get out of the house. By the time I got home I was pretty starving and looking forward to a turkey sandwich and some Eagles football.

It's at this time I'd like to remind all you readers that I said I selected a recipe that seemed easy enough.

I cut into the bread and took the end piece off.... it was soft and moist with nice undertones of honey and had a nice spongy and springy crust. But wait, was it too moist? Too soft? Hmmm....

It was then the Lady said, "Is that raw dough in the middle?"

Oh... shit...

One loaf down... one to go.

The other loaf baked a little longer and turned out to actually be okay. In fact, as toast it's pretty damn tasty.

So, my adventure in bread making had its ups and downs. I learned some lessons, gained some confidence in dough making and now know where bread really comes from.

Next time I'll bake it a little longer and be a little more patient.

In the meantime, toast anyone?

Next up:

Braised Beef Brisket, Caramelized Roasted Red Onions and Roasted Red/White Rosemary & Garlic Potatoes.

See you then.