Delayed gratification, I can't discuss it enough! A lesson I must learn and re-learn throughout my life--both wretched and beautiful. To be patient and diligent. To put off little desires now, in order to obtain the grand-prize down the line. The ability to restrain yourself from doing what you want to do now, so you can BE who you want to BE...LATER. This is the lesson of healthy weight-loss, of educational achievement, or focused parenting. America is currently re-learning about delayed gratification. Maybe credit cards and second mortgages aren't the answers to all. Maybe self-discipline does pay off?
Making fresh bread is certainly a study of this kind of patience. The preconceived notions that it's difficult and labor intensive, just aren't true. Making bread isn't hard, and it doesn't really take a lot of prep-work. It just takes time and patience--and a good electric mixer! You need time for your dough to sponge, to rise twice, and to bake. But the reward is truly delicious!
So, what makes a good sandwich bread? I like mine a little sweet, a little salty, moist and easy to cut with a serrated knife. I also want my bread to be healthy! This means whole-grain. The trick to making heavy whole-grain flour seem light, is to let the yeast foam (or sponge) with a little flour, then let in rise two more times. Once in the mixing bowl and once in the loaf pans; with the sponging, it's almost as if it's had three rises. This provides and greatest height and biggest pores. (Big pores are a good thing in bread-making!)
After much experimentation, I've come up with a recipe I make two different ways. Sometimes, I make whole-grain wheat bread and sometimes I use half wheat flour and half spelt flour.
Wheat flour produces a bendable bread with a higher dome-top because of its gluten levels. It is also slightly deeper in color. Spelt is in the wheat family, but has a nuttier and sweeter flavor. It also contains more protein than wheat, and the protein in spelt is easier to digest. So when I mix the two flours, the bread has a nuttier flavor and is higher in protein and fiber. BUT, the top is flatter and it bread is slightly brittle because there is less gluten to create the flexible consistency of all wheat bread. This is really a preference issue. You may have to make it both ways before you know what you like!
Besides the education in patience, the benefits of making your own bread include: quality control, the ability to manipulate the flavor, and cost. I can buy ALL organic ingredients and make this bread for half of what I would pay for organic bread at the bakery!
I like to make bread on a day I plan to stick around the house. That way, while I'm waiting on the bread to rise, I can go about my business!
Soft and Supple Whole-Grain Bread
2 ¾ cups hot tap water
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
2 Tb. molasses
1 ½ Tb. kosher or sea salt
6-7 cups of 100% whole-grain wheat flour (or half spelt flour)
2 packages of dry active yeast
1/3 cup wheat germ (or whole oats)
Place the first five ingredients, plus 2 cups of flour, in a mixing bowl. Using a bread hook, mix for 10-15 seconds, then add the yeast. It’s okay that the water is hot because the other ingredients will cool it before the yeast goes in! Mix again for 10-15 seconds, then let the mixture rest and “sponge” for 20 minutes. Go check your facebook and email.
When you come back the mixture should be foamy. Now turn the mixer on low and add 4 more cups of flour and the wheat germ. “Knead” with the bread hook until the dough has come together and pulls away from the sides a little. It should look moist, but if it seems a little too wet add another ½ cup of flour. STOP the mixer. Now spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray and lay it over the mixing bowl. Let it rise for one hour. Go paint your finger and toe nails and let them dry thoroughly. Now back to the bread. The dough should be large, turn the mixer on just long enough to knock it down, close to its original size.
Grease and flour two loaf pans. Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface. Flour a knife and cut the dough in half. Roll each piece of dough into a log the length of the loaf pans. Place each roll in its pan. Spray another piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray, cover both loaves loosely so they have room to expand. Walk away. Let the dough rise for another 1 ½ hours. Take a nap, vacuum, pick the kids up from school…
When you come back the dough should have doubled in size and come up higher than the lip of the pan. Now preheat the oven to 350*.
Gently remove the plastic wrap. I like to sprinkle a little extra wheat germ or whole oats on top for visual appeal.
Then place the loaves in the oven for 35-37 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently dump out of the loaf pans. Cool completely before wrapping.
This bread is great for sandwiches and is easy to freeze. Enjoy!
Makes 2 loaves.
Oh--the pictures are of the half spelt bread! Notice how the top is flat, not round?