Whole Wheat Bread
January 10, 2008
I could get used to this. During this break from school—which will stretch on for more than another week still—I’ve had time to undertake multi-step, multi-hour and, in some cases, multi-day recipes. And many of the recipes have been brand new to me. I’ve only cooked or baked old standbys—banana bread on the weekends or our favorite stir fry on a weeknight here and there—fewer than a handful of times.
One of my favorite culinary pastimes during this break has fallen into both the multi-step and new recipe categories: bread baking. I wrote a little about it last week, after I made oatmeal knots. But there is almost nothing so satisfying as starting with extremely simple ingredients—water, yeast, flour—and ending up with a golden, puffed, beautiful bread. And you get to knead dough in the process, which, sadly, is my idea of a good time.
My latest undertaking was a whole wheat bread. At the stores or my favorite neighborhood bakery, I almost never dream of buying a loaf that isn’t whole grain. But when baking bread myself, I’ve been doubtful that one of my whole wheat loaves would be nearly as good-looking or great-tasting.
So, when I came across a well-reviewed recipe on Epicurious, I bookmarked it to try when I had the time. And time I would need—thanks to three risings and one oven-temperature change, I had to stay within a tight radius of the kitchen for the better part of an afternoon. And since time is what I have these days, I went for it.
The recipe itself was very easy to follow and involved ingredients (the most exotic of which is molasses) I usually have on hand. One thing that I did not have on hand and didn’t really think about until (too) late in the game was more than one large loaf pan (the recipe calls for two). However, I do have an obscene amount of mini loaf pans (thanks to a wedding-related project this summer: making an obscene amount of mini loaves of banana bread for the out of town guests’ welcome bags; and you already thought I was crazy). So, I made one full loaf and, fully aware that the mini loaf is highly uncommon for a sandwich-and-toast kind of bread, four mini loaves.
I will say that I was delighted with the appearance of this bread. I ended up with five gorgeous loaves: deep, nutty brown and shiny (due to a slick of egg wash prior to baking). The mini-loaves were a bit misshapen and my attempt to jazz them up by scoring the tops didn’t quite work out. But the big loaf is a beauty and next time I’ll either buy a second large loaf pan or just halve the recipe (which would leave me with half a packet of yeast, leftover, though). The bread is also very tasty and becomes delicious after a quick dip in the toaster. The hours in the kitchen will seem completely worthwhile when you sit down with a toasted slice, slathered with your choice of, um, slatherable (I opt for peanut butter) and a steaming cup of coffee in the morning. In fact, it’s the perfect meal to enjoy while perusing recipes that will keep you occupied for the next day.
(Click “more” for the recipe)
Whole Wheat Bread Hayes
Recipe by Timothy J. Hayes via Epicurious
2 cups warm water (105°-115°F.)
a 1/4-ounce package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/4 cup molasses
5 to 6 cups whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup canola oil
an egg wash made by beating 1 large egg white with 1 teaspoon water
3 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats for sprinkling loaves*
In a small bowl stir together 1 3/4 cups warm water and yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a measuring cup whisk together remaining 1/4 cup warm water and molasses. In a large bowl stir together 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and oil and add molasses and yeast mixtures, stirring until combined well. Stir in enough of remaining 3 to 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, for mixture to form a soft dough and turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, and shape into a ball.
Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat, and let rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and let rise, covered, 45 minutes more.
Preheat oven to 400°F. and grease 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by
Divide dough in half. Lightly knead each piece of dough and form into ovals. Transfer loaves to pans and let rise, covered with kitchen towels, 45 minutes. Brush tops of loaves lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with oats. Bake loaves in middle of oven 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. and bake loaves 20 to 25 minutes more, or until golden brown. Turn loaves out onto a rack to cool.
* I was out of oats, so I skipped this step. Given the crust’s pretty sheen, I’m not sure I would add them next time, for fear that they’d just cover it up.