Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Good Bread And How To Make It

After my recent post lamenting the decline of bread as a wholesome food, Jaimie sent me a link to a website that offers an older, healthier variety of wheat. 

I then searched for local sources of this flour and didn't find any.  But I did find a Vermont farmer who produces organic stone-ground flour from hard red winter wheat.  Bread purists say that the only way to make good bread is to grind your own flour, but since I neither own a grinder nor can deal with the minimum purchase of 50 lbs of wheat berries at the farm, I compromised by driving 40 minutes (which is as nothing around here) to a co-op that sells this flour in bulk.

I scooped what looked to me like fifteen pounds--after all, winter's on the way--into a plastic bag and came home and put it in the fridge.  The next day I looked up some recipes and stumbled upon one in Countryside Magazine (unfortunately I cannot find it again on their website without signing up for something or other) that looked reasonably easy.  Here is my version:

Put 3 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour into a bowl and add 2 tablespoons brown sugar (next time I'll try honey instead), 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons yeast.  Mix well.

Add 2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter (I used coconut oil, but will try olive oil with the next batch) to 1 1/2 cups of water that's been heated to 100F-120F.  When the fat has melted, pour liquid into the flour and mix. Add one egg.  Mix well and gradually add another cup or so of flour until the dough reaches the right consistency for kneading. 

Knead, in the bowl or on a floured board, for ten minutes (the recipe says to knead it in a mixer, but where's the fun of that?).

Put the dough in a greased bowl, turn it to grease all sides, cover it with a cloth and let it rise in a warm spot for about an hour.  Then punch it down, divide it into two loaves and place them into greased loaf pans.  Cover and let rise for one to two hours.

Bake the loaves at 350F for about half an hour.  Then let them cool in the pans for about ten minutes.  Remove the loaves and finish cooling them on wire racks.


Although this is nothing like the crusty bread of my childhood, it is sweet and nutty, easy to slice and surprisingly light, considering that it's made with 100% whole wheat. I froze one loaf and made some inroads into the other.

The bad news?  I gained a pound.

6 comments :

  1. Mmm, I can almost smell it. I love homemade bread and enjoy making it, although with my limited energy these days I usually go with one of the no-knead recipes. Not as much fun, but it still fills the house with yeasty aroma.

    If you're interested in heirloom wheat varieties, have you tried spelt? I haven't used spelt flour for baking bread yet, but I have enjoyed the whole berries boiled, usually in broth with bell pepper.

    Farro is another ancient wheat that's become more popular and easier to find. Or maybe it's just spelt and einkorn with an Italian accent. But you might be able to find it for sale closer to home.

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  2. I haven't so far tried spelt, farro or einkorn. I haven't found any local sources of them, and I must confess that those weird names intimidate me a little.

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  3. Those loaves look delicious. Until recently I didn't like the taste of whole wheat, but knowing it was better for me than white, I kept trying it. Now I prefer it.

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  4. I'm really tempted to try those "ancient" kinds of flour (see Whaledancer's comment). I'm curious as to how they'll bake, and what their flavor will be.

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  5. That sounds very good, although I would have to get a mixer to do the kneading if I got serious about making bread. I do find all bread recipes fascinating and am always searching for the best one. The only danger is, that I would end up eating the still slightly warm loaf all by myself in one sitting. I do like freshly made bread that much.

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  6. The original recipe I wrote about actually calls for the kneading to be done in a mixer. I just did it by hand because I like to knead.

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