Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Art of Baking, Honey Wheat

Baking is an art.  My very mean parents decided I needed to know this art when I was 14 years old. I baked bread every Saturday and took my rage at being forced to come into the house and work in the kitchen out on kneading.  It turns out that this was the exact right way to knead bread dough and I made good bread every time. Vigorous kneading develops the gluten in the dough and creates a nice crumb, or interior of the loaf.  Unconverted, I remained a very reluctant baker well beyond my teen years.  Later, raising our kids, I felt I needed to produce food as fresh as I could manage, so Saturdays saw me baking 24 loaves of bread in my adobe oven.  Today, I only need two or three loaves a week, but over the years, it has become one of my favorite ways of expressing myself in the kitchen.  It gives me joy.
The finished loaves. They won't look like this for long, my husband has been haunting the kitchen for the last 20 minutes waiting for the bread to come out of the oven.  

Here is the recipe for today's bread:

Honey Wheat Loaves
(makes 4- 8" loaves)
4 c. warm water
2 1/2 T. Yeast
2 T. Salt
1/2 c. Olive oil 
1/2 c. Honey (or brown sugar or molasses)
2 T. Poppy seed, flax seed and/or sesame seed (optional)
8-10 cups flour

To make braided loaves, cut one loaf's worth of dough into thirds and smooth them

Notes on flour: I use white wheat that I've ground myself because most commercial flour has the germ removed and isn't as fresh.  I noticed Gold Medal is now offering a white whole wheat flour. The turkey red wheat is good but makes a heavier/denser loaf. If commercial flour is what you can get, it will work just fine.  If you aren't sure which kind of whole wheat it has been made of, substitute 3 or 4 cups of unbleached flour for part of the whole wheat flour to boost the gluten.  (It makes better bread than all purpose)  The most consistent flour I can buy is Gold Medal and I only buy it or the ConAgra brand from Costco, myself.  You may have access to King Arthur or another excellent brand, these are just my available options.

Put yeast into the mixing bowl, add water, then add everything but the flour. Begin stirring in flour 1 cup at a time and knead till it's smooth, elastic and slightly sticky. Stop adding flour when you reach that point. All flour is different and local weather and your honey will affect how much of it you need. Go by feel, not by cups. Smooth and elastic and just slightly sticky are what you are aiming for.

Roll into three ropes..
Form the loaves and place them into greased loaf pans.  I use 8" pans and get 4 loaves from this. If you use 9" pans, you'll get three loaves.
And braid them

Let the loaves raise till over the top of the pans, then bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. 
Tuck the ends in and place into greased pan to raise...
Take the bread out of the oven as soon as the baking time is up, then place loaves on rack or surface to cool.  If you leave them in the pans to cool, they will sweat, making them soggy. Blech.  
Risen just right to put into the pre-heated oven.  
Now that the bread is baked, the kitchen is (semi) clean and the laundry is hung out, I can go play in the studio.  Except I might need a nap first.  If you try this, I'd love to hear about your results.  For me, this bread baking process is soothing to my spirit and satisfying to my creative needs.  Enjoy it and pass a loaf to a neighbor.  Oh, and thanks Mom and Dad for being so stinking mean!  

Thanks for stopping by, Alice


RH Carpenter said...

This is wonderful! I used to bake bread years and years ago just because I wanted to try it - nothing like the smell of baking bread in the oven :) My Sweetie doesn't care much for bread and I'd eat it all myself so I'll skip this for now. But thanks for sharing the recipe and the tips - as well as the pretty photos.

Carolyn said...

I think I need to spend a week with you in the kitchen so that maybe your good cooking, and ability to make everything you touch beautiful, will rub off on me.

Alice Jo Webb said...

Thank you!

Alice Jo Webb said...

How sweet, Carolyn! Thank you.