Did you know that, of our 5 senses, smell is the most closely related to memory?
One of the smells that brings back the best memories for me is the glorious fragrance of homemade whole wheat bread. Mmmmm…
My mom used to make bread every week (6 loaves at a time!!) and the smell of her homemade bread would welcome us home after many snowy play days. There was nothing quite walking in the door, pulling off our snow gear, and sitting down to a fresh slice of warm bread slathered in butter. This woman can make some bread!
Growing up, I made bread a number of times with my mom. I always told myself that when I had a family I would make our bread every week “just like mom”. Well, for the first couple years of marriage I didnt make bread weekly like I thought I would. Whatever my excuse, I just didnt do it. Well, at the beginning of this year I decided that it was time to suck it up and just DO it! I wanted to make all of our meals from scratch and I wanted them to be healthy, inexpensive, and fresh. Sure, there is work that goes into it. And planning. And budgeting. But let me tell you something. It is so worth it.
So, here is the recipe that I use every week now. I started out using a my mom’s recipe and then I tried a recipe on allrecipes.com or epicurious.com (I can’t actually remember now). I gradually tweaked things and changed a few ingredients or methods to fit my preferences to fix the issues I had.
Before today I never measured or documented how I make bread, but I decided to take pictures of every step this time.
3 C Water
1 Tsp honey or sugar
1 Tbs Active Dry Yeast
2 Tbs Olive Oil
4 Tbs Honey
1 Tsp Salt
5-6 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (keep 1/2 cup out for kneading)
A couple dabs of butter
2 loaf pans
1. In a medium-large bowl, add 3 lukewarm cups of water. This means that its just above your body temperature without being too hot and killing the yeast.
2. Add a teaspoon of honey or sugar and stir into the water (a bit of sugar helps the yeast to proof).
3. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of active dry yeast into the water. I use dry active Redstar yeast. Stir the mixture until the yeast is mostly disolved and looks like this.
4. Let the yeast mixture sit for about 5 minutes. This gives the yeast time to proof and activate- it will look more fluffy and bubbly.
5. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 4 tablespoons of raw honey, 1 teaspoon of salt and mix well.
6. Gradually add 5 to 5 1/2 Cups of Whole Wheat Flour. I use a fork to mix the flour in. Add enough flour that it starts coming away from the sides a bit but is still doughy. Like this.
7. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm-ish spot for about 45 min (until its doubled in size) I accidentally bumped the bowl before taking this picture, so this was already starting to deflate – you get the idea though, right?
8. Sprinkle about 1/2 Cup of flour onto the dough and mix it in so its not super sticky.
9. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured counter top and begin kneading
10. Knead the bread- sprinkling on flour as you go to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.
11. Here is a step that I made up to help keep the dough moist and still prevent it from sticking to the counter: I add a dab of butter to my hands or on top of the dough and continue kneading. I alternate kneading with flour and butter a few times until I’m satisfied with the texture and feel of the dough. I usually knead for about 8 minutes and until the dough is no longer sticking to my hands and the counter, but is still moist and soft.
12. Add a couple of drops of oil to your (cleaned) bowl, and set the dough in the bowl. Then turn the dough over so that the top is oiled and doesnt dry out while it rises.
13. Cover the bowl again and let it rise for about an hour or until its doubled. Like this.
14. Take the dough out and separate into 2 even parts. Preheat the oven to 350f now so that its ready.
15. Flatten out both sections of the dough with a rolling pin or something similar – I used an empty container since I dont have a rolling pin. Then roll the dough up (as if you were rolling a sleeping bag or a tortilla). The reason I flatten and then roll the dough is to prevent any air bubbles from causing holes in the loaves.
16. Place the rolled dough into the pans and let the dough rest for a few minutes (5-10) before putting into the oven.
17. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. The top of the bread should be hard and if you press on the crease (where the top and side meet) it wont give way. Then, 5 minutes before you take the bread out, brush on a tad of olive oil or butter to help it darken up a bit without getting too hard. Its really just to make it look pretty
18. When its ready, take the bread out of the oven, place on the counter, and let cool for a minute or two. I then use a rubber spatula to make sure all 4 sides are loosened from the pan before tipping it out.
19. Tip the bread out of the pan and lay it on its side or on a cooling rack for a bit.
20. DIG IN AND ENJOY!!
Top with butter, jam, peanut butter, honey, vegemite….whatever your heart desires. And watch out because this stuff disappears FAST!
Let me know if you try this recipe and how it turns out! Or if you have another recipe you love- I’d love to try it!