I decided years ago that I wanted to make homemade bread (which I found quite intimidating at the time). I started out with my mom’s old bread maker machine and bread flour which was easy enough. Then I decided that I wanted to make it healthier and try making wheat bread. It didn’t work too well for me in the bread maker so I pulled out my handy Kitchen-Aid mixer that we received as a wedding gift. It was not so pretty at first. My first loaves came out more like bricks and not so tasty either. So I have worked for years to find the perfect bread recipe and this is it!
I know that bread is pretty cheap at the store but there is something so fulfilling and gratifying about making and eating some amazing homemade bread! Not to mention that I know exactly what is in it (especially since my kids eat bread like it’s going extinct). So if you are feeling adventurous or just looking for a new recipe, give this one a shot. You will thank me when your house smells like fresh bread and you smother that bread with some butter and honey while it’s still warm.
I am extra adventurous and buy wheat berries and grind my own flour. Feel free to buy some wheat flour (I haven’t in forever so I have no clue what brand to recommend). I buy my organic hard white wheat berries in bulk from a local grocery store (Harvest Market in Spotsylvania, VA… they are awesome). I have used hard red before but I find the white has a milder wheat flavor. So why do I grind my flour? I chose this route because you are able preserve more fiber, nutrients, and all the good stuff when you freshly grind the wheat and I like the texture of my flour more fine. If not, then just use flour and nix the vital wheat gluten!!
Okay, so let’s get to work. Time to proof your yeast! This step can be intimidating to some but it’s actually pretty easy. Let’s talk water. Your water will need to be warm enough. You want it at about 110F so use a meat thermometer if you are a newbie. Now add 2 cups of that right temperature water to your mixing bowl with 2 Tablespoons of sugar and 2 Tablespoons of active dry yeast. Mix it up and then let it rest for about 5 – 10 minutes until it is nice and foamy. While the yeast does it’s thing, I grind the wheat that I need. One cup of berries = 1 1/2 cups flour. So I grind 5 cups now.
Your yeast is all foamy and ready for the next step. Now add 1 Tablespoon salt (I use sea salt), 1/2 cup Vital Wheat Gluten, and 3 1/2 cups flour. Let that mix up and then cover it with a kitchen towel. Set a timer for 45 minutes and let it soak up that water and rise. If you choose to go vegan, then this is when I make my flax egg. If not, then just grab an egg out of the fridge and let it warm up some.
So, how do you make a flax egg you ask. Well it’s actually quite easy. You grind up some flax seeds and then mix it with water. I grind them in a coffee bean grinder I bought on Amazon for just this purpose. I measure out 1/2 Tablespoon of flax seeds and grind them up. This will measure out to 1 Tablespoon in a meal form and mix it with 2 1/2 Tablespoons of warm water and let it set while the dough does it’s thing.
Now it’s time to finish your dough. Add in 2/3 cup warm water (same temperature as when you proofed your yeast), 4 Tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 cup sugar, and your flax egg (or real thing if you prefer). I will caution you to add slowly because it can slosh out on you. Give that a good mixing.
Now change to your dough hook and starting adding in your flour 1 cup at a time until you have added 3 cups of flour. Sometimes I may need to add another 1/2 cup (but add 1 Tablespoon at a time) to get the right consistency but 3 cups usually does it. So what’s the right consistency? I let it mix on high for a minute or so and it should start pulling away from the sides of the bowl and only slightly stick to your finger. If it looks like this, then you are good. Let it mix on high for a few more minutes (hold on to that mixer because it may just dance off the counter). Cover it again and set that timer for 45 minutes. I usually oil (butter seems to work the best) my loaf pans now. This recipe will make 2 large loaves but if you want smaller loaves then make it 3.
Okay, so now you have your bread dough and it has probably risen to the top of the bowl. Turn the mixer back on for a minute or so to get some of the air out.
Now dump your dough onto a floured surface and cut it in half (if you want 2 large loaves or 3 if you prefer smaller loaves).
Now, I like to roll my dough out so that I get the air bubbles out (who likes big ol’ holes in their bread from honkin’ air bubbles) and then roll it tightly into a gorgeous little bread loaf. Make sure you pinch off the ends and the last seam and then put in your buttered pan. I punch mine down a little to fit in the pan then cover it up and set the timer for 50 minutes and let those beauties rise.
When the timer goes off, preheat the oven to 350. As soon as the oven is preheated gently place your hard work into the oven and cook for 32 minutes. Let them cool slightly and then take them out of your pans and let them cool. Let’s see how long you can stand it before you slice into that loaf and devour it!