As a little backstory, my father has been making the most delectable, most scrumptious, most wonderful whole wheat bread for most of my life. Because the demand in the household is so high for this bread, he is basically his own little commercial baker, perfecting the art of turning out five or six loaves at a time and freezing half of them to mete out stingily when Mom and I suck down the first three in record time.
Part of the problem has always been that Mom and I like “trencherman” slices…
…and therefore, tend to go through a loaf at a rather brisk pace.
When I grew up and headed out into the big, bad world for college, college, and more college because hey – the learning is never done, I missed that bread. And because I am a fairly accomplished baker I figured that it would be not much trouble to create.
Boy, was I wrong.
I procured the recipe from my father in a fit of productivity at the young age of 21. What followed was years of failed attempts, mostly of the hockey puck variety.
The yeast stubbornly refused to work with me no matter how much I spoke kindly to it or played it its favorite movies (My Little Mermaid).
But last night, I achieved a victory to end all victories. I successfully produced three loaves of perfect, wonderful, squishy bread just like my dad makes it. And I am consuming large trencherman slices soaked in butter and jam right now as I write.
This motivation came from my boyfriend, who last night produced two loaves of the bread that he has been coveting since his childhood. Right now, he is sitting to my right, contemplating how much his life needs a Kitchen-Aid, so that he can continue to produce his own childhood memory.
The rest of this post is a how-to, because I don’t believe anybody should be deprived of delicious whole wheat bread. Next up, sourdough! Stay tuned, my starter is in the mail!
WHOLE WHEAT BREAD OF THE GODS
Approximately 9-10 cups whole wheat flour (recommended as fresh as you can go, and buy it in bulk at a place like Sprouts, to save on packaging!)
6 tablespoons of butter, plus a little extra for the pans and the bowl
4 teaspoons of salt (moderates the yeast…this is important, even if you’re low sodium. I recommend iodine free salt, like sea salt, because sometimes iodine does mean things to yeast)
1/2 cup honey (recommended fresh honey, and bought in bulk if you can manage it! I’m still looking for a beekeeper who will scrape some into my own container)
1-1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk, but the recipe initially calls for skim)
1-1/2 cups water
2 packages dry yeast (I use RedStar active dry yeast, but NOT rapid rise)
HOW TO END UP WITH WHOLE WHEAT MANNA FROM HEAVEN IN YOUR MOUTH:
Preheat your oven to 140 degrees (I know, it sounds low, but just do it and stop asking questions)
Melt butter in a receptacle that will hold at least four cups of liquid
Add honey to butter, then microwave for 30 seconds-ish.
Add milk and water to honey/butter mixture, stir well.
Microwave the liquid ingredients for about two minutes, but (this is the important part) 120-130 degrees on an instant read thermometer. If you don’t have one, go get one, because yeast is very particular.
***NB: I use a Kitchen-Aid because nothing is a better wingman to creating whole wheat taste-splosions than the Kitchen-Aid. You could easily do this with a regular beater or your hands, though. And maybe you’ll feel smug because you use less energy than me. That’s okay. I’m cool with my energy consumption on this front.
In whatever mixing receptacle you have chosen, measure your initial smugness level and record. Just kidding. Add 4 cups of flour, the 2 packages of yeast, and salt. Give it a quick mix to turn everything together.
Slo-o-o-wly add the liquid honey/milk/etc. to the dry mixture.
Give it a good solid mix or beat at about 4 for two minutes (if you’re using Kitchen-Aid).
Slow back down to a low speed, dump in another three cups of flour and form your dough.
Beat the crap out of it for about three minutes. Its helpful at this point if you have a bread hook for the Kitchen-Aid, because this dough is going to start getting downright unruly. I used to think it was the funniest thing in the world when my dad would pretend to fight with the dough as it crept out of the mixing bowl.
Add about another cup of flour and beat some more. Add even more flour until you reach a smooth, elastic consistency to the dough. Add the flour slowly, because once you’ve gone too far, its hard to come back. True with so many things…
Turn your acceptable dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board and give it a quick knead to check for consistency. DO NOT KEEP KNEADING IT, no matter how great the temptation is to poke it, ooh and aaah over it, etc. No more than five hows-your-fathers allowed! (Side note, how’s your father is a thing, and a hilarious thing).
Put a bowl over the dough, and let it rest for ten minutes. The bread needs a vacation. (So do I)
After ten minutes, punch it down, and return it to work in the bowl with the bread hook.
Knead for about five minutes, and add a sprinkle more flour if needed. Mine didn’t need it last night.
Grease bowl and add dough to bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with a light kitchen towel or plastic wrap or Bee’s Wrap (this bitchin’ new stuff I found that is like plastic wrap, but reusable and sustainable). Turn off the oven, and place the bowl in the oven.
Let rise for one hour. Dough should be about twice the size you started out with.
Turn oven back on, remove dough.
Grease loaf pans (you will need three).
Punch dough down gently, cut it into thirds, shape into a loaf, and place in your loaf pans.
Cover the loaf pans loosely and place back in the turned off oven for another hour.
Dough should rise above the tops of the loaf pans about an inch.
Gently remove dough, preheat oven to 350 degrees, and place loaves in the oven for 30 minutes and bake. Your loaves should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.
And then, get in my belly.
Bam. My god, my tastebuds are happy right now. So. Happy. And added bonus, if we ever have a zombie apocalypse, me and Victor are so surviving that shit.