Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bread Baking: Honey Wheat Bread

If I had to pick my last meal on earth, it would definitely include homemade bread with lots of butter.  I don't think there is anything better.  In a quest to clean up my diet and eliminate weird chemical additives from my food (such as this shoe rubber) I have taken up bread-baking as a weekly habit.  All kinds of cooking are like therapy to me, but bread-baking is particularly satisfying.  After only a few hours in the kitchen (most of it downtime waiting for the bread to rise) you are presented with beautiful loaves that will be a staple of your diet for the next week or two.  That is the magic of flour, water, and yeast!  This recipe for honey wheat bread produces two crusty brown loaves with soft, fluffy insides.  It makes perfect toast in the morning, perfect sandwich bread for lunch, and a perfect snack for anytime.  Here's how I make it:
I measured out 3 cups of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of all-purpose flour.  I have the best luck with King Arthur brand flour, not sure why, but I think it's because it's made specifically for baking.  Dough just seems to rise better with this stuff.

This recipe used up the last of my beloved quart jar of local honey, but it was worth it in the end!  I ate this whole jar of honey surprisingly fast.  Well, maybe not so surprisingly.  I eat honey like Winnie the Pooh.  
If you're like me and not a fan of molasses, have no fear because you can't taste it in the finished loaves!  It adds a nice depth to the flavor and boosts the sweetness of the honey in the bread.

In goes 4 Tbsp of salted butter!

2 Tbsp of molasses up next

1/4 cup of honey joins the pot

1 tsp. kosher salt last to arrive

Mix 'er up!

I set 2 cups of water over the stove and heated it until a candy thermometer read 110 degrees Fahrenheit, no more, no less.  I poured the water into a bowl (separate from the honey mixture) and sprinkled 2 & 1/2 tsp active dry yeast on top and let it foam for 10-15 minutes. 
I've found heating the water just right to be crucial in getting the yeast to activate.  If the water's too cool, the yeast will sink right to the bottom.  If the water's too hot, it might be too hot for the yeast to handle.  110 degrees F is just right.

I poured the yeast and water into the honey mixture (in the bowl of a mixer) and mixed them to combine.  Then, I added the flours and mixed until it formed a dough.  Here, I've turned it out onto my floured countertop.  I kneaded it for about 3-4 minutes before I achieved a smooth baby's bottom texture.

Once it felt like a baby's bottom, I grabbed a tablespoon of softened butter and rubbed it around my mixer bowl and dropped the dough in.  I flipped it over to coat both sides in the butter and keep it from drying out.

I soaked a dish towel in warm water and wrung it out until it was just damp and covered the bowl.  It took an hour for the dough to double in size.  I took this time to clean the huge mess I'd managed to create in the kitchen and watch an episode of 19 Kids and Counting on TV (my guilty pleasure heheh).

I (literally) punched the risen dough down and let it rest for 5 minutes while I sprayed two loaf pans with vegetable oil.  Then, I divided the dough in two and tucked the ragged edges under to form two smooth balls.  I let them rise in the loaf pans for an hour.  After an hour, the dough filled the loaf pan nicely.  I baked them for 35 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Voila!  Beautiful, delicious, (semi) healthy honey wheat bread!!

After 10 minutes I turned them out onto a cooling rack.

But I couldn't resist eating a slice or two...or three...before it cooled!

Honey Wheat Bread
Makes 2 loaves

4 Tbsp salted butter, softened
2 Tbsp molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp kosher salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups 110 degree F water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

Sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water in a large bowl.  Allow to activate and form a white foam for 10-15 minutes.  Mix softened butter, honey, molasses, and salt in the bowl of a mixer.  Add activated yeast and flours.  Mix until dough forms.  Turn out onto floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth.  Place in buttered bowl, flip to coat, cover with damp cloth and allow to double in size for an hour.  Punch dough down and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Spray two loaf pans.  Divide the dough into two balls and tuck under rough edges to form smooth top.  Allow dough to rise in loaf pans for an hour.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake bread for 35 minutes.  After 10 minutes cooling in pans on countertop, turn out onto cooling rack and cool completely before storing.


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