Friday, January 1, 2010

Modern Baking

I love homemade bread. I used to make bread by kneading it by hand, using two risings - Oi! It was an all-day affair. But after hearing about modern bread making techniques, the whole process is infinitely more simple. This has been especially advantageous in these troubled financial times; making one's own bread is not only more nutritious, it saves money, especially if the ingredients are bought in bulk.

I have finally gotten my breadmaking down to a system. I have made bread with this recipe long enough now that I have memorized the proportions. With the Bosch mixer and dough hook, I can whip up dough easily. The technique I use is identical each time too (There was an instructional DVD on using the dough hook that came with the mixer when I ordered it from Pleasant Hill Grain and I use their technique for the most part).

First, I take my 3/4 cup measuring cup and measure five scoops of wheat berries into the Nutrimill grain mill and grind them into flour. This results in about five 1 cup measures of flour. While that is grinding, I heat water in my electric tea kettle (I heat enough for my recipe plus enough for a cup of tea for me - I love to have a cup of tea to sip while I bake). I measure 10-12 ounces of cold water into a 20 oz (2 1/2 cup) measuring cup. Then I add the boiling water to the cool, and check the temperature with a candy thermometer so that it is somewhere between 110-120 degrees. I measure 1/2 cup of oil and 1/2 cup of honey and put it into the mixer, then I add the heated water to that and let the mixer stir it for a little bit. I then add two tbsp yeast and mix (I buy yeast in large packages from Sam's Club). Pleasant Hill Grain also recommended adding 2 tbsp gluten flour to help the bread rise, but I found out a few weeks ago, when I ran out, that the bread does fine without it.

Next is the flour adding technique. I add two cups of bread flour (also bought in huge bags from Sam's - tremendous savings if you bake bread a lot) and two cups of the freshly milled wheat flour. I mix it up for a bit until it looks like batter. Then I add one more cup of wheat flour and a heaping tbsp of salt. I let this mix for about a minute, and then it is time to gradually add the remaining flour. While the mixer is running, I add wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time until it is gone. (Pleasant Hill Grain has you not worry about exact proportions, just add the flour just until the dough no longer sticks to the side of the mixer. However, I found that the total of two cups bread flour/five cups of wheat flour used in my recipe is the exact right measurement for this recipe.) Then I set a timer and let the dough hook knead it for 10 minutes.

The next step is a real time saver. Because this dough hook does such a good job, there is no need to do two risings. Once kneaded, I just dump the dough onto an oiled surface, divide into two halves, shape the loaves (flatten out, fold over in half, fold in the ends, than fold in half once again, and tuck the seam into the dough), and place into bread pans that have been greased with Crisco, seam down. The bread only needs a half hour, maybe a bit more. Then, into a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. I have not yet had a failure using this system, and since it is memorized, it is not a stress at all, the mixing up can be done very quickly.

Here are the ingredients in traditional format:

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

5 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour (or all-purpose)
2 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsps yeast (or two packages)
1 heaping tbsp salt

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