This is a big reason why I’ve started baking all of our bread at home. It might also have something to do with the fact that I’m a control freak and I like to know exactly what’s in the food I’m eating. Maybe.
Anyway, I’ve gotten our sandwich bread to the point that it very closely resembles the store-bought bread that we used to buy on a regular basis in both texture and flavor (which has been paramount in getting my 5-year-old to eat it regularly). It’s soft, but still retains its structural integrity when sliced.
So far it’s been pretty fool-proof, so I thought I’d share it with you here.
Whole-Grain Sandwich Bread
Prep time: 20 minutes
Rise time: 2 hours
Bake time: 20-25 minutes
Yields: 2 loaves
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup honey or honey granules
1 1/2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt
4 tablespoons softened butter
6-7 cups freshly ground flour
1/3 cup flax-seed meal
1/2 cup whole toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
Begin by stirring together the first three ingredients and letting them sit for five minutes. You can let them sit longer, but then they’ll look like this:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 2 cups water, 1/4 cup honey, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 4 tablespoons butter.
To this, add three cups flour.
Turn it on and let it mix, just until the flour is incorporated. Add the yeast mixture and scrape down the sides.
It will be very wet. Turn the mixer on low and add another cup of flour.
Allow that to become incorporated, then add the flax-seed meal.
Allow this to mix in, and add the pumpkin seeds (if you’re using them). The mixture should begin to resemble dough at this point. It will still be wet, though.
Add another cup of flour and allow it to become incorporated. Keep adding flour as needed. You’re looking for the dough to clean the sides of the bowl. In the next photo, it’s almost there, but not quite. At this point, there is a total of 6 cups of flour in the bowl.
Add flour in half cup increments until the dough literally cleans the sides of the bowl. In the photo below, I had added anther half-cup (for a total of 6 1/2 cups). How much flour you add will depend somewhat on the type of flour you use (this is an equal mix of hard red wheat, hard white wheat, and kamut) and the humidity (if it’s raining, you might need to add a little more flour).
Pardon the mess on my counters. Here is a photo of it cleaning the bowl. Once this is achieved, let the mixer run for 10-12 minutes to knead the dough. At the end of that time, the dough should be somewhat sticky, but elastic.
Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set it in a warm place in your kitchen (I stick mine in the oven with the light on) for one hour, or until dough doubles in bulk.
It will happen, I promise.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide it in half.
Grease two loaf pans and form the dough into two log-shapes. It doesn’t have to be perfect – as it rises, it will take the shape of the pan.
Cover these and stick them in the oven with the light on to rise for another hour.
Once they look like this, take them out and preheat the oven to 350.
Bake them for 20-25 minutes. Halfway through, you may want to tent the tops with aluminum foil to avoid them getting too brown.
Let them cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes, then on a rack until completely cool. They will keep in the fridge, or you can freeze them until you’re ready to use them.