>Staff of Life

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I posted a status updated on Facebook the other day that read “I will never tire of the smell of fresh-baked bread. Never.”
There is just something about it that fills up your senses (like a night in the forest – name that song).  It envelopes you with its heady aroma, embracing you in a warm cloud of comfort. 
It smells good, is what I’m saying.  And, it’s good for you. 
There has to be a reason that grains have been central to civilized society for millennia.  Whole civilizations have been built on the fuel of grains.  Traces of grains have been found on 30,000-year-old Paleolithic-era grinding stones, indicating that even the earliest hunter-gatherers were supplementing their diets with grains.  One of the things that I learned in the Bread 101 class that Troye teaches is that fully viable grains of kamut were found in Egyptian tombs dating back 4000 years.  Grains store well.  Those little seed pods are perfectly designed to hold and protect the energy and nutrients contained within.  It is only when their state is somehow altered that they begin to release the goodness that is enshrined beneath the hard exterior.

For thousands of years, grains were kept in their natural state, and only ground when needed.  In the earliest of days, this was done by hand, using two stones with the grains pounded and rubbed between them until a fine powder was attained.  As time went on, more sophisticated machinery was developed to make the process faster and easier.  More recently, for the convenience of the masses, grains have been ground in tremendous quantities, the highly perishable parts removed, and then bleached and bromated to increase shelf life.  The natural state of the grain has been so completely altered that none of the nourishing properties that sustained entire civilizations for centuries are present.  In fact, the flour that most people use today (along with many other super-refined ingredients) can probably be linked to the obesity epidemic that plagues our country.

 
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

Ingredients
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.

Enjoy!

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14 thoughts on “>Staff of Life

  1. >Those loaves look fantastic πŸ˜€ I'm going to try your recipe for sure. I'm always trying to use my fresh ground flour, but it never rises as much as that.

  2. >I make bread weekly and I too can never tire of the aroma that fills my house when it's baking. This is a wonderful tutorial on a new bread for me.

  3. >How well do they freeze? That looks delicious – I get so frustrated having to buy bread, and even more frustrated when the WHITE bread is the really cheap bread, and all the others are more expensive. It's just downright frustrating…

  4. >Great oven spring on those loaves. I love that aroma too. Thank you for your earlier post on milling your own grain as well. I've since listened to the free Bread Beckers CD, along with my husband, and we are going to get a Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill. What a revelation on the nutritional difference in milling your own flour and using it immediately instead of using store-bought flour. I'm very grateful to have this new information!

  5. >Thanks all – if anyone tries this recipe, I'd love it if you'd let me know how it turns out. I've adapted a few over time, and would like to know if it works as well for others.@M. Garcia- I'm so glad! It was a revelation for me, too, and I'm grateful to the person who enlightened me. Please let me know how you like the Hand Grain Mill – I'm still thinking about purchasing one.@Mummybutterfly – they freeze beautifully. I sometimes bake 4 at the time and then freeze three to use over the following weeks. I've even heard that Publix will slice them for you if you take them in and ask, real nice like. Seriously – bring the boys and GO over one day (I'm only working for two more weeks) and I'll teach you.

  6. >Hi Kitty:I'm so glad you were pleased with the recipe. I've had pretty good luck with it continuing to rise (the "oven spring" that M. Garcia references above), but every once in a while it fails to do so. I'll have to do some research to see what affects that.Thanks for the comment and the feedback!

  7. >Mmmm I TOO love the smell of fresh baked bread and could never grow tire of it! Lovely blog and I can't wait to check even more of your recipes πŸ™‚

  8. >I just finished baking this πŸ˜€ The loaves rose an amazing amount, it was fantastic. About mid way through the first rise my daughter climbed up on the table and started poking it so I kneaded it a couple times to get the air out and then let it rise fully before shaping it and putting it in loaf pans. It seems to have worked fine. I haven't sliced them yet but I have tasted a corner that got stuck to the pan. Yummy! I reduced the honey as I don't like sweet whole wheat bread and I used oats instead of seeds. I'm very pleased with this recipe and can't wait to share it with my mom. If you don't mind(and if I can get some decent pictures of these ones) I'd like to post it on my blog as well, with a link to you of course πŸ™‚

  9. >@fooddoodles – I don't mind at all. Post away! I'm so glad it worked out so well for you – I'll be interested to see your interpretation. I've been thinking of adding oats to a batch, so I'm glad you've tested it out – I'd love to know if it seems to affect the texture.

  10. >Just sliced it and tried some and I'm even more excited about it πŸ˜€ It's perfect. I just added a large handful of oats. I haven't measured it but I assume it's only about 1/4c – 1/3c, but the texture seems to be fine. I did have some issues when the bread sprung up in the oven the surface layers of gluten ripped, but I'm wondering if that is just because I didn't knead it enough – I don't have a machine and I didn't time myself but mine didn't look as stretchy as yours. I will be making this on a regular basis though so I'll test it out as I go. Thank you again πŸ˜€

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