Okay everyone, I am now entering a zone which is a passion of mine; Baking Bread! Those who know me well understand that I am a good cook, but baking is a challenge for me. It’s because of all the details and measurements… I love to experiment and cooking is my creative outlet — hence, baking, with its precise recipes is more of a challenge. But… I LOVE a challenge! So, from a non-baker, here is a true “how to make” the most extraordinary recipe for soft, lightly sweet, simple, nutritious, inexpensive, adaptive, Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread!
We have moved to multiple states and have lived at sea-level and at high altitude. I wanted a great stand-by recipe that could perform well no matter where my family lived. As many bakers know, a versatile recipe is difficult to create without problems such as the bread not rising, or turning out too dry or too wet, or not baking properly. This Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread is wonderful. You will never again buy a sandwich loaf of bread from the grocery store.
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I will be holding a contest with this article. If you “like” this article, and live in the United States of America, you will have a chance to win 100 bread bags and a bench scraper from Pleasant Hill Grain!
Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
(Makes 2 Loaves)
Step One: The Soak (1 1/2 hours)
In a mixing bowl, mix 3 cups of whole wheat flour, 3-3/4 tsp of Vital Wheat Gluten and 2 -1/2 cups of water (filtered or well water, no bleach in water). If you are using freshly ground whole wheat flour, decrease water to 2-1/4 cups. Vital Wheat Gluten provides your dough with the necessary protein structure, giving it the ability to rise well. Cover the mixture with a damp tea towel. Let this mixture soak for 1 1/2 hours.
Step Two: Make the Sponge and Prepare the Salt, Honey and Butter (1/2 hour)
After the soak, fill a measuring cup with 1/4 cup of lukewarm water, 2-1/4 tsp of Instant Yeast and 1 tbsp of honey. Lightly mix a few times until the yeast particles are hydrated. After 1/2 hour, the Instant Yeast should be very much alive and bloom up the measuring cup’s side. Melt the butter, salt and honey together. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Step Three: Mix In Remaining Ingredients (15 minutes)
After the flour has soaked and the sponge has bloomed, add the butter, salt and honey mixture. Stir to combine. Add 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 2-1/2 tsp of Vital Wheat Gluten to the dough. Stir well to thoroughly combine; stir first until it becomes too difficult to stir, then turn out the dough onto a lightly flour dusted surface and knead together. Add remaining 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1-1/4 tsp of Vital Wheat Gluten gradually until you reach the right consistency. What is the right consistency? The dough should be fully combined with all the flour hydrated. Dough should be slightly sticky; touch with your fingertips-lifting up, the dough should pull up and quickly release, springing back into place. Dough should be pliable and not stiff, dry or too sticky. This last cup of flour along with the Vital Wheat Gluten is what makes this recipe so versatile. We live in a wet environment and almost always need the full cup of flour. Your environment will probably be different. Clean out your mixing bowl and grease it.
Step Four: Kneading the Dough (20 minutes)
Add a dusting of flour to the surface then you knead the dough for 15 minutes. Turn on the timer.
How do you knead dough?
- With both hands press down on the dough, flattening it.
- Turn the dough 90 degrees
- Slap the dough, fold it over
Form the dough into a ball and place into the greased mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel.
Step Five: The Rise (1 hour – 4 hours)
Place the covered bowl of dough in a warm place in the kitchen. Let it rise to the point that it has doubled in size. How long this takes depends mainly on how warm your warm spot is. Altitude also can have an effect on how long the dough takes to rise.
Step Six: Make Loaves and Rise Again (1 hour)
Punch down the dough. Knead the dough about five more times. Divide into two even loaves with your bench scraper. Form each dough half into a loaf. Place in greased bread pans. Cut the dough down the center at a ¼” depth. Cover with a damp tea towel. Let the dough rise again in a warm place in the kitchen for about an hour. When the dough has doubled, or is getting close, preheat your oven to 350o F.
Step Seven: Bake the Bread (40 minutes @ 350o F)
Once the loaves have doubled in size and the oven is preheated to 350o F, place the loaves into the oven to bake. Let them bake for 40 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Once baked, take them out of the oven to cool on the stove top. Melt 2 tbsp of butter and brush the tops of the loaves with the butter. This will ensure the tops are tender and pliable, not to mention delicious. Let the loaves cool then remove them from the bread pans. Slice and enjoy! Any left overs should be stored in a bread box, a bread bag or in the fridge.