Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Grandma's Good Homemade Bread
I grew up on this fantastic recipe developed by my Grandma (that's us in the kitchen together--if only I could still fit into that outfit.) My family always referred to this bread by its full four-part name; anything less would be sacrilege! The recipe has trickled down the Hart family line (which just happens to be infused with culinary genius;) some, like my Uncle Charlie, have managed to successfully tweak it, but I'm not brave enough to mess with something so perfect. Hell, I'm still trying to get the kneading-and-rising thing figured out.
This bread gets its nutritive qualities from the combination of whole wheat flour and wheat germ, which join forces on the fiber and protein fronts. Wheat germ is also high in vitamin E and folic acid (a B vitamin.) Sweetened with molasses and honey, this bread's touch of sweetness is easier on your body to process than that of baked goods made with refined sugar.
Ingredients (makes one large and two regular-sized loaves; after filling two bread pans, I shape the remaining dough into a big round loaf and bake it on a baking sheet):
2 packets active dry yeast, disolved in
3 cups water, lukewarm
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey (or a mix of honey and molasses, depending on the contents of your pantry)
1 tsp salt
3-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
plenty of extra flour to dust your hands and kneading surface
1. Dissolve yeast in water (temperature-test the water by pouring it over your wrist the same way you'd test a baby bottle.)
2. Sift flours with salt into a large mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix gently but thoroughly--you don't want any remaining flour patches.
3. Now comes the kneading. I like to do this in two parts, both because the dough is easier to deal with that way, and because measuring the elasticity of the dough I'm kneading against the unkneaded batter gives me a sense of how much more kneading I have to go. Whether you knead the dough all together or in portions, it takes about 10 minutes per batch to achieve desired elasticity. I write off the time commitment as good upper-body exercise, so throw your shoulders into it!
4. Return dough to the bowl and cover it with a towel. Allow it to rise until it has doubled in size--this will probably take between 45 minutes and an hour. Make sure the bread is not rising in a drafty area; if your kitchen is cool, you can stick the bowl in the oven to protect it from drafts. In the meantime, lightly grease the bread pans with a little butter or non-stick spray.
5. Preheat oven to 350º. When the dough has risen sufficiently, punch it down to release the big air bubbles and knead it once or twice. Transfer dough to the bread pans (and baking sheet, if you're using my trick.) Allow the dough to rise again, ideally doubling in size again and rising to the tops of the pan centers. (
6. When the bread has finished its second rising stint, it's finally ready to bake. This will take about 40-45 minutes; bake the loaves until they've turned light brown, but don't let them dry out!
If you wrap your bread well in foil, it will keep for quite awhile without loosing moisture. You can also freeze part of your batch for later if you can't eat it all in about a week. Ideally served fresh out of the oven or toasted and spread with a little olive oil, pumpkin butter, or jam, this bread is also great for sandwiches or as a side with soup or salad!