Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Bread is fun to make, but it isn’t really for those who are pressed for time. The actual time spent with the dough is minimal, but you have to stick around while the dough rises twice. Despite my grumblings, fresh baked bread is worth the cost. This recipe required the dough to rise for a total of an hour and 50 minutes. It made two loafs, so I stuck one in the freezer for future consumption.

The ingredients in this recipe are 1 envelope dry active yeast, 2 cups warm water, ¼ cup softened butter, 1/8 cup molasses, ¼ cup honey, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 cups all purpose white flour. I thought the amount of water was excessive, but it worked out.

I began by dissolving the yeast in warm water.

In another, larger bowl I combined the butter, honey, molasses, and salt.

I added the yeasty water and gradually added the flour.

I added the whole wheat flour in 1 cup increments. After adding the whole wheat flour, the dough was sufficiently dry for a little more caution. I added the white flour in ½ cup increments. I only ended up adding 4 ½ cups of flour total.

I probably could have added a little more flour because the dough was still a bit tacky, but I am afraid of dry bread.

I plopped the dough onto a floured surface and kneaded it for eight minutes. The instructions said to knead until smooth, but I have no idea what that means. The dough seemed smooth before I began kneading.

My kneading could use some work, so I found an instructional article on the subject. First grab the edge of the dough farthest from you and pull it towards you. Use the heel of your palm and the weight of your body to fold the dough into itself. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat.

Kneading the dough develops its gluten. Strong gluten traps the carbon dioxide being released by the yeast, which causes the dough to rise. I imagine that if you didn’t knead the dough, your bread would be very dense.

After kneading, place the dough in a greased bowl to double in size.

Mine took a little less than 50 minutes to double.

Then you punch the dough down to release air bubbles. The dough rested while I greased the two baking dishes.

The dough loaves rose in the baking pans a second time until they had doubled in size. This took an hour.  I read a few explanations why a second rise is necessary. Some said that punching the dough down and then letting it rise again allows the carbon dioxide to be more evenly distributed throughout the dough. Another blog said it reinvigorates the yeast (whatever that means), equalizes the internal and external temperatures of the dough, and relaxes the gluten. The first explanation seems the strongest, but what do I know?

I baked the bread for 40 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. This bread seems a little more sturdy and substantive that my sweet potato whole wheat rolls, but it wasn’t dense and quite moist. It was fragrant, hearty, and inviting.

I ate some of my bread toasted with cheese and a little salsa on the side.

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