Several weeks ago my dear mom and sisters spent some number of days at my house and, thrillingly, I had the privilege of cooking several meals for them. We delighted in heaping bowls of cheesy grits, pasta with tuna, capers, and white wine, tomato basil goat cheese egg sandwiches, mouth-watering double-chocolate brownies, and the list goes on. One item I was particularly eager to share was a surprisingly (and relievingly<--i have just discovered that this is actually not a word! I am appalled. a perfectly good word. i'm using it. every day.) simple whole wheat bread recipe I found earlier this year and immediately adopted as a favorite. Now, I must first confess that I have always been a fair deal intimidated by bread-making. First of all, it has yeast in it. Yeast! What do you do with yeast? It's this sneaky magic thing that's alive and grows and completely eludes me. Even still. And then the whole knead, then let rise, then knead, then let rise, then put in the oven for 4 more hours, then knead again, then in 2 weeks you'll have a loaf of bread thing never really appealed or sounded reasonable to me. I do leave my house occasionally. So, to find this jewel of a recipe was just marvelous. It's so simple. And, while you'll still see yeast included in the ingredients (it's really nothing to fear, after all), you will not, i am pleased to say, see any instruction to knead...ever! And, what's more, it only rises once...and only for 90 minutes. So, by the time you've showered and dressed and tidied the house and checked your email and taken a walk around the block, your sticky little ball of dough has blossomed into a lofty, poofy, warm pillow of yeasty (there it is, again) goodness that you almost want just to stick your face into. Anyhow, this is far easier than most recipes I've seen and certainly has a taste and texture worth craving. The loaf has a mildly sweet flavor and is perfectly moist. It's also substantial enough to slice into pretty thin slices without it all crumbling apart. My mom and sisters adored it (specifically, buttered and honey-ed)...and asked for seconds 'til the loaf was gone.
Thanks to this recipe I have begun to conquer my fear of bread-making, and, for, that, I am grateful, for how much more yummy is a home-baked loaf than a stiff, store-bought loaf that's been preserved and on the shelf for who knows how long? I dare say, this is much more fun, and, will certainly, upon lifting it from the oven, grant you a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
yields 1 tasty loaf
borrowed from King Arthur Flour
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil (either is great)
3 tablespoons molasses or maple syrup (i've only used the latter and love it. for a less sweet bread, 2T is just right)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
3 cups 100% whole wheat flour (i love king arthur flour, i will say. far superior, in my opinion.)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1. Grease well an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" pan, OR line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (if you want a round loaf like the one in the above photo)
2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl (really, it gets no easier). Beat the mixture 'vigorously,' says King Arthur, for several minutes (I use my electric mixer with the dough attachment). Transfer the dough ball into your prepared pan (if you want a typical sandwich-bread-shaped loaf...otherwise, just leave your dough in the mixing bowl) and cover with greased plastic wrap. Let it rise for about 90 minutes.
3. Bake your bread in a 350 degree preheated oven* (if you've opted for a round loaf like I did this time, transfer the dough now onto your other parchment-lined sheet at this point, then into oven) for 30-35 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil halfway through. When done, your loaf should be golden brown.
4. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before turning it over onto a rack (if you used a pan).
*I like to powder the top of the loaf with a bit of flour at this point...for effect, ya know.