Honey Whole Wheat Bread Between Friends
Homemade bread. It’s one of the great pleasures of life—so simple and satisfying; a marvel of chemistry. I turned against carbs for a short period of time, but missed the good hearty bread I was used to eating. I’m not a fan of the white Sunbeam variety, but prefer mine with as much grain and nutty goodness that you can pack into a loaf and still call it bread. A friend shared a handwritten version of this recipe with me after we had a conversation about her commitment to grinding her own grain. I’m not quite there yet, but hope to make that investment in equipment and time soon. I love talking with folks about favorite recipes, particularly those passed down from previous generations. It's another way to connect with people because there is almost always a personal story that is associated with a food tradition.
I recently posted a photo of a loaf this bread on my Facebook page and a friend commented that yeast breads have always intimidated her. This recipe shouldn’t. I’ve grown to prefer it to any store bought loaf, mostly because like anything we make in our own kitchen, I know exactly what the ingredients are – no “yoga mats” in my bread, thank you. Even though there are no preservatives here, this loaf will last for over a week in a tightly sealed plastic storage bag. Right now, I'm enjoying a slice with some Irish butter and a dollop of muscadine freezer jam that I put up last fall. Heavenly.
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
This recipe is written with the assumption that you will knead the dough in a stand mixer. If you want to knead the dough by hand, check out this video tutorial from The Kitchn. I modified it a bit by adding flax seeds (optional), which give the bread a nutty flavor, and by omitting the dry milk that the original recipe called for. I often make this in a stoneware loaf pan, but sometimes I shape it into a round and bake it on a flat baking stone or even in my Lodge ceramic cast iron Dutch oven. Try them all—the worst thing that could happen is that your loaf won’t turn out as planned. So, try it again!
I use white wheat flour instead of red wheat flour, but either is fine. Vital wheat gluten can be found in most grocery stores on the baking aisle.
1-1/2 cups warm water (between 95°F and 115°F)
2-1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 to 3 tablespoons honey
3-1/2 to 3-3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup whole flax seeds (optional)
1/3 cup vital wheat gluten
1 teaspoon salt
Combine water, yeast, oil, and honey in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Set aside. (Tip: add the oil first, then use the same tablespoon to measure the honey. The honey will slide right out of the spoon.)
In the bowl of your mixer, combine the flour, flax seeds, wheat gluten, and salt with a spatula and make a well in the center.
(Note: At this point, there should be a nice foam on top of your yeast mixture. If there isn't, your yeast hasn't activated. This can happen if your yeast is old or if your water was too cold or too warm. Pour it out and start over with the liquid ingredients.)
Pour the liquid into the well, attach the dough hook to the mixer, and mix on the lowest speed until combined. The dough should begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If it seems too wet, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides. Set a timer for 9 minutes and turn up to the kneading speed recommended by the mixer manufacturer. I use a Kitchen Aid mixer and set my speed to "2". Let the mixer do the work for the next 9 minutes. You may have to stop the mixer occasionally and push the dough back down into the bowl. After 9 minutes, remove the bowl and cover with parchment paper or a tea towel for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, poke the dough—the indentation should stay.
Remove the dough from the bowl and either:
1. place in a well-oiled loaf pan,
2. shape into a round or loaf and place on a parchment paper-lined baking stone, or
3. shape into a round and place in well-oiled ceramic cast iron Dutch oven.
Cover with parchment and set aside in a draft-free place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size, but no more than 1-1/2 hours. (Recipes always say this and I used to stress about it. How do I know if it's exactly doubled?! Don't worry, 1 hour should do it.) Do not let it rise for too long or your loaf will be as flat as a pancake. This is called “overproofing,” and it happened to my first loaf.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 200°F. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes or so, then remove loaf and place on a cooling rack. Step away from the loaf to resist the temptation to slice it immediately! Let cool for another 30 minutes or so, then slice and slather it with some goodness of your choice.
Makes 1 loaf
Joanne Joy is a Charlotte native and local writer currently working on a project to document and preserve the cultural histories behind family recipes in the Carolinas. Follow her culinary adventures on Twitter @_joannejoy.