Soft Whole Grain Yeast Bread

I make most of our bread.  Lately, this means we either go days without bread because I don’t get around to making it or my husband ends up bringing home a loaf of store-bought.  It’s been a really busy time for me and I have only made two or three big batches since the boys and I started school at the end of September.  I have some in the freezer, but there is also a fresh loaf of store-bought in the fridge, go figure.  I need to get my act together.

I tried using a bread maker, years ago.  It worked very well and I loved that it did the job for me, saving me time, even though I love experiencing the bread making process, literally hands on.  I love everything about the process from the blooming sponge to the kneading, proofing, punching down, and shaping.  That bread machine, fortunately an old, used model that was a hand-me-down, walked itself right off the kitchen counter one day and that was the end of that.  I refuse to buy another one.  One of the reasons I make bread is that I get so much out of a bag of flour for the cost.  It’s never as light and fluffy as store-bought, however, but I know exactly what goes into it, can add as many different grains as I like, and can exclude all of the ingredients on that long list of the lower priced whole wheat bags from the store from my family’s diet.  But like my kids always say, it just doesn’t fit in the toaster the same as the commercially made stuff.

This recipe is as good as it gets around here.  It is lighter and fluffier than other homemade whole wheat loaves, which can turn out like a brick if you’re not careful.  It’s the addition of eggs and lighter flour added that does the trick.  When I was a kid, I would make a batch of egg braids and give them as gifts around Christmas.  Yes, I was that weird.  This white bread was tender and fluffy and called for the addition of eggs.  It was this, my earliest bread making effort, that led me to working on coming up with a lighter whole grain recipe.

I prefer to use quinoa flour and whole wheat, but at $10/small bag of quinoa flour, I’ve taken to grinding oats in my food processor to make oat flour and using that.  If you must, you could use all-purpose flour, but we save this for special occasions in this family, to make desserts that just wouldn’t taste right with whole wheat flour.

Ingredients:

2 c. whole wheat flour

2 c. quinoa flour (substitute oat or all-purpose if you like)

2 envelopes yeast

2 tsp. salt

2 c. milk

3 T butter

1 T turbinado sugar

3 eggs at room temperature

3 cups whole wheat flour

Whole wheat flour for kneading, rolling, shaping.

Extra virgin olive oil (substitute vegetable oil if you are not fond of the strong flavor in baking.  We have grown used to it and use it almost everywhere.)

Method:

Sift together the first 4 ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk, butter, salt and sugar just until butter melts.

Pour into well in dry ingredients.

Stir together with a sturdy wooden spoon until combined.

Beat in eggs one at a time until combined well.  Stir in as much of the remaining 3 c. four as you can.

When the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl, turn out onto floured surface and knead in the rest, adding flour to the board as needed to prevent sticking.  Knead dough until smooth and elastic, 3 to 5 minutes.

Drizzle oil into the same bowl you mixed your dough in.  Work the dough into a ball.  Drop into the greased bowl and turn to coat with oil.  Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place for one hour.

Punch down dough.  Shape into desired form.  I make a loaf in a loaf pan, Baguette shapes in a pan, rolls for veggie burgers, all with the same batch, depending on what we need.  To make a loaf, roll a section of the dough, maybe half, into a rectangle on a well-dusted board.  Roll up the long end.  Pinch the seam together to seal.  Turn seam-side down and tuck edges under.  Plunk into a greased or parchment lined loaf pan.  I use parchment because I don’t like our food being cooked on an aluminum surface and I have an aluminum loaf pan.  I don’t know if the parchment helps but I do what I can.  Allow formed dough to rise, covered, another hour.

While dough is rising, heat oven to 350 degrees.  Depending on the shape, whether you have made rolls or a loaf, baking time can take anywhere from 15 to 35 minutes.  A thump to a loaf should produce a hollow sound.  For a shiny surface, brush with a whole egg wash, an egg yolk wash, milk, or a combination of egg and milk.  To add toppings like sesame or poppy seeds, brush with an egg yolk wash before sprinkling them on.

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