Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fresh, Homemade Bread (even when you’re busy!)

There are few things in this world that are as satisfying to both body and soul as a warm loaf of bread, fresh from the oven.  I first began baking bread on a regular basis when I was pregnant with my first baby. That pregnancy was the beginning of my desire to get back to basics, and baking my own bread from scratch, as our grandmothers and their grandmothers did, just felt right to me. Nowadays, most of the bread my family eats is homemade, mostly because it’s WAY cheaper than store-bought (particularly the all-natural brands, which we prefer) but also because it’s delicious, and because it still makes me feel good to nurture my family in this way. Now, I know what you’re thinking… “I can’t possibly bake bread for my family on a regular basis… I’m waaaay to busy!” Well, never fear… Mama is here to help! I’m very busy too, with working full time running my own business, homeschooling, taking care of home and family, gardening, writing, etc. But here’s how I make it work!

Here is the frozen dough, ready to thaw, rise and bake!
On weekends, I take some time to make a couple of batches of dough (recipe to follow!) The dough rises on the counter while I’m busy doing other things, then I shape the dough into loaves (usually 4 loaves for two batches of dough) and then I wrap the loaves and pop them in the freezer. During the week, I take a loaf out of the freezer in the morning. I lightly oil a cookie sheet and dust it with cornmeal, and place the frozen dough in the center. I cover it loosely with oiled wax paper and a towel and allow the dough to thaw and rise (usually about 4 hours, altogether) Then I pop it in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes or so. Fresh bread for lunch!                       

Here is my recipe...
Mama Jenney’s Easy Whole Wheat Bread
1 ½ cups of warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
½ tsp sugar
1 cup warm (not hot) milk (you can use milk substitute, to make it vegan)
¼ cup oil (I use sunflower oil)
2 Tbsp honey (you can use maple syrup or molasses to make it vegan)
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup vital gluten
About 6 cups or so of whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar and ½ cup of the warm water. When it’s all foamy (5 minutes or so) add the rest of the water, milk, oil, honey, and salt. Slowly start to stir in the gluten and flour, adding a bit at a time, stirring well after each, until it forms a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured counter or bread board, and knead, adding more flour as needed to keep it from being too sticky. When you have a nice, uniform, soft, not-sticky ball of dough, place it in a large, oiled bowl, turning it over once to coat it with oil. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise until doubled in bulk (an hour or more)

Next, punch down the dough and divide it into two balls. Let the dough rest 5-10 minutes , then shape into loaves. If you’re going to freeze the dough for later, now is the time to do it! If you want to bake it right away, keep reading…

Lightly oil a cookie sheet and sprinkle it with cornmeal.  Place the loaf (or loaves) on the cookie sheet. If you are using a big enough cookie sheet, you might be able to bake two loaves at once. Just make sure there is some space between them as they will get much bigger before they are done.

Cover the loaves with oiled wax paper and a towel, and let them rise for another 30-40 minutes. Place into a preheated 350 oven, and bake for 30 minutes or so, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Best enjoyed warm, but will keep covered in the fridge for several days.
Warm, fresh, whole wheat bread! Mmmmm...

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