The first thing I did this year, at 12:15 a.m. on January 1st, was make dough.
Years ago, I tried making sourdough bread and it didn’t turn out great—it was too sour. I didn’t bother trying bread making again for years, but I felt like I was missing out on something good. I had been meaning to attempt bread making again, knowing that fresh-baked bread is something entirely different than anything packaged (organic or not) in the store. Last year, I tried Jim Lahey’s no-knead recipe and it was pretty good, but I only made it once or twice. While the bread did have that delicious, warm-from-the-oven freshness, the loaves I made didn’t get enough rise and the slices were shaped like biscotti.
When I came across Nourished Kitchen’s recipe for Whole Wheat Milk & Honey Sandwich Bread, I was intrigued. The recipe turned out perfectly on my first attempt and I’ve made it quite a few times since. Now, I’m trying to get into the habit of starting a batch of two loaves every Friday night (a ten minute process) and finishing it every Saturday morning. The starter dough needs to sit for eight to twelve hours before adding the finishing ingredients. Then, it requires about four hours of rising time the day of baking.
This is a project that my daughters love helping with. My five-year-old likes helping to knead the dough and both of my girls like getting a small piece of dough to play with and to bake into individual rolls. The baking bread fills the house with a delicious, warm smell. We use the bread for morning toast with butter and jam, fried for egg-in-a-basket (toad-in-a-hole, bullseye, etc.), as a buttered side to complement soup, and to make unmatched sandwiches.
Possessing a daydreamy, easily-distracted nature, I’ve faltered on following the process a couple of times, but every loaf has still turned out great. For example, the second time I made it, I forgot to add the finishing ingredients in in the morning and just put the dough into the pans after kneading. I was wondering why they weren’t rising, when I remembered they were lacking two tablespoons of yeast! I was busy later that day and didn’t have time to finish it, leaving it sitting out, covered, all day. It smelled a little sour the next day, but I decided to try baking it anyway and it turned out just fine. Another time, I forgot the oats. Not a problem.
Making bread is more forgiving than you might think and some ingredients are easily substituted if you find you’re out of something. A couple of bakes ago, I was out of honey and used maple syrup. Of course, perfectly delicious. I’ve used all-purpose flour for part of the flour, instead of bread flour. The difference in taste and texture was imperceptible. This last bake, I ran out of milk, when I was yet again determinedly throwing together my dough at 12:15 a.m. (that seems to be when my internal dough alarm goes off), with my sleepless two-year-old daughter politely asking, “May I help you, please?” (Yes, because you have such good manners!). I substituted one of the cups of milk with half a cup of yogurt and half a cup of water. It was my best batch yet.
Now that I’ve figured out that Friday evenings are the ideal time for me to start my dough, I’m going to attempt to get it going earlier in the evening, right after dinner. Weekly bread making is a New Year’s aspiration that should be easy to keep, because it speaks to my cravings!
I would love to know, do you bake your own bread? Were you ever discouraged by the attempt? Any favorite recipes? See mine below.
Whole Wheat Milk & Honey Sandwich Bread
Adapted from Whole Wheat Milk & Honey Sandwich Bread by Jenny McGruther
- Yield: 2 loaves
- Active Prep Time: 25-30 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- 2 cups Unbleached Bread Flour, plus additional for kneading (or all-purpose flour)
- 3½ cups White Whole Wheat Flour (or Whole Wheat Flour)
- ½ teaspoon instant yeast
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 1½ cup water
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup whole milk yogurt
- ½ cup butter, softened
- ⅓ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- olive oil, for oiling the bowl
- 1 egg white
- 2 tablespoons rolled oats
- Whisk flours together with ½ teaspoon instant yeast in a large mixing bowl; then stir in the oats. Pour the water, milk, and yogurt into the dry ingredients, stirring to create a loose, shaggy dough. Cover the mixing bowl tightly, and allow the dough to rest at room temperature at least eight and up to twelve hours.
- With a stand mixer or hand mixer (I have this one) with dough hooks, beat in the butter, honey, salt, and the remaining 2 tablespoons yeast. Continue beating all the ingredients together until they form a smooth dough, and then turn it out on a generously floured surface. Knead by hand for ten to fifteen minutes, incorporating additional flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking, and kneading until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
- Oil a large mixing bowl, and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover tightly, and allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume.
- Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface, and split into two portions of approximately equal weight. Butter and flour two 4½-inch by 8½-inch loaf pans.
- Working one at a time, roll each lump of dough out into a large rectangle, about 8 by 16 inches. Working from the short end, roll the dough into a loaf, pinching the seam at the bottom of the loaf tightly to seal it. Place the dough, seam-side down, in a prepared loaf pan. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel, and allow it to rise until doubled in size, about two hours.
- While the dough rises, heat the oven to 400 F.
- Using your fingers, glaze the top of the loaves with egg white. Then scatter one tablespoon rolled oats over each loaf, if desired. Transfer the loaves to the oven, and bake 5 minutes at 400 F. Then reduce the temperature to 350 F and continue baking until the crust is a dark brown and the bread reaches an internal temperature of 200 F about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the loaves to cool in their pans for five minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, allowing the bread to cool completely before slicing.