While I love may of the joys of summer, in truth I revel in these late summer/early fall days. Slightly cooler temps, garden and yard changes, wildlife waking up out of summer stupor, and FINALLY my kitchen feels cool enough to bake. Hallelujah, baking season is here.
For the last few months, the only baking I’ve done has been brief and out of necessity for the purpose of providing the little people with some less sweet treats, but now, now that I can bear to have the oven on for longer than 15 minutes, it’s time to get serious, make some bread and be Miss Picky Pants’ hero. Despite all the guff she gives me about food, I do so love being her homemade bread hero. Yes, I am a masochist. Moving right along.
A few days ago I was envisioning a little homemade tapas adventure – plant based small plates for nibbling and tasting. I knew the way to ensure some level of success was to have bread to tie it all together. Having no decent bread in the house and having already decided I could not justify a store trip, I faced the fact of returning to baking bread at home.
A few years ago I had a horrible run of bad luck making bread. A series of bricks thumped forth out of the oven. Discouraged, I released myself from the bread baking task, turned it over to Mr. Little Sis, who had a few more fancy shmancy French cooking classes than I did. Alas Mr. Little Sis is incredibly busy these days, and he is annoyingly encouraging about my own ability to dance the bread making dance. Thus, I began again to play with bread a couple of years ago, and must now confess that I heartily enjoy just about everything about making it.
In my last homemade bread post, I introduced you to this multigrain wonder, but today I was going for simple. I was short on time, so I scanned for fewer ingredients, and less rise time. Ironically in my hurry to choose an appropriate recipe, I skimmed the rise time too quickly and missed an hour of recommended rise – a fact I discovered when I was already in process, as would of course be the case. I will give you the recommended recipe, but you should take comfort in knowing that if you should happen to cut the rise time almost in half, you will still get a great result. THAT’s a good bread recipe. I’ve adapted it from an old favorite cookbook, The Vegetarian Epicure.
Whole Wheat Bread
- 2 cups coconut milk (or whatever you like)
- 3 T olive oil
- 1 T salt
- 3 T honey
- 2 T yeast
- 1/3 c warm (not hot) water
- 1/2 c oat bran (or wheat germ)
- 5 1/2 to 6 c whole wheat flour
Heat milk to scalding. While heating, combine olive oil, salt, and honey in mixer bowl (if using a stand mixer) or large bowl if working by hand. Allow ingredients to sit for at least 10 minutes to cool to lukewarm. While cooling, add yeast to warm water and allow to dissolve and become frothy. Add to lukewarm mixture in bowl. Add bran and 3 c flour. Stir with wooden spoon or stand mixer until batter is incorporated. Add more flour by half cups until dough is too stiff to stir properly. Proceed according to your method below.
Stand Mixer: Change to dough hook. Add additional flour if necessary to bring dough to point of being only slightly sticky and forming a ball on the hook. Continue to knead with dough hook for 5-10 minutes, until dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Manual Prep: Turn dough onto floured board or countertop, adding more flour as necessary to achieve dough that is slightly sticky but not wet. Knead for at least five minutes by pushing dough to flatten and folding it back in on itself. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic.
ALL TOGETHER NOW: Place dough into large oiled bowl. Turn dough over once so that the whole dough ball is lightly coated with oil. Place in warm spot with clean cloth over the bowl and allow to rise for an hour. Punch the dough down and allow to rise for another hour (this is the part I missed and then skimped on). Knead a few times and shape the dough into 2 loaves. Place in oiled loaf pans, cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes or until dough is nearly doubled. If you are allowing to rise in the oven, remove after half an hour to preheat oven. Bake for 45 minutes at 375. Loaves should brown a bit and feel like great bread (you’ll know). Your house will smell FANTASTIC for most of this process. Who needs air freshener? Just bake some bread.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for a couple of minutes. Then remove to wire rack. Despite the overwhelming temptation, please don’t cut into your bread for at least 15 minutes or you will squish up the insides and make them less tasty. Notice, I only say less, and less tasty than awesome is still pretty darned good. Your call. Ours was delish, especially with garlic mushrooms and cauliflower steaks.