Thursday, January 21, 2010

Basic Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf

So, we haven't posted since the day we thought-up and began this marvelous bread blog. However, our enthusiasm for bread is still full fledged. Right now, I am in the process of re-creating a basic whole wheat sandwich loaf (adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion) that I made for the first time on Lil's birthday** and a couple of times since. It's the best. And it's super easy. And, although I have mis-measured oil and altered other aspects of the recipe accidentally, it has turned out superb every time.

Here's all you need:
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup raw, unsalted nuts and/or seeds to your liking, chopped (optional, but delicious and highly recommended)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon of sugar (for proofing the yeast if you are using active dry)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons molasses (or honey or maple syrup)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Sidenote on Active Dry vs. Instant Yeast
I use active dry yeast for this recipe because that is what we have around. You can substitute active dry yeast for instant yeast (and vice versa) without changing any of the proportions of the recipe. From what I have read, active dry is a bit of a slower rise as compared to instant. For example, if you can expect instant yeast to double your dough in an hour you should have patience (maybe 20 minutes more) with your active dry. As a preschool teacher, I prefer waiting for dough over a snotty 3-year-old; however, I exercise my patience daily and love my kids unconditionally. Ultimately, the type of yeast you use is up to you.

Here's what you do:
  1. Start by proofing your yeast. Feed it a couple tablespoons of your pre-measured warm water and a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.
  2. While the yeast is in it's warm sugar water bath, commit to using nuts and/or seeds if you haven't already. You've got to be nutty to leave them out. I used 1/4 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup sunflower seeds in Lil's birthday loaf but since I cannot bring nuts into school I have been doing 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds. While the yeast is farting in it's bath you can chop up the nuts/seeds. Use a knife and a cutting board. It's therapeutic.
  3. Reserve a 1/2 cup of bread flour and combine all the other ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Don't forget the yeast, which should be flatulent by now.
  4. Mix it up. Not too much.
  5. Let it be. 20 minutes. You can listen to the Beatles on repeat while you blog or "maybe whiten your teeth" (K. Shanley suggestion). The flour will absorb some liquid but your dough will be sticky icky sticky.
  6. It's time to knead! Feel free to use up to half a cup of flour (I use bread but all purpose would do the trick) to coat the surface you are kneading on and your hands. As I mentioned, this dough is super sticky (and it's supposed to be, so do not fear). Some Kneading Tips: Kneading is folding -- NOT ripping. I learned a technique in a ceramics class that called "cow face." I love cows. And I love dough. Use the heel of your hands to press the dough away from you, fold it toward you, and repeat. Do NOT over do it. Knead for 10 minutes maximum.
  7. Place the kneaded dough in a greased bowl. Let it be. For 1 hour. Play the Beatles again if need be.
  8. Move the dough to a greased loaf pan, punch it down, and let it rise for about an hour or until it is 2 inches above the rim of the pan. Preheat oven to 350° about halfway into your second rise. And finally,
  9. Put it in the oven at 350° for 25 minutes. Then cover it with an aluminum foil tent, teepee, or wigwam for 20 minutes. Total of 45 minutes baking time.
  10. Let cool. Take it out of the loaf pan, sometimes my loaves need a bit of convincing to leave the pan. Coax the bread out and..
  11. Enjoy!
I don't know what it's like to be a mother (yet), but the feeling I get when taking a loaf of handmade bread out of the oven can't be that far off.

- Sarah

**Note: Lily didn't get a birthday cake this year. She had this sandwich loaf instead and she loved it.

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