Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Making Real Bread, easier than you think

I always bake my own bread.  It is pretty easy, and it is sooooooooo much better than the crap in the store.  And, no poisons, toxins, or crap I can't pronounce.
I always grind my own wheat, however I understand that it is not always possible for everyone else out there that doesn't have a grain mill.  No biggie, I recommend you buy King Arthur whole wheat and once you open the package, put it into a large plastic bag and place it in the freezer.  As we all know, real freshly ground whole wheat has wheat germ in it will spoil, turn rancid, within a couple weeks at best, if allowed to sit at room temperature in the presence of oxygen.

So, to start, the night before, add 4 cups of water into the bowl of your mixer.  Add 2 tablespoons yeast and add some stuff to activate the yeast.  I like to add about a 1/4 cup honey.  Mix it and let sit 5 minutes.  Add 3 cups w/w flour and mix well.  Add a half a teaspoon sea salt and mix in.  Cover it and come back in the morning.  Now, remove the cover and add a stick of butter or a half cup of olive oil. Turn on the mixer, begin adding more w/w flour until the dough just begins to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl.  Turn onto second speed and allow the dough to knead for at least 9 minutes.  But not more than 12.  At the end of the 9 minutes, the dough should be in a very loose ball and when you touch it, it will feel sticky.  Whole wheat doughs must have more liquid in them and be sticky in order for the finished product to be soft, moist and palatable.  The flour has a lot of bran in it and when baked it absorbs free moisture and if you tried to make the dough to have the same look and feel as a white flour bread dough to be smooth and satiny, then the finished product will be dry, crumbly and inedible.  So, we have our stiff and still sticky dough, pull it out and place on a counter that you spread a little olive oil on.  Oil your hands and divide the dough into loaf sized pieces.  Sorry, can't be more specific, it depends on the size of your pans.  Oil the pans and place the loaves into the pans.  Cover, and set on top of the oven.  Allow to rise until double and then carefully put them into a 400 degree oven.  Throw in a half dozen ice cubes and allow to bake for 20 to 35 minutes.  When golden brown. remove and allow to sit for about ten minutes.  Remove from the pan and let cool on racks.  Place in plastic bags, for the ones that you are going to freeze, suck out as much air as possible.

Sounds easy huh?  It is.  It does take practice. Getting the texture right gets easier with practice so just don't give up, keep trying.  You can make a bunch on a Saturday and it will last a couple weeks.  A small price in time and effort for food that is healthy, nutritious and won't kill you slowly.

If you want to make rolls, it is about the same process.  Just when you make the dough and it is ready to form into loaves.  Place it into a large oiled bowl and cover with a tea cloth.  Allow to rise for an hour.  Punch it down and allow to rise again for another hour.  What this does is allow the bran to absorb moisture and as it rises, the dough will become stiffer and less sticky.  Then you can turn it out onto an oiled counter and with oiled hands pull off 2 or 3 ounce balls, roll into a tight ball and place on baking sheet.  Cover with tea towel and allow to rise, slice the tops with a razor blade and bake at 400 for 15 to 18 minutes.  One of those cool things I do is cook stuff up and form rolls around the stuffing.  Stuffed Rolls.  Matt my son loves them.  In fact we just made a bunch at his place two weeks ago.  We took ground turkey, browned it and added lots of peppers and onions and a bunch of Italian spices.  It is easy to do, take a golf ball size portion of the dough and flatten it out into a circle about 3 and a half inches in diameter.  Place a couple tablespoons filling and pull the edges together and pinch to seal around the filling.  Place on sheet pan, and let rise.  I love these things and have done so many different fillings.  Italian Sausage and peppers is only one idea.  I have done scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onions and peppers with cheese.  Artichoke hearts and cubed Asiago cheese, and the sky is the limit, use your imagination.  Once cooked and frozen they are easy to through in the micro for a minute and they make a great breakfast on the run.  Yeah, maybe the meat isn't something I do anymore, but I have made a lot of them in the past.

Go for it, try it, you will love it.

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