Thursday, April 11, 2013

Homemade Honey Wheat Bread

3 cups very warm water
1/3 cup honey
4 1/2 tsp bread yeast
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups all purpose flour + extra

In a large bowl, dissolve the honey in the water, sprinkle the yeast on top of the water, cover bowl with cloth and let stand ten minutes or until the yeast becomes puffy. Add the olive oil and salt. With a wooden spoon, mix in 3 cups wheat flour. Add all purpose flour one cup at a time until incorporated. At some point, if you are working by hand, it will become too stiff to continue stirring. Turn it out on to a large floured surface and knead the dough, adding more flour to build it up and keep it from sticking. Kneed about ten minutes or until the dough is soft and pliable, and not too sticky. Pull a small piece off to test. Holding it up to a light source, stretch it between your fingers to form a "window". If you can see light through the dough before it tears, the dough is ready to rise; if not, knead five more minutes and test again*.

Grease a large bowl with shortening and place the dough in it... now it it back out, turn it over and put it back in so that both sides of the dough are greased. Cover with a cloth and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled. Punch it down and knead lightly, put it back in the bowl, cover and let rise until doubled again. Take out and knead lightly, divide in half and shape into 2 loaves. Place in two loaf pans greased with shortening. Cover with cloth and allow to rise for 1/2 hour to 1 hour, or until about 1 inch above the top of the pans**.

Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The crust should be dark golden brown, and when tapped the bread should make a hollow sound. Remove from pans and let cool on rack. Store in refrigerator no longer than 5 days. If you need it to keep longer, store it whole and uncut, wrapped in plastic in the freezer.

*The purpose of this test is to determine if the wheat gluten is active or beginning to break down. Gluten is the protein in wheat that allows dough to trap the carbon dioxide the yeast produces, causing the dough to rise.

**Why does it need to rise three times? Again, it has to do with the gluten, which needs time to break down. Otherwise the bread might not cook all the way through... that, and raw wheat gluten is difficult to digest. Basically, if you want the bread to be edible, give it enough time; however, don't give it too much time or it will come out tasting "yeasty" and/or be too fragile for slicing.

What I Like to Use Honey Wheat Bread For:

MIDNIGHT SNACK!!! Freshly baked, still hot! In the middle of the night (which is the only time I can do this without having to fight for it). I take the heel, still crunchy in the crust, cut it an inch or more thick, slather it in butter, and enjoy it almost to the point of brainless stupor.

Toast. There is no better breakfast than homemade honey wheat bread toast.

Sandwiches, of course.

TOASTED TOMATO SANDWICH!!! When I make lunch for myself, I toast two slices of this bread, spread mayonnaise on both, layer in between them a slice or two of tomato, swiss cheese, and leaf lettuce or romaine, (and maybe some bacon if I have any on hand). Then I ignore my children's immediate requests for identical sandwiches, and have a great lunch. Afterwards I might make a couple more for them, but only if they behave.

Stuffing. I keep the heels, if they don't get eaten, in the freezer for use in stuffing. Use 6 - 7 one inch heels, cut into 1 inch cubes. In a large bowl combine bread cubes with 1 cup each sliced celery and onions, 1 tbls fresh ground paper, 2 tsp salt, 4 eggs beaten, and enough stock to moisten. Bake at 350 F covered for half hour, then uncovered until brown, 15 minutes or so. However, I like it best cooked dangerously ie. in a bird.

After Thanksgiving Pot Pie: Assuming you kept everything and made stock from the turkey bones. This is the best. Have two pie crusts prepared one in the pie plate, one ready to go on top. Make gravy from the stock (get 2 cups boiling and add 1 heaping tbls of all purpose flour dissolved in 1/2 cup milk, stir until, thickened). In a large bowl combine with gravy leftover stuffing, turkey cubes, cut vegetables and potato cubes, maybe a few cranberries for fun, and whatever else you think would be good. Ladle the mixture into the pie plate lined with crust. Cover with the second crust and seal (do a good job of it or you may get a mess) cut slits to vent. Bake at 425 F 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown. Serve warm.

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