Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Whole wheat bread

Let me first clarify this is wheat bread but not 100% whole wheat rather 50-50 partnership of all purpose and whole wheat.

Ok, it is official that I am bitten by the baking bug. It beckons me all the time, I am smitten like this teenage girl with a crush, only in my case it looks the crush has every chance of becoming the soul mate. I am in love with the yeast, the dough, the kneading, the aroma therapy of baking and the pure bliss of biting into a perfectly gorgeous, home baked bread. Whew, I know, I know, that was a lot of adjectives and I do sound like the starry eyed teen but here I am with a perfectly valid reason to feel just 'Super' :-)
How many of you buy bread from a grocery store? We do, though not regularly. I stand in the bread aisle every time and spend more than a few minutes going over multi grain Vs whole wheat Vs wheat Vs God knows what else before I grab a bag of the bread. I prefer getting bread from a bakery where I am guaranteed of the freshness factor than regular stores. I have been secretly drooling over the breads in the blogosphere for a while now but chickening out every time I thought of making one myself. Recently, I landed on this beautiful looking bread in my quest of a wheat bread. The pictures looked so good to be true for a home made recipe and the post was inundated with positive comments from people that had actually made the recipe. So I thought there was nothing to stop me this time and decided not to be indecisive anymore.
I wanted to take the path of no return, so started laying out the ingredients. Since I have one set of measuring cups for both dry and wet ingredients and I am too lazy to wash, dry in between, I went ahead and measured the dry flours onto a plate and set out to do the wet ingredients. Then I found out I didn't have milk in the refrigerator, think about it, I am that person who never ever lets milk (by necessity) and salt(passed on from my MIL) run out in my kitchen. When a recipe calls for one Tblsp of milk, the cans are empty, well everything has a first time, right? It was one of those weeks where both BH & I had exhausting work days and I kept pushing and hoping the milk would see me through until the weekend, didn't happen. How I wish I was back in India where you could just step out in to the backyard and ask a friendly neighbor for a cup of milk :-). I have friendly neighbors here but I won't go and ask for a cup of milk from them. Well, I wasn't going to be daunted by the lack of a mere tblsp of milk, and also what was I going to do with a plate full of mixed AP & wheat flour? I checked my pantry and found a sachet of dry milk (don't ask me why I have it, will tell you when I find out myself :-)) and with a spark, added a Tsp of it into the recipe and increased 1 Tblsp of oil to make up for the liquid volume, smart move I would say.
I then followed directions meticulously until my e-mouse seemed to jump ahead of me as I was scrolling down and there I saw something that made me almost sit down and cry in disbelief. The blogger had updated the original post since they moved to Seattle from Ohio  (again, what are the odds?) that the recipe had failed her miserably and provided the new set of ingredients to make it work in the area. Honestly, I have never set out to try a recipe before reading the instructions with all the tips more than once, again there is a first time for everything, right? I was on the verge of calling off the project 'bread making' since more than one ingredient in the new list is not a pantry staple at my home. But I thought all those nice people who took time to make this bread and leave comments couldn't be so wrong and Seattle couldn't have something so destructive in the weather that a bread dough will not work. So I marched on with the original recipe like a brave soldier. So much for Seattle weather bashing, I am sure God was smiling down on me that day as I persevered, I am glad I did what I did. See the results yourself and this only makes me love Northwest more than I do already.

I made this with regular desi whole wheat flour or chapati flour (I had Deep brand at home) the first time and second time made it with Bob's Red mill stone ground whole wheat flour, no difference in texture I could make out, both tasted delicious. The addition of honey not only gives a wonderful hue but a very faint sweet taste. Next, I will be upping my wheat flour portion in this to make it 100% whole wheat bread and will come back and blog when I get to a reliable recipe.
This turned my kitchen into an Indian bakery with that heavenly smell and best of all what I found out that bread making is not scary at all, it is a very, very friendly dough and this recipe consistently makes great bread. Pay attention to the yeast and make sure you have good quality, if in doubt proof it and use it in the dough.

I wish there was a way to share the smell in my kitchen as the golden loaf baked and a way to make you hear that hollow sound of a perfectly baked bread. Well, the pictures and my post should do for now..

Recipe source: Tammy's recipes
What do you need to make wheat bread? 
Makes one 9X5 loaf
1 cup warm water(35-40 secs in the MW)
1 Tblsp milk
2 Tblsp honey
3 Tblsp oil (canola) - original recipe had 2 Tblsp
2 Tblsp brown sugar
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp dry milk (optional, recommended) - This is my addition based on an accidental finding and I think it makes the bread tastes great.
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1.5 cups whole wheat (desi or any other stone ground)
2 Tsp active dry or fast rising yeast
1 Tsp oil to prepare the dish & pan
1/4 Tsp AP flour to prepare pan

How do you make wheat bread? 
  • Put the first 7 ingredients listed above in to a big mixing bowl and stir it a couple of times. 
  • Measure out the wheat flour and all purpose flour and sieve them together. 
  • Add the flour into the bowl with the wet ingredients, add yeast and stir together with a spoon. 
  • Dump the contents of the mixing bowl and let it rest for a minute (this settles the yeast and gives it a chance to rest)
  • Set your timer to 20 minutes and start kneading (see notes below for tips on kneading by hand), this is a great work out as you swing back and forth and flex your wrist and forearm muscles. If you think you are well exercised, find a couch potato around the house (read spouse) and put him to work with an incentive of the warm slice of bread. Put on some music to help you on.
  • At 20 minutes, stop kneading and form the dough into a ball. 
  • Smear a couple of drops of oil around the inner surface of a big bowl, put the dough ball in it, cover with a cling wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or until it doubles in size. 
  • Take the dough, punch it down gently and form it into a a bread loaf, see notes for details shaping bread loaf. 
  • Prepare a 9X5 bread pan by smearing oil all over the inner surface and dust it with a couple of pinches of AP flour. 
  • Put the shaped dough into the pan, cover with a cling wrap and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until it doubles in size. 
  • Preheat the oven to 350F, bake for 20 minutes, turn the pan around for uniform baking and continue to bake for another 12-15 minutes. When you tap on the surface of the bread, it should sound hollow and light. 
  • Take out the pan, let it rest for 5 minutes on a wire rack, take the bread out of the pan and let it rest on the wire rack until it cools down completely. 
  • This is the toughest part of the bread making, the smell wafting from your kitchen is so intoxicating and the sight of that golden brown bread is so beckoning, you just have to find an excuse to get out of the house for an hour or so. 
  • Keep the bread covered with a towel while it is cooling to help it stay soft. 
  • After the loaf has cooled completely, slice it with a sharp knife and enjoy any way you like it. This is a hearty bread with a perfect texture and holds up well in sandwiches.
Kneading by hand: Take the dough onto a flat surface, press the heel of your hand into the center of the dough, curl your fingers & grab the far end of the dough. Stretch it and pull towards you and give the dough a half rotation. Keep rotating the dough and continue to knead uniformly.

Shaping a bread: I found a very useful link here with a video on shaping the bread, so I am not going to regurgitate all that info, here you go to find the tips. The idea is to keep the shaped roll taut so it bakes uniformly and doesn't fall after and during baking.
  • If at 20 minutes you notice the bread top is turning brown quickly, cover it lightly with a piece of aluminium foil. This slows down the browning while giving the bread a chance to bake evenly. 
  • Slice the bread only after it has cooled completely, else the slices will be crumbling. 
  • Covering the bread with a layer of towel helps it to stay soft and not become dry. 
  • You can reduce the amount of brown sugar by half, but this is not a sweet bread by any means. 
  • Cooled and sliced bread can be wrapped in a plastic bag and refrigerated for storage. I haven't had to do that as on both occasions the bread was gone completely in the first hour after slicing. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

first time ventured bread is really looking fantastic. whole wheat bread is always healthy and tasty. thanks for the recipe. i am eagerly waiting to taste it.

Saranya Balaji said...

looks lovely and well made one...

Priya Suresh said...

Love baking bread at home,its quite a stress burster for me, your bread came out prefectly and lovely..Beautiful loaf.

Julie said...

bread looks soft & perfect!!

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me which brand of yeast to use. I would want to bake but the thing that scares me is which brand of yeast to use.

Anonymous said...

Amazing, how much fun was it to get looking that good😉

Nagashree said...

Thanks for the comments all.

Anonymous - I get 'Red star' yeast and I usually use the quick rise also called bread machine yeast which is fast acting. Hope this is helpful. Let me know your experience with baking.