Sunday, April 12, 2009

Honey Whole Grain Memories

Growing up my mother would grind her own wheat, I remember the sound of the grinder in the pantry as she made a rich whole wheat flour that she would use to bake bread. I remember watching the dough bubble and expand; I never knew how lucky I was to grow up in a house where my mom baked bread. Those memories are really something special and the smell of the house and the sight of the seven kids in the kitchen; that is what family was really all about for me growing up. My mom made big batches of whole wheat bread slightly sweetened with honey, she would make pizza, cinnamon rolls, beignets, and sandwich loafs. I am almost sure there was never an occasion where the first loaf out of the oven was not gone before the other loafs were finished baking. This recipe is based on the one she used just scaled down a bit and tweaked to include some of my favorite flours. It produces a lovely golden loaf that has the perfect balance of sweet and salty. It really is perfection.

Bread bakers have a language all their own. Their recipes usually read more like a chemistry assignment and even I have to use a well-referenced cookbook to keep all the language straight. Trust me when I say that the serious bread bakers mean business and the results can’t be beaten. However, this recipe is written for every skill level and it is a great foundation for several yeast bread variations.

10 Grain Honey Whole Wheat Bread
4 c. whole wheat flour (I have also used whole wheat pastry flour with good results)
3 c. warm water (if you have a thermometer it should be 110°)
3 c. ten grain flour
2 c. spelt flour
2/3 c. honey (divided in two)
2 packages active dry yeast (.25 ounces each)
4 tbl butter melted
1 tbl salt

1. In a large bowl, mix warm water and 1/3 c. honey until dissolved, then add yeast, the ten grain and spelt flours, stir to combine. Let set covered for 30 minutes in a warm spot, or until big and bubbly.
2. Mix in the 3 melted butter, other 1/3 c. honey, salt, and 2 c. of the whole wheat flour.
3. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until the dough pulls away from the counter. It should still be a little sticky to the touch you do not want to over work the dough or add to much flour or it will stiffen up. (This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of flour.)
3. Run a little butter or light tasting oil around a very large bowl to coat the bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn once to coat the dough to prevent sticking. Cover with a dishtowel and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (about 2 hours).
4. Lightly punch the dough down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow the dough to rise again until the dough has topped the pans by one inch.
5. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes the bread should be a very light golden brown. Do not overbake or the bread will dry out! Remove from the oven and lightly brush the tops of loaves with a little softened butter and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Wait 10 minutes and remove from pans to cool completely.

You can substitute bread flour or white flour for any of the above flour, I like the multigrain flavors but the recipe should work with other flours just fine. You could also add dried fruit and nuts to the dough during step 2 if you like (I have used a little cinnamon with raisins and walnuts before with great results.) You could also substitute the butter with olive oil and reduce the honey by half. Then throw in a little chopped herbs (rosemary and basil work well) for a more savory loaf. I have not experimented with cheeses in the dough though I think it would work well. You could either add shredded cheese to the dough in step 2 or incorporate chunks during step 4.

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