In keeping with my promise, here is the first of many “healthier eats.” This is my favorite bread to make from scratch, probably because I have made it so many times that it’s practically effortless by now.
I learned to bake bread from scratch during a 3 month period of unemployment back in fall/winter 2006. I had just come back from L.A. and returned to D.C. thinking I’d have no trouble finding a job. Famous last words…
Three months later, I snagged a job I was vastly over-qualified for (the phrase, “We’re out of half & half” will haunt me forever…) – but at least I learned how to bake a decent loaf of bread. Baking bread makes me feel remarkably self-sufficient, as though I’m the sort of woman who could’ve survived the Great Depression with gusto or set out on the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon.
Oh good lord. What am I talking about?? Let’s be serious. The reality is – one mosquito bite and I’d be ready to turn that wagon around. I can’t even survive “Screen on the Green” on the National Mall – there are no real bathrooms! And no chairs! And there are BUGS!
Okay so it’s just a loaf of bread, people. But it’s a darn good one.
The All-Star line-up
Martha Stewart’s Whole Grain Bread
1 c. whole wheat flour (I used Pillsbury)
2 tbs. wheat bran (I didn’t have any – so I used wheat germ.)
3/4 c. warm whole milk (about 110 degrees)
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 envelopes active dry yeast
3 tbs. coarse whole grain cornmeal
3 tbs. + 2 tsp. old-fashioned oats
3 tbs. ground flaxseed, plus 1 tsp. whole for sprinkling (I only had whole flaxseed, so I threw 1 tablespoon in the dough – not 3 – and sprinkle some on top as well.)
2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 bread flour
1. Stir whole-wheat flour, wheat bran and 1 c. water in a bowl. Let stand 30 minutes.
2. Stir milk and 1 tbs. sugar in a bowl until sugar dissolves. Stir in yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes, until it looks sorta like this:
3. Put whole wheat flour mixture, milk mixture, remaining 3 tbs. sugar, the cornmeal, 3 tbs. oats, the flaxseed, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook; mix on medium-low speed until combined.
Add 2 1/2 c. bread flour; mix until dough is tacky, about 2 minutes. If dough is too sticky, add more flour 1 tsp. at a time. Continue kneading until dough is soft and elastic, about 5 minutes more.
4. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Add dough to bowl, turn to coat.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size (about 1 hour) or refrigerate overnight and then bring to room temperature.
5. Turn out dough onto a work surface and shape into loaf and place in a buttered 9×5″ loaf pan. Using a spray bottle, mist top of loaf with water and sprinkle with remaining 2 tsp. oats and 1 tsp. whole flaxseed. Cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let stand until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place ceramic baking dish half-filled with water on the oven rack under the bread (this will keep the bread from drying out.) Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating pan once. Unmold bread onto a wire rack; return to oven and bake directly on the rack for 5 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool completely on rack. Bread can be stored, wrapped in plastic, at room temperature up to 1 week.
I suppose next I should learn to make my own butter. (Then again, that may give me a real Laura Ingalls complex…)