I love making my own bread. Kneading the dough is so relaxing. I made 6+ loaves weekly for my large family for years until we moved to Ohio….where my bread failed suddenly and miserably! Think bricks. I tried and tried to make it happen and finally gave up. Years later I discovered why. The water where we live is extremely hard. It is also possible that the flour I purchased was an all-purpose flour, rather than hard wheat flour, which will also cause loaves to be rather flat. Thankfully, I recently learned that adding some lemon juice to the dough fixes this problem. I made sure to buy hard whole wheat flour this time, too. Hallelujah! Fresh bread again! My family has decreased in size as the kids have gradually grown up, so I don’t make 6 loaves a week anymore. I have to admit….it’s a WHOLE lot easier to only knead 2-4 loaves at a time!
Homemade Whole Grain Bread
Yields 2 loaves, 8″ x 4″ (see note below)
- 6 c. hard whole wheat flour (hard white whole wheat is even better for a sweeter loaf)
- ½ c. dry oatmeal
- 1 T. salt
- 4 ½ tsp active yeast * (or 2 pkts)
- 1-2 T. olive oil
- ¼ c. honey or maple syrup
- 2 ¼ c. water
- ½-1 T. lemon juice (optional, only for if your water is quite hard)
Mix 2 c. of flour with salt in large bowl. Set aside 1½ c. flour in a small bowl for kneading into the dough later (you probably will not use all of this flour unless your house is very moist.) Set aside remaining 2½ c. of flour and oatmeal in yet another bowl.
In a saucepan, heat water, honey or maple syrup, oil, and lemon juice, if using, to 105-110 degrees. Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast into the water. Stir briefly and let rest 5 minutes, or until a little bubbly. Pour yeast mixture into the bowl with the flour and salt. Beat with a wooden spoon, or a whisk, until smooth and for about 1 minute longer to develop the gluten. Let rest for 5 minutes (if using a spoon, just leave it in there.) After that, add the remaining flour and oatmeal, mixing well. The dough should look shaggy. If it seems too wet still, add a handful of flour from your small bowl of kneading flour. Dust the counter or kneading area with some of the kneading flour. Turn out dough onto this and knead** in the remaining flour (give or take, depending on the weather and how dry the milled flour actually is this time and how accurately you measured the flours and water.) More can be added if the dough seems extremely sticky. Knead for 10 minutes, gradually adding a little more flour to the counter under the dough, until dough is elastic and springy. It will slightly push back as you knead it. If you add too much flour as you knead, the bread will come out hard; if too little is added, it will come out doughy and won’t bake well.
Let the dough sit while you wash the large mixing bowl out and spray or wipe it with olive oil. Give the dough another knead or two and see if it bounces right back at you. This will tell you that you kneaded it enough. Better not enough kneading than too much! Place the dough inside the bowl, flipping it over so that the top is coated with oil, or you can spray the dough with the oil. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and place in a warm (not hot!), draft-free area. Let rise until double in size.
Oil your 8”x4” bread pans. Punch the dough down and knead 2-3 times. Divide the dough into 2 parts. Form into loaves. If there is any seam, place it bottom side down in the pan. Slit the loaves lengthwise and spray or use pastry brush lightly coat with olive oil. Let rise until double in size – about 1” above the pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. The finished loaves will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Loosen the sides of the bread with a non-metal spatula and tip them out onto a cooling rack.
The bread slices best when it is 12-24 hours old, leaving smoother slices and less crumbs. It can be sliced, bagged, and frozen for later use. It keeps bagged on the counter about a week.
*If using fast or instant rise yeast, you will mix the yeast into the first mixture of flour and salt. Heat the oil, honey, and water to 120-130 degrees. You do not have to proof the yeast, or wait for it to dissolve in water. Beat liquids into the dry ingredients and continue with recipe.
** Knead bread by folding the far side of the dough toward you and push down and away with the heels of your hands. Then spin it ¼ a turn and fold over again. Keep doing this for 10 minutes. You can scrape excess dough off of your fingers that clings at the start and knead that into the dough as you go. As you near the completion, you will add less and less flour to the surface beneath the dough – just enough to keep it from sticking to the counter and you. It will change texture and turn from a slight messy shaggy heap into a ball, and finally into a tighter ball of smooth, elastic dough, which will spring back at you as you knead it. This will be at about the 10 minute mark. Try not to over-knead the bread. If you have under-kneaded it, you can knead it a bit longer after you prep the rising bowl.
Note: If you find that this doesn’t rise as high as you would like, you can double the recipe and put it into 3 loaf pans. This makes a higher loaf.