Simple Wheat  Bread – 50% whole  wheat 

Bread making  is  a  very   calming   activity –  the rhythmic  kneading  and  punching   is one  of  the  best  stress  busters .    I  am  fascinated  by the  way the   dough   changes  in  my  hands . It seems  to take a  life of  its  own .   With   kids   recovering   from  a  bout of   virus  and  bacterial infections   everyone  was looking  for   something   simple  and  refreshing .  What  better  to offer  them   than   warm  home  made   bread

I chose  to make a   simple   old  fashioned  bread with  50 %   whole   wheat .    I do not   work   with  plain  white  flour .   But  unbleached   white  and  bread  flour  are  usually  stocked  in my pantry . Any of  these   will  work   fine in  this   recipe .
Mix  the   flours  and  salt in  a  mixing  bowl .    Make a  well in the   center .  Put  1  tbsp  sugar in  the  well   followed  by 1/4 C  lukewarm   water (100 – 110 F).  Just  warm   the   water  until it  just feels   warm to  touch .  Hot   water   will  kill the  yeast ,  and  cold  water   will   take a  long  to   activate  it.  If  you are  not  sure  about the   quality of  the  yeast  activate  it  in a  separate  bowl by mixing  the   water , sugar  and    yeast .Whichever method  you  follow  to activate   it , after 10 minutes  good  quality  yeast  should  produce  vigorous   froth   like in the  picture  above.

Pour  1 C  of  lukewarm  water  to  the  bowl   and use  a  wooden  spoon or  spatula  to   mix   everything  together .  It   takes a  few  stirs . If  all  the   flour  does  not  come  together into a  dough  add  the  remaining  water  1  tbsp  at a  tome  and   stir  again .   The   final dough  should  look    somewhat  like  the  last  picture  above .  Cover  and  let  it   rest   for  20 minutes .

In the   traditional  recipes   the  baker   gets   to kneading   the   dough  at  this  point . But  in  my experience  the  10 to  20 minutes  of   resting  helps  the   dough in   absorbing   more   water  and  the  and  starches  and   enzymes  start  to break  down  reducing  the  kneading  time .  Sometimes in  whole   wheat  dough  vigorous   kneading   breaks  down the  gluten  strands  leading  to a   dense   bread .

Lightly dust  a  kneading  surface   and  transfer  the   dough  to it .  Gently knead  for  5  minutes .  The   dough may be  sticky initially , but  after a  few  minutes  of  kneading  it   should   become  more  elastic  ,  and  be less  sticky . If  after   5  minutes  it  is  still  wet and  sticky  add a  couple  of  tablespoons  of  flour  and  knead  to incorporate .  Knead a  few  more  minutes  until  the   dough  feels  very smooth and  , pliable  and  elastic .
Form into a  ball   .  Lightly grease a   large  bowl  and   transfer  the   dough ball to it .  Roll the  dough  to oil it  evenly .  Cover   with a  plastic  wrap or  wet  kitchen  towel   and  let  it rise on a  warm place  until  doubled ,  1  to 2  hours  .
Punch the   dough   down .   Transfer  to a  lightly floured  kneading  surface  and  gently knead  the  dough  a  few  times .  Form it  into a log . There are a  few  different   ways  of   doing  it .     One  of  them is  shown  in the pictures above . Lightly oil  the  insides of a  9 X 5  bread pan  and  place  the   dough  in it . Lightly coat  the top  of  the  dough  with a  little  oil  ,  cover  with a  plastic  wrap  or  wet  towel  and  let  it  rise  again  until  almost  doubled – 30 to 45
Around  15  minutes  into  rising  make a couple  of  diagonal  slashes   on the  top of  the   dough   using  a  sharp knife .  This  help prevent  uneven   air  buildup  inside  the  dough  and   helps  create an even   crust .
Preheat  the  oven to 400 degree F  or  200 degree C .Just  before   transferring  to the  oven  brush  the   top of  the   dough   with a  glaze  or  egg wash .  This  helps the   crust  brown  beautifully .   Egg  wash   gives  the  best    results .  To make  the  egg wash  break an  egg into a  small  bowl . Add  1  tsp  water/ milk  to it  and  beat  well .  Here  I have  used  maple  syrup . One  can use  simple  syrup  or  even honey  mixed  with a  little  bit  of  oil or  butter .   This  step is  totally  optional .
Transfer  to  the  oven in   with the  rack  set in the  middle .   At this  point  i usually  throw in a  few ice  cubes  to  create   steam .  This is  again an optional  step . Alternately you can  place  a  few tablespoons of  hot   water  in an oven  safe container on a  lower  rack  that  works  well too .
Turn  down  the   oven  temperature  to 375 F  ( 190 C) .   Bake  for  10 minutes .  Reduce  the   temperature  to  350 F (180 C)  and  bake 25 to 35  more  minutes  until   done .There are a  few  ways  to  tell  when  the  bread is  ready .  The crust  will be  golden  , even with out   egg wash or  glaze  . If  the   crust  does  not  look  dry  or is  pale  bake  a little  longer  and   check  again . When  done  the   bread  should  sound  hollow  if  you take it out  and  tap  the   bottom .  Alternately  if you have an instant  read  thermometer  you can  use  it  to  read   the internal  temperature  and  it  should  read  190 F (88 C)  when  done  .
Cool in the pan  for  10 minutes . Transfer  to a  wire  rack and  cool   completely  before   slicing .
Enjoy !!!

Simple Wheat Bread

Bread Flour /  All Purpose Flour – 1 1/2 C
Whole  Wheat Flour – 1 1/2 C
Salt – 1 1/4  tsp
Sugar – 1 Tbsp
Active Dry Yeast – 2 Tsp
Water – 2  C
MethodMix  the  flours  and salt  together in  a  medium  mixing  Bowl .
Warm  water  –  100 F to  110 F , or  just   warm  to  touch .
Make a  well in the  center   and  add the  sugar in , followed  by  1/4 C  warm  water . Sprinkle  the  yeast on top   stir  gently and  let  it   sit  for  10 minutes .Once  the  yeast is  activated  pour   1 c  water  into the   bowl and  use a  spatula  or  wooden spoon to  mix the   flour  and the water .  If  the  dough  needs   more   water , pour   the  rest of  the   water  one  tbsp at a  time  until a  stiff  mass is   formed .  Let  it  rest  covered  for  20 minutes .

Lightly flour  a  kneading  surface / board  and   place the  dough on  it .  Knead  gently   for  5  minutes .  The  dough  becomes  more  pliable as  you need . If  too wet  or  sticky add a  few  more  tablespoons  of  flour . Knead  gently for a  few  more  minutes  .

Form  the   dough into a ball .  Oil the  bottom of a  large  bowl  and  place  the  dough  in . Turn to  coat  the   evenly .   Cover  with a  wet  kitchen towel or  plastic  wrap and  let  rise in a  warm place  1 to 2  hours .

Once  the   dough is  doubled in size  punch it  down .  Knead  gently for a  couple  of  minutes  and  form  into a  log.  Oil in a  9 X 5 loaf  pan  and  place  the   dough  in it . Spray the   top of the  dough .  Cover  with a  wet  towel or   plastic  wrap   and  let  rise  till almost  doubled . 30 to   45  minutes .  15 minutes into rising make a  couple  of   diagonal   cuts on the  loaf  with a   sharp  knife

Preheat oven to 400 F  (200C)
Optional – Just  before   transferring  to the  oven , brush  the  top  with  egg wash  or  any glaze   to get a  good  brown  crust .

Transfer  the  bread  to the  oven  and  reduce  the  temperature  to 375 F  (190 F).
Bake  for  10 minutes

Reduce  temperature  to 350  F   (180F) and  bale  for  25 to 35 minutes  until  done .

Cool in the pan for  10 minutes.

Transfer  to a  wire  rack and  cool completely  before  slicing .

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