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
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 .
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 .
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 .
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
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 .