Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Simple Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

This delicious whole wheat bread is chewy and has a nice crisp crust. It's also fast and simple. Two things I love in a loaf. 

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread Dough
1 cup warm milk (approx. 115F)
1 cup warm water (approx. 115F)
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
¼ cup brown sugar or honey
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon fine sea salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour

Mix everything but the flour together in a bowl and set aside for five minutes so the yeast can proof. In a separate bowl, whisk the flours together. Once the wet mixture is foamy (i.e. the yeasties are ALIVE!), add it to the flour mixture. I like to use a pastry scraper to incorporate them because it makes it easier to scrape down the sides of the bowl and can be used for the initial kneading while the dough it still sticky. Cover the shaggy dough and set it aside for 10 minutes to hydrate. 

Flour your work surface well and turn out the hydrated dough, kneading it for 10 minutes until it's smooth and elastic and bounces back quickly when poked. (Tip: Mix the dough in a wide bowl and then knead it in the same bowl, adding flour when it sticks. That way you don't have to clean any floury work surface! I actually have a lovely antique wide wooden bowl for that purpose but I forgot to use it today.)

Place the dough in a oiled bowl (or drizzle a little oil in your initial mixing/kneading bowl!), cover with a damp cloth and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled (1 to 2 hours). 

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it in two, being careful not to deflate it entirely so you can maintain some of the pretty air bubbles.  Roll the dough into a loaf folding the endges underneath and place them into two very well-greased bread pans. Allow them to rise for 40 minutes. The dough should bounce back very slowly or barely at all when poked. 

About 20 minutes into the final rise, preheat your oven to 425F. When the loaves are ready, slash the tops and brush with melted butter or olive oil. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Turn the loaves out onto a rack to cool for at least 20-30 minutes before slicing so the steam can work it’s magic within the loaf (it helps the crust to caramelize).