Homemade Wheat Bread
Two days ago I did something that a month ago would not have been newsworthy: I left the house. It was the first time I had left home in over two weeks, and it was the quickest of trips—across the street to the grocery store.
I picked up a nasty little bug several weeks ago. What, exactly, I can’t be sure. I was not even considered for a Covid-19 test because I’m “young and healthy”—which I’d like to think is true. I was unofficially diagnosed by everyone around me. But whatever it was—it knocked me out cold for nearly two weeks. I don’t think I’ve ever slept so much in my life. But thankfully, I’m mostly back to 100%. I still have scary coughing spells in the middle of the night, and my sense of smell and taste are probably around 50% or so. At this point, that may be the scariest thing. I went from not being able to smell or taste anything for about a week—besides “salty, sweet, bitter,” I had ice cream—which I could only describe as “cold, creamy.” I can do things like, smell cinnamon now. But, I can’t differentiate between… flavors of skittles, for example. Of course, I’m beyond grateful to be alive and well. I have always had a keen sense of smell which is obviously important in my profession, so I’m just hoping that it all comes back.
But yeah, so I went to the grocery store, and there was no bread! I don’t eat a ton of bread on the regular, but I do appreciate my single piece of toast along with my morning coffee, gummy vitamins and half a naval orange. There was also no all purpose flour. And I heard rumors of no sugar or yeast! Thankfully, my kitchen is stocked with these three things, but I decided to make a loaf of wheat bread that I could share with all of you!
It uses 100% whole wheat flour and honey instead of sugar. This recipe does use yeast, so go dig in the depths of your kitchen cabinet and see if ya can find some! Otherwise, it’s easy-peasy, I tell ya. And the recipe makes two loaves, cuz if you’re gonna make bread, make bread. I have one all wrapped up in my freezer.
Homemade Wheat Bread Recipe
Adapted from Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking
2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups milk
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
6 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
Dissolve the yeast in the 2 cups of warm milk until foamy. You can use the bowl of a stand mixer for this. It should be ready in about 10 minutes. While you’re waiting on the yeast to fully activate, generously butter two 9×5-inch loaf pans.
Once the yeast is foamy, whisk in the honey and eggs.
Add the flour, salt, and the softened butter. I like to use a large, sturdy spatula to stir to bring everything together and give the mixer a head start, but the dough hook can do this work too. Mix on low, using the dough hook, for two minutes.
Increase the speed to medium-high and knead for 6-8 minutes. You can use the window pane test to make sure the gluten has developed. To use the window pane test, break off a piece of dough and use your fingers to spread it until it’s translucent. If it’s ready, light will be able to pass through the dough.
Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, and cover in plastic until it has risen, about 90 minutes.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down. Tip it into a lightly floured work surface.
Preheat the oven to 375˚F and place a rack in the center of the oven (be sure there’s no rack directly on top so the loaves will have plenty of room to rise).
Cut the dough into two equal parts. Shape each part into a log by tucking the dough under itself. Then, transfer it to the loaf pan. How it’s shaped at this part is exactly the shape in which it will rise and bake, so try to make your log even on top.
Lightly cover the loaves with a clean dish towel or lightly oiled piece of plastic. The dough will rise well over the top of the pans, making a lovely round-shaped top. Let them rise until they double in size, about one hour. Sprinkle a little more whole wheat flour on top for some rustic flair.
Bake in the preheated oven until the kitchen smells like fresh-baked bread and the loaves are browned on top and sound hollow if you tap the bottom, about 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven to a cooling rack to let cool for 10 minutes. Remove the loaves from their pans, and let cool on the cooling rack until room temperature. When ready to enjoy, use a bread knife ( a serrated knife—one with ridges) to cut the loaves into slices. And of course, this bread, like all bread, freezes beautifully!
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