I have made our bread for the last 23 years, and will continue to do so. Not only do we know what is in our bread, it also saves a lot of money. Plus, I get the stress relieving benefits of a bit of kneading (I let the mixer do most of the work, then finish it off by hand).
After testing out lots of recipes, this is the basic one that we all enjoy. The recipe uses both all purpose and wholewheat flour, as well as a 7 grain dry cereal blend, that contains wheat, rye, triticale, oats, oat bran, barley, brown rice and flaxseed. The recipe can be adapted to make buns, and can also be turned into a sweet bread with dried fruit, sugar and spices.
Start out by measuring 1/2 cup of the 7 grain cereal mix into a small bowl.
Pour boiling water over the cereal, just enough to cover it. Give it a quick stir and leave it to soak for about 10 minutes.
Into the bowl of a stand mixer place:
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
Add 2 1/2 cups of warm water.
The water temperature should be just higher than body temperature, so if you put your finger under the running water, it will feel warm, not hot.
Allow this to sit and proof for a couple of minutes.
While the yeast proofs, add:
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
to the soaking grains.
When the yeast and warm water are foamy, add the soaking grains, along with the salt and oil.
Add 2 heaping cups of wholewheat flour, and 1 cup of all purpose flour.
Using the dough hook, mix on a low speed until the flour is combined, and you have a loose rough looking dough.
Continue to mix on low, while adding another 2 - 3 cups of all purpose flour.
When the dough forms one lump and starts to pull away from the sides of the mixer, it is ready to be finished off with a bit of hand kneading.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, and knead, adding small amounts of flour as needed, and working it until it is no longer sticky, but smooth and elastic.
Form the dough into a ball.
It is now ready to rise.
If you poke a finger into the dough, the indentation should not disappear completely.
Place the ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl, large enough to hold it when it has doubled in size.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in a draft free area to rise.
After about 1 - 1 1/2 hours, the dough will have risen to twice it's size.
If you poke a finger into the dough now, the indentation will stay and the dough will start to deflate.
Remove the dough from the bowl, and place on a lightly floured counter. Knead gently to remove excess air, and divide into 2 pieces.
Form the 2 halves into balls...
... roll each out into a log shape...
... and place each one into a lightly greased loaf pan.
Leave to rise in the pans while the oven pre-heats to 350F.
Brush the tops of the loaves with water, and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove the loaves from the oven, and immediately take them out of the pans, allowing them to cool on a rack. If you leave them in the pans, they will sweat, and the bottom of the loaf will become soggy.
- Some people are intimidated by yeast, but active dry yeast is a lot easier to work with than compressed, or cake, yeast. There is a difference between active dry yeast and instant and quick rise yeast. For more information on the different types of yeast, I have included a link:
- The 7 grain cereal can be omitted from the recipe, and just the two types of flour used. You can also use oats instead of the 7 grain blend; the oats should also be soaked.
- Do not try and use only wholewheat flour, it does not have the same amount of gluten as white flour does, and your bread will turn out a lot heavier.
- The dough does not have to be in a warm place to rise, just a draft free area. It will rise in the cold, but it will take longer. Keeping this in mind, the dough can be made the night before you are going to bake the loaves, and left in the refrigerator to rise overnight. Before shaping the loaves, allow the dough to warm up to room temperature. I find it rises quicker when made from scratch, than the cold dough does to warm up. Sometimes, however, time dictates what you choose to do...
- Feel free to add things such as grated cheese, herbs, cooked onions, chopped sundried tomatoes or olives, roasted garlic or nuts to the dough. Add these when you have added the wholewheat flour, and are starting to add the all purpose flour.
- I use vegetable oil, as we use the basic loaf for toast and sandwhiches. Olive oil or melted butter can be used instead for a richer flavour.
- To make buns, divide the risen dough into small pieces and form into balls or logs. They can be placed on a parchment lined baking sheet to proof before baking. Using a sharp knife, slash the top of each bun after brushing it with water. These will bake for a shorter time, which will depend on the size of the buns.
- I like to make pull-apart buns, by dividing each dough half into 10 balls, and placing them into the bread pan, in two rows of 5. They take the same length of time to bake as the whole loaves do, but because they start out as individual buns and join together while rising and baking, they can easily be pulled apart at the table, back into individual buns. These are perfect for serving with soup.
- After brushing the tops of the loaves with water ( which helps make a nice crispy crust), you can sprinkle seeds or grains on the top of the loaves.
- To make a sweet loaf, increase the sugar to 1/4 cup, and add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 cup (or more) of dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries to the dough.
- A spiral loaf can be made by rolling each dough half out to an 8" X 12" rectangle, brushing it with melted butter and then sprinkling it liberally with brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Starting with a short end, roll the dough up, pinch the ends closed and place into the loaf pan to rise and bake.
- Savoury fillings, such as those used for Sausage, Spinach and Cheese Cannelloni can be used in the same way. When the loaf is baked and sliced, you have a pre-made sandwhich!
- The loaves freeze well, I make 2 at a time and always have one in the freezer.