On Monday, I made my second January loaf of bread. I used to have a recipe I always used for a pretty standard loaf of bread, and I normally ended up making it wheat. But, I lost it. While I consistently used it, it's ok it got lost because it was mediocre at best. It, like many homemade wheat breads in my experience, was a bit dry and a bit too dense- but still fun to make and very edible (almost good, even).
The first January loaf was ok, it was nice and fluffy and looked pretty- but it was white bread. Enough said.
The second loaf, however, turned out much better. It's a little sweet for my liking and a little too dense still, but I think I can made a few modifications and have it turn out just right.
So here's the recipe:
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
(I think next time, I will not add brown sugar and just give the yeast extra time to eat up the honey. I don't actually know that it will work, but I have suspicion it will.)
So add WARM (not hot, not cold) water and sugar and honey (or just one- maybe) into a large bowl and dissolve the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top and watch it explode. In a couple min, it will no longer look like little seeds of yeast but like soft cloudy stuff sort of floating on top of the water. Add in milk, oil, and salt. Then add a bit of flour, maybe around 1/2 cup, and stir it in. Let that sit for a while. I don't know that this is true, but I was once told that the longer you let that beginning mixture hang around, the more flavor your bread will have- so I started the bread in the morning and let it sit until the night- probably ten hours or more. Keep it in a warm spot, in my house (it being winter) that meant it stayed covered with a moist towel next to the heating vent. After several hours (it should be really bubbly and loose) add in the rest of the flour, slowly.
I normally stir it with a wooden spoon until it thickens up too much then I just use my hands. The kneading process is important, it develops the gluten and is why is starts to feel elasticy when you're doing it. Kneading is why I love making bread, but I imagine each person has their own way of doing it. Over or Under kneading is bad news, so watch out for what texture you're getting.
Once it is well knead, slowly turn it into a ball- by sort of folding in in on itself, creating a little crater at the bottom and a smooth round ball on the top. If the bread appears to be ripping, then slow down. Put the ball of dough back into the bowl, with a little oil, and recover. Let it sit for around an hours in a warm spot (it should double in size in that hour, if not, let it hang out longer). When it has grown, punch it down (literally, punch it) and knead it a little bit more. Then place it in a greased bread pan, and let it sit (covered in a warm place) for about 30 more min (while you are preheating your oven to 350 degrees), it should grow pretty fast and almost double in size again. Once its nice and big, stick in in the over for 30-35 min (if it seems to be browning too quick, you can cover the top with a bit of foil- I hear).
and ta-da! You should have a decent loaf of homemade bread. Ready for eating (fresh, hot bread, with homemade butter... just try not to die from satisfaction).