On Monday, I went to watch Northern Exposure at a friend's house. When I walked in, the house smelled of bread--lovely!--and another friend and I talked about how nice it would be to make bread. I didn't know if we'd follow through--there are so many things that can get in the way of a simple afternoon of baking.
But yesterday, after we worked in the local food co-op for a while, we went to my place and made a modified version of the Honey-Wheat Bread from The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook. I looked through several recipes before landing on this one. I wanted one that was at least 1/2 whole wheat. I wanted one that made more than 1 loaf. I wanted one that didn't use 7-10 cups of flour because I didn't have a big enough container for it to proof in. I wanted one that didn't need a sponge since I hadn't started one on Tuesday. And I wanted one I wouldn't have to go buy additional ingredients to make.
I substituted in some bread flour because it has a higher gluten content. The original recipe also calls for slightly less yeast and coating the loaves with flour instead of oatmeal. I finished a bottle of honey with this, so my bread has a little extra honey.
I also used white whole wheat, because it seems to work better in soft bread recipes than regular whole wheat, which works fantastically in really hearty bread recipes.
My friend and I got the basic set of ingredients together, kneaded the dough, and then worked and chatted in my living room while the dough rose the first time. By the time the bread was finished, about 3 hours after we'd started, the entire house smelled absolutely lovely and I wondered--again--why I don't make bread more often.
I served this with a carrot-ginger soup for dinner. We made open-faced hummus and grilled baby Swiss cheese sandwiches. It stood up quite nicely to the garlicky-hummus (which blends well with baby Swiss) and the sweet-richness of carrot-ginger soup.
1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
5 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
about 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon oatmeal, for topping (old-fashioned or quick, not instant)
In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup warm water (about the temperature you'd give to an infant, if you don't have a food thermometer), yeast, and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 cup of warm water, honey, butter, egg, salt, and whole-wheat flour until smooth. Gradually stir in 1 cup bread flour and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 7-10 minutes, working in enough of the remaining 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour to form a slightly tacky dough. (A slightly sticky dough is desirable in most bread recipes).
Shape the dough into a ball; place in a bowl coated with olive oil and turn the dough to cover with oil. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half; cover and let rest 10 minutes. On a large ungreased cookie sheet, shape each dough lump into a 6" x 4.5" ovals. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. With a serrated knife, cut three 3-inch-long and 1/4-inch deep diagonal slashes across tops of loaves.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle oatmeal on top of loaves. Bake until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped on the bottom, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.