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Sunday, July 21

Gapers Block

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Most of the time when you want to make wheat bread, they'll take the same old white bread recipe and just add a pinch of wheat flour. It'll taste something like wheat bread, but it certainly isn't The Real Thing. It's mostly white bread with a hint of wheat.

On the other hand, if you really want a good whole wheat bread recipe you'll find it in some '70s cookbook with lots of line drawings and probably some flowers. It'll run something like this:

"Use only the freshest flour. We speak to our miller twice a week and get fresh organic wheat berries that he mills personally. We then take honey from our neighbors' bees, mix it with butter we've churned ourselves, and..."

OK, whatever.

The last time One Good Meal tackled breadmaking, we focused on a simple recipe for delicious white bread. This time we're going to try a recipe that deals with the "but I really really want wheat bread" problem.

If you're going to try baking anything that has whole grains in it -- buckwheat, whole wheat flour, oatmeal -- make sure that you have a good work-table or a decent stand mixer. Let your arms hang naturally; a suitable work table will meet your hands. Wheat requires a little bit more strength than white bread does, so having the right table makes a huge difference.

Enough babble, on with the recipe:

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread
2 cups milk
3 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. salt (maybe a little less if you have salted butter)
3 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup rolled oats
6-7 cups whole wheat flour

1. Scald the milk (I used skim). To scald milk, pour the milk into a saucepan. Put on medium-low heat stirring occaisionally. When the milk starts to steam as though it's about to boil, it's scalding.

2. While the milk is cooking, mix the butter, salt and honey. Don't worry if the butter isn't completely melted, it doesn't matter.

3. When the milk's done scalding, toss it in with the butter, salt and honey and stir to combine. Let it cool for awhile.

4. Get 1/3 cup warm water (it should feel like bath water). Two tablespoons of yeast is roughly three packets -- dump it into the water to "bloom."

5. When the milk has cooled enough that you can stick your finger it and leave it in there for a good five seconds, it's ready to go. Combine the water and yeast.

6. Add wheat germ.

7. Add three cups of flour. Stir as you add. You should have a brown, gooey mixture.

8. Add one cup of oats and stir.

9. This is where the stirring gets tough. Keep adding flour as you stir until you can't stir any more (you'll probably add about one more cup). At this point you should have something that resembles dough.

10. Dust your hands with flour and dust your kneading surface with lots of flour. This is the stickiest stuff ever, so everything that it will touch should have flour on it.

11. Start kneading. You'll know when to stop adding flour because the flour will stop sticking to your hands. You'll probably be kneading for about 10 minutes or so. When you're done, put the dough in a bowl and cover with a moist towel.

12. Turn the oven to 200 and after it starts to heat up, turn it off again and put the bowl in the oven. Your milage may vary on this one; you want a nice warm place for the yeast to enjoy their brief lives. Too hot and you'll kill them, not enough heat and two hours later you'll wonder why your bread is still totally flat.

13. Rising challenge: Let the bread rise once for an hour (or until roughly doubled). Punch down. Roll out and shape into loaves. Let rise again for 45 minutes. Bake.

14. Oh right, details about baking: 375 degrees for 45 minutes. You'll know when it's done. The crust will look right, you'll hear the cackling sound of the wheat baking, and you'll notice the edges start to dry. It could be a bit dense in the middle (like mine was), but try it again and you'll get it right.

At this point in the recipe, cooking instructors usually provide guidance as to how to serve the thing they've just told you how to cook. So I could add that wheat bread is good on sandwiches, goes well with soup, or is divine when paired with swiss cheese and tomato. Bread, so the saying goes, is the staff of life, it goes with anything. But really, that's a lie. Butter is the staff of life. Slather some of the real, buttery thing on your bread and enjoy one of the oldest foods out there.

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