June 27, 2009

Basic Wheat Bread

In my post about Gas and Groceries, I promised some pointers in making the transition to your own home baked bread. I won't repeat the details but you will find an incredible savings, unbelievable flavor and fabulous health benefits with your own bread.

The last loaf of whole wheat bread I bought (and it wasn't even natural or organic) cost over $3 at Super Walmart. I can make a loaf at home for about 50 cents.

The last loaf I bought in the grocery store had a list of ingredients so long that my eyes went blurry trying to read them. Not to mention how many things on that list were CHEMICALS. Let's face it, bread is flour, water, yeast and salt. That's it! Read the package on your loaf of bread and see what else is in there.

The last loaf I bought at the grocery store was mealy and turned to mush in your mouth. Nothing what a loaf of bread should be.

My mom calls bread the staff of life. During the depression and on the prairies our ancestors ate bread because it was cheap and nutritious. Making bread was a basic to home making and human existence.

How we took something so pleasant and so basic and turned it into the list of chemicals and tastelessness we see on the grocery store shelves, I will never know. But I will forever be grateful to the lady who lived next door to us when I was twelve years old, who introduced me to a fresh loaf of home baked bread hot out of the oven.

It created in me a love for the real thing and sparked my interest in learning how to make my own. A skill that has come back to bless me time and time again.

Amy at In Search of Normal said she wished she could get her husband on board for healthy eating. Well, I am here to tell you that if you have a loaf of fresh baked bread (preferably coming out of the oven in the late in the afternoon so the smell is in the air when he comes home) on the table for dinner with some butter, you will make a quick convert of him.

My husband frequently talks about how much those hot loaves meant to him in our early days of marriage. We like to dip ours in good quality olive oil with dinner (oh so nutritious, too). But, if you are trying to change your families eating, I would take it one step at a time and put out some good butter to go with it.

I like to make a traditional loaf with all whole wheat flour. It can be a bit challenging until you are at ease working with dough and understand what it should look and feel like. The first time I made my own bread, I was reading from a cook book. It looked so easy. It was a mess! I had dough stuck to everything and spent so long cleaning up. If it were not for the memory of that wonderful smell and heavenly taste, I may have given up right then. Fortunately, I am a persistent person.

But, I decided to take it easy on my girls when they first learned how to work with bread dough. We found this super easy basic wheat bread recipe, that is so simple they were able to make it on their own as young as 8 years old. They have been baking for others for quite some time and started with this basic recipe and then progressed to traditional recipes. This is the one I decided to post to start with because I think once you see how easy it is you won't feel so overwhelmed and will be ready to try new recipes. I will share some of those at a later time.

I also mentioned about grinding my own wheat berries. This is the best for optimum taste and health. And not hard at all. The only catch is that a good grinder is pricey. I have the Wonder Mill. I don't recommend any other. If you do the research you will see that it is the quietest and easiest to clean up. And trust me, while those do not seem like good reasons to pay the extra, if you heard the noise (we literally used to grind outside because our ktech was so loud) you would understand. The ease of cleanup is nothing to ignore either. If you have a hard to clean mill you will hate the idea of grinding and will shy away from baking day...and that defeats the whole purpose.

You can make a loaf of bread by hand, I did it for 15 years or more, but now that I have my kitchen aid, I wouldn't go back to the hand kneading method. If you have a bread machine, you can mix your dough in there and then move it to a bowl for rising but you are more limited in size in the bread machine-definitely a downer if you have a larger family.

And speaking of large families. If you are looking for a fun activity with the kids, get out some gallon size freezer bags and let them each make a loaf of this in the bag. I'll tell you how as I go along.

So get your aprons and let me know how it comes out!

To make one loaf you will need:

2 cups unbleached flour
1 package or 2 1/4 tsp. yeast
3 Tablespoon sugar
3 Tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup bath temperature warm water
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup whole wheat flour

1) In kitchen aid fitted with dough hook, large mixing bowl or bread machine stir together flour, yeast, sugar, dry milk and salt.

BAG: Let kids measure ingredients into the bag. Zip it up, removing air. Let them squish it around until blended.

2) Add hot water and oil. Mix well.

BAG: Again add ingredients, remove air and zip up. Let the kids squish it around. They will have fun.

3) Add whole wheat flour and mix well again.

BAG: You got it. Let the kids add the 1 cup ww flour and zip, removing air and then squish to their hearts content.

4) This is the closest to a tricky part. Add enough unbleached flour, just a little at a time, until the dough forms a ball and clears the sides of the bowl. It should be stiff.

BAG: For the kids you will have to eyeball it to a good stiff but not sticky dough.

5) Knead until smooth. In the kitchen aid and bread machine that will be about 2-4 minutes.

If you are mixing by hand or in a bag, you will flour the counter top and your hands. Dump the dough out. Fold the edge farthest from you in toward you. Turn the dough 1/4 turn and repeat. Do this again and again. Now you are kneading. Repeat until smooth. Because of the blend of unbleached and whole wheat this recipe should not take much kneading. Several minutes should be enough. Add more flour as you work if the dough is too sticky.

6) Spray a piece of plastic wrap with Pam and lay over top of dough to rest for 10 minutes.

7) Preheat oven to 375. Spray bread pan with Pam.

8) Roll dough into a cylinder roughly the length of your pan. Let rise in pan for 20 minutes.

9) Bake about 25 minutes. Loaf should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.

10) Place on wire rack. Rub outside of hot loaf with butter if desired for a softer crust. We usually end up eating one loaf right off but it will be easiest to slice if you wait until it has cooled completely.


  1. Hi Kat,

    You have my mouth watering over that yummy bread. Since we moved about a year ago to England, we left a lot of our electrical appliances back in Michigan, namely the bread machine. Oh, then there's the Kitchenaid, the juicer, the electric oven, the... the list goes on. It doesn't make sense for us to buy too many things here because we will then have to sell them. That being said, it looks like my hands will have to do the trick. When is your baking day? And how many loaves do you make? Not that I have any freezer space! That's a whole other topic. You would not believe how much we downsized on our fridge/freezer space. I really must do a post on it. I have pictures already to share.

    Thanks for taking the time to send me all of the information about a diabetic diet. I will look into it. Also, yes, that is a new picture of my husband, Shawn, and I. We were going out to dinner for our 15th wedding anniversary. Our daughter, Braaten, loves taking photos, so we put her on the job. She does great.

    Have a blessed rest of your Friday.

  2. Thanks for your sweet words about our boy

  3. This sounds so good but I'm afraid I would have it everywhere. Maybe one day I'll get ambitious and try it.

  4. Sounds great! We're going to get back to making our own bread soon. We grind our wheat berries in our Vita-Mix; the dry container. It works great! We can only do a couple of cups at a time, but it grinds super fast. We have had at one time 3 bread machines. Working. All at once. But alas, one broke and we are down to two. I like to use the oven in the winter, but in the summer the bread machines work much better. Oh, if you ever need berries - let me know. We have about 30 6 gallon buckets. I kid you not. We won't have to buy wheat berries for like the next 3 years!

  5. I make homemade bread often, but I'm finding it difficult to get it to rise. Any ideas about high altitude bread-making? (I do it all by hand.)


  6. Thanks so much for sharing this! Now that I have a Kitchenaid (my Mother's Day present!) I really want to try homemade bread.