Loaves of Wheat

We stopped buying bread about 6 weeks ago. It's not that we don't eat bread anymore, it's just that we don't buy it.

Last year I took my first step into the world of bread-making with a wheat recipe I found from Smitten Kitchen. And it was divine, really divine.

But when I decided to make bread again at the beginning of January, I thought I'd try a new one, an even easier one, with fewer ingredients.

It's a recipe from The Vegetarian Epicure, a lovely cookbook My Sister bought me at a secondhand store when she visited last summer. Being the sweet thing she is, she left me notes by her favorite recipes in the book. Since she starred the opening spread of bread recipes, I decided I'd better go ahead and try one.

So I made the whole wheat bread, which I realized en route to the finished product actually makes two loaves. I only own one loaf pan, so I put the other loaf in this lovely Pyrex baking dish. It seemed appropriate, considering it has wheat on it and all.

Wait a second. I haven't told you about this particular dish yet, have I? This baby is the smaller of two I purchased on a pre-Christmas shopping trip. The bigger one is red. They match a set of mixing bowls I already own and are in perfect condition. And—brace yourself for this—the set only cost me $3.99.

This is why I love L-Town.

I swear some little Pyrex fairy flits around to all the secondhand stores and leaves me little treasures when she knows I'll be stopping in. Whoever she is, I have only one thing to say: Thank you.

Anyhow. Back to the bread. It was a piece of cake to make and yielded two lovely loaves and a houseful of delicious scents.

You begin by heating 2 cups milk to the scalding point, then adding 3 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon salt, and 3 tablespoons honey. Put it all in a large mixing bowl and let it cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve 2 tablespoons yeast in 1/3 cup lukewarm water and, after a few minutes, add it to the lukewarm mixture in the bowl.

(A note about yeast: Many people are hesitant to make recipes with yeast because they fear its finicky nature sets them up for failure. I have to admit, you do have to be careful with yeast—I got the water too hot a few weeks ago and the bread was a dud. But as long as you get that water temperature right, you're set. So have no fear!)

After a few minutes, add the yeast mixture to the lukewarm mixture in the bowl. Add 1/2 cup wheat germ and about 3 cups whole wheat flour to the bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth. Add more flour and keep stirring until the dough is too stiff to stir with a spoon.

Turn it out on a floured board and knead—adding more flour as necessary, to around 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups, to keep it from sticking—until it is very smooth and elastic.

Turn it into a butter bowl, flip it over, and cover the bowl with a towel. Leave it in a warm place to rise until double in bulk—about 1 hour.

Punch it down, cover, and let it rise again.

Knead a few times again and shape the dough into 2 loaves.

Place them in a buttered or oiled baking pan, cover, and leave to rise until almost double—about 45 minutes at most.

Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. The loaves should be golden brown.

While eating our sandwiches at lunch the first week I made the bread, Conservative Hubby (who is always looking out for his figure) asked tentatively, "So, is this bread good for you?"

Yes. I said. Mostly definitely. It doesn't have any sugar and only a little bit of honey. Plus it has whole wheat and wheat germ. And it has no high fructose corn syrup, which most store-bought sandwich breads have. You know how I feel about HFCS.

So you know what he said next?

"Are you going to make it for us all the time then?"

Why yes, C.B. Yes I will. Gladly.

And so I've started making two loaves every week, so we have enough bread for dinner, for sandwiches, and for the occasional snack.

I also discovered it's great when you substitute a cup of oats for one of the cups of flour.

In fact, I highly recommend that version.

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