Sunday, January 4, 2009

Treehugger Bread

I'm not a baker. I don't understand the chemistry behind it (and true bakers can go on and on about that), and I don't usually have the time to indulge in it. Nonetheless, carbs are my downfall, and this bread is likely to become a staple at my house. I modified it from a bread machine recipe I found at and was delighted when it turned out absolutely perfect. Bread seems hard, but don't let the mysterious terminology and long preparation times scare you off -- even bread that doesn't turn out quite right will probably still taste terrific. Of course, if you have a bread machine, just toss everything into it and go.

Start to finish: About 2 hours
Yield: 2 pounds

Treehugger Bread
1 1/3 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons dry milk powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups bread flour (use bread flour, not all purpose - there's some chemical reason)
3/4 cup multigrain hot cereal (I use Bob's Red Mill 8 Grain)
  1. Dissolve the honey in the warm water. I usually use water as hot as it will come out of the tap, because it will cool down to the desired temperature as it's dissolving the honey.
  2. Add the yeast to the honey/water mixture and let it proof. (That just means to go away for about 10 minutes and let it get all bubbly while you're gone. If it doesn't get bubbly and smell like bread, your yeast is bad, and you'll need to start over.)
  3. Stir the milk powder, oil, egg, and salt together. Add this to the proofed yeast.
  4. Add the whole wheat flour, 2 cups of the bread flour, and the multigrain cereal to the yeast mixture. Stir it together. I don't have a magic technique for this. Just stir it up. It will be quite sticky at this point. Add more bread flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture isn't sticky anymore. I find it's easiest to judge this if I mix it with my hands. You'll probably need at least 1/2 cup more flour, and maybe a full cup, but it varies depending on humidity, what your yeast did, the phase of the moon...
  5. At this point you should have a nice ball of nonsticky dough that pulls together. Pour a little vegetable oil down the sides of the bowl you've been working in, and swirl it around so that it's evenly distributed. Turn your ball of dough over in the bowl once or twice to coat it with oil, then cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel and set it aside for a moment.
  6. Let the dough rise until it's doubled in size (about 30 minutes). I put the bowl with the dough in a cold oven, along with a kettle of boiling water. The temperature and humidity in the oven seem to help dough rise perfectly.
  7. When the dough has doubled, punch it down to its previous size again. Spray two 1-pound loaf pans with cooking spray. Divide the dough in half, shape each half into loaf shape, and put one in each pan.
  8. Let the dough rise a second time until doubled in size (about 30 minutes). I put the pans with the dough on them on top of the stove while I preheat the oven for baking (375 degrees).
  9. When the dough has reached the top of the loaf pans, put the pans in a 375 degree oven. Cook for 20 minutes. They should be nice and golden brown by this point. If they're not, give them another 5 minutes.
  10. Brush the tops of finished loaves with melted butter to keep the crusts soft. Remove the loaves from the pans, let them cool, and enjoy! (Or eat half a loaf almost immediately, like I did.)

1 comment:

  1. I just made a new batch of this, using 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed in 3 tablespoons of water to replace the egg. (It wasn't an intentional experiment -- I just didn't realize I was out of eggs until after I started the yeast.) It turned out great!