There is a great debate about the healthiness of grains in our diet. Some schools of thought believe our grain supply has been genetically modified to the point that grains are more harmful and no longer beneficial to our bodies. Others argue that whole grains are a good source of energy and fuel for our bodies and offer some health benefits in the form of reducing heart disease, risk of stroke, and controlling diabetes. Many people suffer from symptoms that require them to adhere to gluten-free diets, and there of those of us (me) who believe all things in moderation is key to maintaining a healthy balance to diet and life.
I'm a sucker for really good bread and there is no way I could completely cut it out of my diet, short of being required to because of allergies or sensitivities. Always tempted by the smell of artisan breads from the bakery section of my beloved Harris Teeter and Publix, the sample tray lures me in every single time. But the problem that I have with those purchased artisan breads is that a) I can never eat all of it in one sitting (nor should I) and it never seems to be as good and fresh the next day, b) I think it's expensive to purchase if I'm not going to reap the full benefit of eating it all, and c) now that I'm focusing more on real food, I prefer to make my own bread.
This recipe from A Little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock and Roll isn't an artisan style bread and it's 100% whole wheat (something I've never really cared for with store-bought breads before), but I can promise that it is good bread. Really good bread.
I've always struggled with making homemade bread, failing more often than not, but this bread was simple to make and I nailed the results on the first try. The best part about the recipe - it makes two loaves! One for now and one for later. I froze my second loaf in a large Ziploc bag for a couple of weeks and it was just as fresh as the loaf I ate straight out of the oven. The bread was soft unlike many other whole wheat bread recipes I've tried (my last attempt could have been used as a wheel chock for a dump truck) and there was a deliciously slight taste of honey. This will definitely now be my go-to recipe for bread.
A Little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock and Roll is a great blog to read - full of healthy real food recipes and a few indulgent ones too. Head on over and check her out!
Soft 100% Whole Wheat Bread
4 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (*105-115 degrees F)
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten (such as Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 tablespoon Himalayan pink sea salt (or any salt)
1/4 cup oil (vegetable or grape seed)
1/2 cup raw honey + 1 tablespoon (or molasses or a combination of both)
2 1/2 cups warm water*
6-7 cups whole wheat flour
1. In a small bowl, add 1/4 cup warm water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon honey. Stir together and allow the yeast to bloom for about 10 minutes. (The yeast will become active and puffy if it's alive.)
2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of your Kitchen Aid Mixer, add 6 cups of flour, vital wheat gluten, flax seed, and salt. With your dough hook attachment on, turn on the mixer to stir the ingredients together.
3. Add the bloomed yeast mixture and 2 1/2 cups warm water. Add oil and honey. Turn on the mixer to #2 and allow the dough to knead for about 5 minutes. Gradually add in more flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the kneaded dough just begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
4. Grease a large mixing bowl. With wet hands, scrape the dough into the greased mixing bowl. Lightly grease a piece of plastic wrap and cover the bowl. Put the dough in a warm place for about an hour. (Until it has doubled in size.)
5. On a lightly floured counter, turn out your dough and give it a quick knead. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Lightly roll out one of the pieces until it is about 12-14 inches long. Roll up the dough and place seam side down in a greased loaf pan. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Cover both pans with a piece of greased plastic wrap. This step may seem unnecessary, but this is what will give your bread a nice swirl pattern on the inside.
6. Place the loaves in a warm place so they can rise for a second time. Let rise for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven at 350 degrees F and let dough continue to rise for another 20 minutes while the oven preheats.
7. After the oven is preheated, remove the plastic wrap and bake for about 40 minutes.