About month ago I started making my own breads from freshly ground whole wheat flour. Oh my . . . it is simply heavenly and incredibly nutritious. I’ve learned so much in this endeavor and thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned with you. I want my wheat bread to be as delicious as the $5 loaf I was buying at the Great Harvest store.
*All wheat flour is not created equal. The whole wheat flour sitting on the grocery self next to the white flour is really not much better for you than that highly processed, bleached white flour. Most of the nutrients have been removed from it so it will not go bad. Freshly ground wheat flour is only good for a few days and must be stored in the refrigerator. It will last up to two months in the freezer. I’ve been grinding mine at Hy-Vee for $.79/lb. Also, it is full of fiber . . .
*All bread machines are not created equal. In fact, using your kitchen aid mixer with the dough hook is a better alternative than a bread machine. I can make two loaves at once with my kitchen aid. I used to always use my bread machine, but then I couldn’t vary flour amounts. Now, I’m becoming comfortable putting flour in the dough until the dough is right, depending on humidity, type of whole wheat grain used, sweetener, or temperature.
*Use your hottest tap water when preparing the ingredients. I use instant yeast (bread machine yeast), so you put the water in the mixer first, then the dry ingredients, then the yeast. When using hot tap water, the flour and bowl absorb most of the heat, leaving the right temperature for your yeast. Do not use water hotter than 120 degrees. (120 degrees is the setting most experts agree is best for energy conservation and safety)
*Don’t over knead. This is practically impossible to do by hand . . . but easily done with a powerful mixer. Mine takes about 4-6 minutes to knead two loaves. I learned the “window test” to check the dough. Pull a golf ball size of dough out. If you can work that dough to have a small transparent window (imagine when you blew bubble gum as a kid), then your dough is ready.
*Use vital wheat gluten and dough stabilizer. Considering you only add a tablespoon and teaspoon respectively, these two ingredients soften your whole wheat and give it a longer shelf life. My bread last about three days if I don’t freeze it.
*Roll out your dough with oil, not flour. Any flour that comes into contact with the dough has not been kneaded and will only toughen your bread.
Tuesday has turned into my baking day. This week I made two loaves of bread (one was parmesan garlic) and two batches of cinnamon craisin-nut rolls. Those rolls are so, so, so good. And don’t worry about overeating . . . remember all that fiber? I can hardly eat one roll before I feel stuffed. I think that is one of the reasons why I am having a slower weight gain this pregnancy, I’m eating yummy, unproccessed, filling foods. For an afternoon snack I often have a slice of bread with natural peanut butter or home-mixed orange butter (the butter is not home churned, I’m just adding olive oil, orange juice and fresh orange zest to salted butter).
Another way we’ve incorporated the grains is through pancakes. I found a wonderful recipe for Grain and Nut Whole Wheat Pancakes. These pancakes were wonderful. Remember that I cook for 7, so I doubled the recipe. Not necessary. One batch would feed 4-6 easily if you are serving eggs and fruit with it. Next time I make this recipe I’m going to try adding a bit of cinnamon and vanilla. We are cinnamon and vanilla addicts in this house, adding them to basically everything!
Now that I’m proving myself to all in the house, I’ve got my eye on the Bosch mixer. This mega mixer can knead 6 loaves at once. It is pretty pricey, though, so I’ll be waiting for a while. Then, I’ll be wanting my own grain mill. So after I spend all that money, I’ll be able to make yummy, nutritious whole wheat breads for under a dollar a loaf. Hmm . . . wonder how long it will take me to recoup the difference?