I am an all out, carb-loving Italian girl. And that’s okay, because despite their bad reputation our bodies need carbohydrates to give us the energy we use to read, walk, talk, cook, clean, and of course check the latest updates on this blog. Carbs are used to produce glucose, a type of sugar that is used right away as energy or stored for later use. These little molecules are especially beneficial to athletes by preventing muscle fatigue and providing energy to sustain the person throughout the duration of their workout. But here’s the plot twist: all carbohydrates aren’t created equal. Whole grains, veggies, and fruits contain carbs that are loaded with fiber and take longer for your body to break down, providing a high ratio of nutrients to calories. On the other hand, processed and refined carbs such as the ones found in white breads, cakes, and candy do not leave the consumer feeling full, yet pack a highly caloric punch. This dangerous combination leads to overeating yet under consumption of vital nutrients that have been removed from the carbs. Whole grains are some of the best energy-boots you can give your body, and even have been proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks, asthma, high blood pressure levels, cancer, and strokes. Not to mention, whole wheat products are fiber rich and will leave you feeling full long after finishing the meal. So, when I stumbled across Minimalist Baker’s recipe for easy whole wheat bread, I decided I needed to try it. I made a few alterations to their recipe, but overall stuck pretty closely to what their site laid out. Store-bought whole wheat bread is head and shoulders above it’s tantalizing cousin Wonder Bread, but I love to make my own food from scratch when I can. You know exactly what went into the finished product and each bite tastes of success!
This recipe is truly something preschoolers could do so don’t feel intimidated: there are only five ingredients and it requires only about ten minutes of hands-on activity. The first step is to combine one package of yeast with 1 1/2 cups of warm water (I heated it up in the microwave for 1 minute!) in a large bowl, and letting it sit for five minutes.
Next comes the bulk of the dough: the flour. This recipe calls for both unbleached all-purpose as well as whole wheat flour. Unbleached flour is better for you than it’s bleached counterpart in that it is not chemically treated and all of its original nutrients remain intact. It has no added chemicals or preservatives, and is particularly high in protein. Whole wheat flour provides all of the benefits whole grains have to offer:stabilized blood sugar after meals, high vitamin content, and almost six times the fiber of white flour. Add in 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 1/4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour. In addition, measure out 1/2 teaspoon of salt and add it to the mix.
Once the mixture has been mixed into a thick dough, grease the bowl with olive oil after removing the dough, then let the bowl and dough sit in a warm place for one hour. I put mine in a sunny window, then took a long bike ride to enjoy the beautiful day. When I returned the dough had more than doubled in size! The next step is to remove the dough and knead it for a few minutes on a floured workspace (whole wheat flour on granite counter tops works fine!). Now is the perfect time to work in any add-ons to the bread that you would like: more whole grains such as millet or oats, or natural dried cranberries or chopped nuts are tasty options.
From here on out it’s smooth sailing. Shape the dough into whatever style of loaf you would like on a baking sheet lightly greased with olive oil. I went with a more traditional oblong loaf, but feel free to get creative. Once your desired shape has taken its form, cover the dough with flour and allow to sit for 45 minutes. I know, I know, it’s a lot of waiting, but I promise it will be worth it in the end.
Okay, so by now your dough baby should be bigger than a small child. I’m not even joking. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees, and slightly cut the loaf in three diagonal lines about 1/2 an inch thick (sorry dough baby). When the oven it all set to go, put the baking sheet on the middle rack and a metal pan of 1 cup of hot water on the bottom most rack. This circulation of vapor will keep your bead moist and airy…yum! Bake for 30 minutes and that’s it! You now have a homemade wheat loaf perfect for sandwiches, toast in the morning, stuffing, or my favorite: smothering in peanut butter. Enjoy!
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 packet (3/4 Tbsp) instant yeast
- 1.5 cups warm water
- Combine warm water and yeast in a large mixing bowl and let set for 5. Then add salt and flours and stir until you have created a rough dough.
- Lift the dough out of the bowl and lightly grease the bowl with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let in a warm area for an hour.
- Once doubled in size, sprinkle dough with flour and move to a floured work area. Knead the dough until it is uniform and no longer sticky.
- Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top and let sit for 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 450°F and place a metal or cast iron pan on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready.
- When ready to bake, slash the bread 2 or 3 times with a knife, making a cut about ½-inch deep.
- Place bread in oven and carefully pour hot water into the pan on the bottom rack.
- Bake the bread for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crusty. Then dig in!
- Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a rack. Once fully cooled, store leftovers in a plastic bag at room temp.