Yes You Can (Part II)

As I try to tell you how NOT confusing this whole bread from scratch thing is, I realize that my series’ numbering system is sorta confusing. You have your supplies already because you read this, the first post in this series, so now you’re ready for Part Deux or Night One (see? confusing, I know.)

This is a two day recipe. [Breathe here] All that really means is that you have two short, after-work activities for two separate evenings. This is not a whip it up and have something on the table in two hours kind of recipe (those I find unreasonable, and sort of unmanageable since I’m less likely to cook the rest of dinner after something like that.)

So, Night One begins:

Your first evening’s work will require about a half hour of your time. Are you ready?

Easy Honey Wheat Bread Recipe, Slow Rising

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking (my new favorite book, really)

In a large mixing bowl combine the following:

2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (you will need two yeast packets, since packets usually contain 2 ¼ teaspoons)

2 ½ Tablespoons room temp water (between 80 and 105° F)

Stir the yeast so all of it dissolves in the water; this may require a finger or two to get the gummy yeast off your spoon.  You know it’s dissolved when it becomes an opaque liquid and there are no more clumps of gooey yeast floating around.  Let this sit while you measure the rest of your ingredients.

Pour in the following dry ingredients to the yeast water:

1 ½ cups whole wheat bread flour

1 ½ cups all purpose white flour

1 Tablespoon salt

Then stir in the wet ingredients to get your dough started:

2 Tablespoons honey dissolved to a liquid in ¼ cup boiled water*

1 Tablespoon melted butter

¾ cup cold water

*You may substitute with 2 Tablespoons of sugar; just add an extra ¼ cup of cold water.

At this point the dough will be very sticky and increasingly difficult to stir with your spoon. I usually ditch the spoon and start using my hands in the bowl before I add in the following:

1 cup whole wheat bread flour

1 cup all purpose white flour

It may seem like you can’t possibly add more flour, because the first batch of flour is barely absorbed. Just use your hands and work it in in small amounts. You can mix these two cups of flour together before adding them to the dough mixture if you’d like, but it’s not essential.  The dough should be a more cohesive ball, and I usually dump it out on the clean counter to assess the flour intake situation. I rarely use the entire two cups here, so it’s important to slowly add in the flour and not just dump it all in at once.  The consistency you’re looking for is a firm, not sticky lump.  If the dough is still sticking to your hands or to the counter, you should continue to add flour.

Your dough ball is going to be firm and tight at first because you just packed a bunch of dry flour into it.  Just like an inactive muscle, you’re going to warm it up by kneading.

Time to Knead!

the blob the blob, note the bread machine and the mixer in the background, neither of which are necessary (nor desirable) for this recipe.
Kneading your dough allows the flour to develop its gluten “muscle” strength. As you work your dough it will become stretchy and more elastic, a perfect shell to house millions of yeast-produced carbon dioxide pockets. Yum.

First, dust a little flour on the clean countertop. Kneading is easy; there’s a little method involved, but you may personalize your kneading style as you get more practice. Just fold the dough over itself (like a taco) and then work it flat with the heel of your hands (lower palm.)

flatten flatten it
taco! make a taco
repeat now, repeat
Pick up the big pancake-looking thing, flip it over and then repeat the taco roll and flattening, over and over again.  Every now and then pick the dough up and slam it down on the counter with a big whack! The kitchen counter is probably a little high for the average person, since you want to use your whole body to push down on the dough, but it works just fine. I knead on the counters because I don’t have a sturdy, thigh-high table at my disposal.

Turn on some music and work that dough. Knead for 10 minutes, or for about three songs (depending on what type of music you’re listening to.)

Things to think about while you knead:

  • Ancient Egyptians sometimes used their toes to knead bread dough. Can you imagine?!
  • Bread making has been the responsibility of both men and women throughout various cultures’ histories, a domestic task for either Him or Her.
  • French women dropped balls of dough in baskets and placed them under the “conjugal bed covers” to let the yeast rise. Bread in the bed!
  • Breathing: are you still doing it? Kneading is an excellent time to make up for all the breathing you didn’t do earlier in the day. Try taking slow deliberate inhales and exhales while you work out a rhythm with the dough.
  • What a great arm workout you’re getting (and you didn’t even have to brave traffic or transit to get it!)

Rise and Shine!
Now, here’s where you get to take the rest of the night off.  Your dough is still on the counter relishing its post-knead workout and you have a pile of dirty dishes, a mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons, staring at you from the sink. I only have one large mixing bowl, so at this point I have to wash it.

Once the bowl is washed and dried, I add roughly one teaspoon of olive oil, roll it around (or spread with my hands, a bonus cuticle moisturizer!) Then, grab your dough ball, drop it in the bowl and flip it over once, so both sides of the dough are glazed with oil.  Cover it with a towel and put the bowl in the fridge for the night.

to the fridge to the fridge!When you leave for work the next day, set the towel-covered bowl out on the countertop to rise at room temp all day. Your yeast will be working all day, just like you. Proceed to Part III next!