I have been making homemade bread for several years now. Over this time, my husband and I have several recipes that we have perfected. My favorite of all our bread loaves is the Whole Wheat French Style loaf. I enjoy this loaf because it is free-form so it can be sized to fit our needs, it freezes well, and it has great texture and flavor. This recipe was adapted from James Beards’ Beard on Bread. The original recipe is a white style loaf and calls for white sugar. This adapted recipe now uses whole wheat flour and I have omitted the use of white sugar. I typically make several loaves at once, allow them to cool completely, and freeze in a clean pillow case. Below you will find the written instructions and a video of the bread making process.
What you’ll need:
1 ½ T. yeast
2 cups warm water (between 100-115 degrees)
3 T. honey
5-6 cups whole wheat flour
1 T. salt
1 T. olive oil
2 T. cornmeal
1 T. egg white
1 T. cold water
Combine the yeast with the warm water and honey. Mix well and set aside until a frothy head forms.
Meanwhile, prepare your stand mixer with the dough hook. If you are not using a stand mixer, a large bowl and wooden spoon will work just as well. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and salt.
Once the yeast mixture has formed a head, pour into the bowl of your stand mixer. Working with one cup of the flour mix at a time, add the flour to your yeast and combine on the slow mix setting. If you are using a spoon and bowl, stir in one cup of flour at a time.
After all the flour has been combined (or the dough looks well combined and stops picking up flour), pour the dough out onto a well floured surface. Knead until the dough has a silky texture. To knead, push out one corner of the dough, fold it back in, turn the dough, and repeat. The dough may begin to blister on its skin, this is another sign it may be ready to rise. To check for the dough’s readiness, poke the dough with two fingers. It should spring back. If it does not spring up, it is not ready, and continue kneading.
Once the dough is ready for the first rise, roll into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. I typically lightly sprinkle olive oil in a bowl and roll the dough to coat. You can also use butter. The purpose of this is to coat the dough in a fat so a crusty skin does not form during the rising process. Cover the bowl and set in a cool place to rise. Allow the dough to double in size. This can take from 1-2 hours depending on the temperature. I typically place the bowl in a cold oven to rise.
After the dough as completed its first rise, pour the dough ball onto a floured surface. Divide the ball into the number of loaves you would like. I typically make 2 large loaves or 4 smaller loaves. Working with one section at a time, flatten the dough piece into a long flat rectangle using the tips of your fingers. Next, roll the dough into a cylindrical shape and fold the ends under. Place on a board or cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal and set aside. Repeat this process with the remaining dough pieces.
Once each piece has been shaped into a loaf, place in a cold oven to rise for 30 minutes. If you are using a bread stone, you can place the loaves directly onto the cold stone. If you will be using a baking dish, you may place the entire cookie sheet into the oven for the rise.
While the dough rises, combine the egg white and cold water. After the 30 minutes, slash each loaf with a bread knife to prevent it from cracking during baking. Then, brush each loaf with the egg wash to create a crisp, dark crust.
Close the oven. Turn the temperature to 400 degrees and bake 20-30 minutes. Check the loaves after 20 minutes and set additional time accordingly. It is better to add time than to cook the loaves too much. If a loaf is finished, you should be able to turn it over, knock on the bottom, and hear a hollow sound. If it does not sound hollow it is not finished baking.
Once baking is complete, allow to cool completely before cutting or freezing. To freeze a loaf, place in a clean pillowcase, twist closed, and place into the freezer. To reheat, wrap a loaf in aluminum foil (I have one set aside that I reuse each time I reheat a loaf) and bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees. Loaves last for up to 2 days.
Results: Quick, convenient, and easy! I know this looks like many steps, but the process is rather quick. If you make multiple loaves at once, bread making could be a bi-monthly activity and not take up too much of your time. Reheating the frozen loaves lets you have fresh tasting, warm, home-made bread any night of the week.
How did yours turn out?