Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Everyday Bread

To introduce myself I thought I would share my everyday bread recipe with you. I make this bread at least once a week. The recipe makes 2 loaves of bread and we have no trouble using both loaves before they go bad. When I bake this bread I use local whole wheat flour and often local cracked wheat. For white flour I use King Arthur All Purpose, while it is not grown here it is a local company. Local is my first level of concern when I go shopping, although for some items price elbows the local aside. For meat I don't stray.

Years ago we used to buy Cracked Wheat Bread made by a local bakery. Everyone in the family loved it, then the bakery went out of business. I tried many other breads, none of them satisfied us and I resented the money I was spending on them. Well after fiddling with other recipes I came up with this one. It makes great toast, wonderful french toast and if I time it to be ready for dinner we can eat a whole loaf fresh out of the oven. When I have nubbly ends left it also makes great bread crumbs.

There is one problem with this bread, my children often snub bread at other people's houses. Ahh well, if I want to raise food snobs, I appear to be well on my way.

A note on ingredients, I use carob molasses when I have it. We go to Truro, Massachusetts in the summer and when I am there I make a pilgrimage to the Atlantic Spice Company. They carry the carob molasses. Last year I bought 4 jars, I might run out before the summer. If I don't have carob molasses I just use regular molasses, or honey, or grade b maple syrup. Most of the time I use cracked wheat, however I have made this bread with 7 grain cereal, oatmeal, leftover rice, and later this week I will probably use the polenta leftover from tonight. Other cereals need a different quantity of water, I believe oatmeal is 2/3 of a cup of water to 1/3 cups of oatmeal, same for 7 grain. Basically use the standard ratio for the grain in question. I do think the cracked wheat is the tastiest though. I have even made this with plain milk when I was out of buttermilk. We still ate it all.

Everyday Cracked Wheat Bread

1/2 cup cracked wheat (plus an optional 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup warm water 110 - 120 degrees
2 packages active dry yeast (1 package is 2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp salt (I use kosher)
1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp carob molasses (or use molasses or honey or real maple syrup)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

Cook 1/2 cup cracked wheat in 1 1/2 cups water over low heat until the water is mostly absorbed. Remove from the flame and stir in remaining 1/4 cup of cracked wheat if desired (the last 1/4 gives the bread a little crunchy chewiness which is really nice, although it makes slightly inferior toast this way), add the butter in 4 slices to melt. Place the 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer with the yeast and stir to blend.

After the butter is melted add the buttermilk to the cracked wheat and butter and stir so everything is warm. Add cracked wheat, butter, buttermilk, salt, sugar and molasses to bowl of mixer and mix well with the beater blade. Add all of the whole wheat flour and mix well. Switch to the dough hook and add the white flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is not sticky to the touch. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover with the bowl lid or a damp cloth. Allow to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough and butter two 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 inch loaf pans well. Form 2 loaves and place in pans. Cover the pans with a damp towel and allow to rise until the dough is just cresting the top of the pans, approximately 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool on a rack before devouring.

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