Ok, so this is how my morning began;
I woke up nice and early with Ellie, and even took a few minutes to tell the woodland creatures of my plans to bake two loaves of bread for the family. Joe would have nice, fresh, warm bread for his sandwich at work and he would awake, as delighted as I was at the smell of baking bread and fresh coffee wafting through the air.
Then this happened;
Uh huh. To recap; I started making dough, spilled flour on the floor (hadn’t had a sip of coffee yet!) ran out of flour, and two of my kids were making flour angels before you could say “Bob’s your uncle!” (Honestly, I don’t know why one would say ‘Bob’s your uncle’ when he really isn’t, but it happens to be a favorite saying of mine. Only because it makes Joe crazy! Ha ha!) But I wasn’t feeling silly at this point, oh no…
Ok, I was a little ticked off. Something that was an afterthought and was supposed to be a recipe for quick homespun joy turned into a have-to-wake-Joe-to-watch-the-kids-while-I-run-to-the-store-to-get-more-flour moment. Ugh. So much for his Sleeping Beauty routine! I was so embarrassed and frustrated to wake him, but I really needed to rush and get that flour and bake. that. bread!
Rushing toward the door, I remembered something; attitude counts. If I got flustered and flabbergasted and grumbled the rest of the morning it would affect the whole family. So I remembered to turn and smile at the three of them (two caked in flour) before I left. And at the store, rushing past an aisle I noticed the drinking straws Luke keeps asking me to buy and I keep forgetting. Only $1! And in the baking aisle I thought of the yummy Andes mint chips my sister used to make the most delicious cookies when she visited us, and I grabbed those, too. From zero to hero, friends! Boom!
So, like most loaf bread recipes, the ingredients are few and simple. That’s the beauty of it! I started making my own bread exclusively last winter when someone posted on Facebook about Subway bread having the “yoga mat” chemical. Then another friend posted that most of the bread we buy has this chemical and many others. I looked on the back of the wheat bread wrapper I was buying and sure enough, chemical city! There are exceptions, so I’m not making a moral platitude about bread here… just back story. Also, when we moved, I was too busy to bake bread so I’ve been buying bread at the store for the last two months. Anyway, back to the recipe…
Bread is cheap to make and the dough is easy to mix up – but it’s time consuming and can be tough to knead and rise it properly; which is critical to success. Whole wheat flour is heavy, no matter what brand you buy (compared to white flour). It’s healthier, too, so over time I’ve come to strike a balance between healthier (wheat flour) and fluffier (white flour). I basically mix it about 50/50. Also, my dad taught me this cool method for kneading. The most important lesson I picked up from him was that bread dough should not be dry – in fact, it should remain quite sticky! He taught me to flour my hands, rather than add tons of flour to the dough to be able to work with it. Then he taught me the stretch and fold method. Pictures first:
So you dump your dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Flour your hands. Pull the dough and fold it across itself. Pull the opposite corner and fold it across the top. Then two more “corners” totaling four folds, and put a very large bowl over top of the dough. Repeat this every fifteen minutes, four times. In one hour, your dough will be beautifully risen. This method helps improve the bread texture considering it has that heavy white whole wheat flour in it. After this, the loaves just need to be rolled out and rolled/pinched, risen again in greased pans (about another 30 minutes give or take), and baked for 30 minutes.
“Hey Seth, Mom made bread!” -Luke
“It smells better than last time!” – also Luke
Ok, it’s still cooling, but it does look nice and fluffy! Aaaand, truth be told, Joe had to go to work with a tortilla wrap today. Oh well. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty will live to see another day!