MOTHER EARTH NEWS Whole Grain Bread Recipe

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Learn how to make MOTHER's Whole Grain Bread Recipe, a favorite of Ecovillage visitors.

Celebrate the goodness of whole grains by baking this Whole Grain Bread Recipe, courtesy of MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS Whole Grain Bread Recipe

The following recipe is used in our Ecovillage “Breadmaking Show-How ” . . . and served up piping hot to the participants afterward (to resounding acclaim). We’d like to share it with you.

Sponge Ingredients

6 cups of lukewarm (85-105 degrees Fahrenheit) water
1/2 cup of honey (or 1/4 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of molasses)
2 tablespoons of yeast (two envelopes)
1/2 cup of powdered milk
4 cups of rolled oats
4 cups of whole wheat flour (if you must have a tighter bread, you can replace all or part of the whole wheat flour in the sponge with unbleached white flour. . . you’ll still have the whole wheat flour in the dough)
2 or 3 grated carrots (optional)
2 eggs (optional)
1/2 cup of millet (optional)

Dough Ingredients

1/2 cup of cooking oil, preferably cold-pressed (you may substitute butter, margarine, or applesauce for the oil)
2 tablespoons of salt, preferably sea salt (you may substitute kelp)
6-8 cups of whole wheat flour (preferably from hard, red, stone-ground wheat for baking)
2-3 cups of whole wheat flour (for kneading)

First, perform a “yeast test” by mixing 1 cup of warm water and 2 tablespoons of honey (or a honey-molasses blend) with 2 tablespoons of yeast. Let the mixture rest until it begins to bubble and foam, showing that the yeast is still alive and kicking. Now, combine the test mix with the remaining sponge ingredients (which should produce a mass with the consistency of pancake batter). Beat the combination well — 50 to 300 strokes by hand — to develop the gluten (a protein substance found in wheat that adds cohesiveness to the dough) and to incorporate oxygen.

Cover the mixture with a warm, damp cloth and let it rise in a warm (85 degrees Fahrenheit) place for 60 minutes (if you’re in a hurry, you can scrape by with 20 minutes).  

When the sponge has risen, move to your dough ingredients and fold the oil and salt into the sponge. Then stir in 6 to 8 cups of whole wheat flour, working it until the material pulls away from the sides of the bowl. At that point, the dough is ready to be kneaded: This process makes the bread elastic and smooth, helping it rise properly . . . so it’s worth the work you put into it.

Next, sprinkle some flour onto your kneading board. . . and dust a little over your hands and the dough itself. Knead the mass for 10 to 15 minutes, adding flour as you work to make a stiff dough. You’ll know that you’ve got the consistency right when the dough sticks only to the tips of your probing fingers. If the dough rebounds when poked, it’s been kneaded enough.

With that done, place the dough in a large, oiled bread bowl (to be used for the first two risings). Flip the dough over a couple of times to coat it lightly with oil. Now, place a warm, damp cloth over the whole works to prevent the dough from drying out, and put the bowl in a warm (85 degrees Fahrenheit), draft-free spot to rise. (A slightly warmed oven is the perfect place . . . but be certain it’s turned off before you put the bowl in!) Let the dough rise for 50 minutes, or until it’s doubled in bulk.

When the time’s up, remove the cloth, take the bowl to the table, and use your knuckles to gently punch the risen mass down. After that, put the re-covered bowl back to let the dough rise an additional 40 minutes.

While you’re waiting, you can apply a liberal coating of oil to your bread pans. This recipe will fill four of the standard size, but you can use larger containers (which will produce flatter loaves) or smaller ones (for higher bread). . . or you can even make free-form loaves by baking them on a cookie sheet.

When the dough has risen, divide it into loaves to be put into the pans for a final, 20-minute rising. As baking time draws near, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place a shallow pan of water in its bottom to provide extra moisture that will keep the top crusts of your loaves from getting too hard while baking.

At this point, your work is all but done, and it won’t be long until a mouth-watering aroma will be wafting from your kitchen. Just pop the pans into the oven for 55 minutes. . . take out the finished products. . . give the pans a tip and a thump to remove the loaves (which should fall right out if you oiled the pans sufficiently) . . . allow the freshly baked bread to cool on wire racks. . . slice . . . call the family . . . and stand back so you won’t get trampled in the stampede!

Read more about healthy whole grain foods: The Benefits of Whole Grain Food.

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