I’m 98% positive there is nothing in the world better than homemade bread. I mean, I could be wrong, I suppose—please notice that I very humbly gave myself a generous 2% chance of being incorrect about this—but really, homemade bread is one of life’s greatest pleasures. My mom frequently made homemade bread when I was a kid (I have many memories of coming home from school to the smell of fresh-baked bread and sitting at the counter eating a buttered slice with her and talking about my day), as did my mother-in-law for her family (Jeff admits to being embarrassed during school lunches of his sandwiches made on homemade bread, thinking it made him look too poor to afford fancy store bought Wonderbread . . . I could slap that ungrateful child), and now I love making homemade bread for us, too. I took a break from bread-making while I was gigantically pregnant and after Darcy was born, but it’s been so nice to enjoy fresh bread again now that things are settling down. (And, speaking of Darcy and things settling down, she slept 8 hours straight last night—holla! I woke up thinking, gosh, I’ll just go run a marathon today, I feel up to it.)
It took me a good long time to find a ‘go-to’ recipe for homemade bread. I guess I was being a little picky about it . . . the recipe couldn’t be too time/labor intensive, I wanted it to have a decent amount of wheat flour, and the requirement that turned out to be the most difficult to satisfy was that it needed to be ‘spreadable.’ Too many recipes I tried resulted in loaves that fell apart or dissolved into a pile of crumbs when I tried to make a sandwich or spread anything on it. No good.
This recipe fits the bill for me. It tastes wonderful, it’s quite a bit quicker to make than many bread recipes since the dough only needs to rise once, and it is deliciously soft and perfect for sandwiches and spreads. I’ve made this recipe regularly for 2 or 3 years now, and although I’ve tried a few others in that time, I always find myself coming back to this one. It’s my Old Faithful.
I found this recipe at Everyday Reading and adapted it just a teensy tad. The original calls for white wheat flour, but I’ve found it easier for me to just use some wheat and some white flour instead (I don’t care for the flavor or texture of bread using solely whole wheat flour). I generally make this recipe once or twice a week—it makes two loaves, so I slice them both up and stick one in the freezer (it freezes great, by the way, and tastes perfect when it comes out of the freezer), although the backup freezer loaf never stays in there for long since we usually eat the first loaf so quickly. (Forrest loves toast for breakfast and lately will request 2 or 3 slices at a time, and asks for his very favorite food, “peanut butter sammich,” for lunch every day. Big boy loves his carbs. He even likes to eat bread dough raw—gross.)
As with just about any bread recipe, don’t get stuck on the recommended amounts of flour. After the first 3 cups, add the rest of the flour slowly until your dough is the right consistency, and if you need less or more flour than the recipe calls for, that’s fine as long as your dough is right. You don’t want it to be so terribly sticky that you can’t hardly touch it without getting your hands completely glued with dough, but you also don’t want to add so much flour that the dough becomes hard and stiff and dry. It should be a soft ball, sort of spongy and slightly sticky to the touch.
Favorite Homemade Wheat Bread
2 3/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk
1/2 + 3 cups whole wheat flour
2-4 cups white flour
Combine water, sugar, oil, yeast, salt, gluten, dry milk, and 1/2 cup flour in bowl of stand mixer. Add 3 cups wheat flour and mix with dough hook. Add white flour, 1/2 or 1 cup at a time, until you have a good workable dough that almost cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead in mixer with dough hook for 5-10 minutes.
Grease two bread pans. Divide the dough into two equal portions and shape into loaves. Place the loaves in pans and cover with a cloth to rise for about an hour, or until the loaves have risen about an inch out of the pan.
Place the pans in a cold oven; turn the oven on to 350 degrees and bake for 38 minutes.
Remove the loaves from the pans and let them cool on a wire rack; slice when completely cool and store in airtight bags.