Baking bread has become a bi-weekly adventure in our home, and I have not eaten store bought bread in months. It is very neat to have a loaf on the kitchen counter and a few others waiting in the freezer for perfect slices of toast or peanut butter sandwiches whenever you like.
If you have a stand mixer and an afternoon, you have the tools and the time to produce a perfect batch of bread that will keep you and yours happy for weeks. I suppose an oven and bread pans are also essential, but the ingredients that go into bread are so simple, it’s easy to have everything on hand.
I’ve gone through a few recipes in the last few months. It is hard to find a brown bread recipe that isn’t dense, or dry, or crumbly (or all 3). I landed on this recipe in January and have now made it 3 times with recurring success. It will either make 2 giant loaves (9×5 pans) or 3 moderate loaves (4.5×8.5 pans). The loaf stays soft, which is great for sandwiches, and has a lovely nutty-honey quality from the whole wheat flour and honey. I find a 2:5 ratio of white flour to whole wheat gives enough structure as well as nutrition. Pure whole wheat bread is hard to keep edible as a home cook, so a few cups of white flour will stick everything together and avoid a cardboard bread situation.
This recipe is pretty great. I reverse the flour, though- 5 cups of whole wheat to start, then add in 2-3 cups of white flour to round things out. Knead it in the mixer 3-5 min, then a little while on a floured counter. You want the dough to be elastic but sticky at the end, that will give you nice texture and moisture in your finished loaf. My oven is about 30 minutes on the dot for 3 golden brown loaves. If you go the 2 giant loaves route, it is more like 35 minutes. I don’t do the final brush of butter- I don’t find the bread gets hard after it cools but if you live somewhere very dry that might be helpful.
Happy baking and sandwich making!