The Best Brown Bread

Golden brown bread.

Golden brown bread, cooling down on the counter.

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!

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The Year of Bread

Honey oat bread fresh from the oven.

Honey oat bread fresh from the oven.

This new year is shaping up to be the year of bread. Homemade, that is. For the past few months I have been experimenting with baking fresh bread. It is really hard to find a decent loaf at the grocery store that has some whole grains but is also actually edible, not dried out, or mouldy in 4 days.

So I’ve been trying out loaves of whole wheat, also made some baguettes and then landed on this honey oat bread recipe. As a home baker, I have been finding 100% whole wheat recipes hard to produce (and hard on my KitchenAid mixer- had a little incident with some smoke one day!), so I’ve been trying out recipes that mix some whole grains with white flour to keep from being too dense and hard to knead.

This Rustic Honey Oatmeal Bread recipe from Robin Hood flour fit the bill. I really like the taste of honey in bread, and this one also had a decent amount of oats (2 cups oats to 4 cups flour). I modified the recipe to only use honey as the sweetener and just used 4 cups flour as my dough came together at that amount. You end up with 2 decent sized round loaves, which are better for toast than sandwiches. It could probably be baked in small bread pans if you want it sandwich sized. Nice crust, dense interior- not a lofty loaf but a nice crunchy piece of toast.

I have some new bread pans on order as well as a baguette pan, so will report back on further bread baking adventures.

Oatmeal Walnut Banana Bread

Fresh from the oven!

Fresh from the oven!

I love baking. I always have. A lot of my favourite childhood memories involve baking with my mom. Even when that just meant sitting on the opposite side of the kitchen counter and eating pieces of pie crust that were leftovers. She still teases me about that. Don’t ask me why I liked eating raw pie dough (it was the Crisco variety, so it’s not really that gross), perhaps I’ve always had a salt-tooth. At least it’s much better than being the kid that ate glue.

Today I was craving something sweet with some crunch, so I made a pseudo-healthy version of banana bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats (quick cooking)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 medium)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease loaf pan to prevent sticking.
  2. Combine oats and milk; let stand 10 minutes. Add bananas, oil, vanilla and eggs to oat mixture.
  3. Combine dry ingredients. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir until batter is just moist.
  4. Pour into loaf pan. Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

I am quite pleased with how this turned out, the outside is nice and crispy and the inside is moist, with no discernable texture of the oats or whole wheat flour.  It is nice and nutty, if you love walnuts, you could probably add a whole cup instead of 3/4.

I enjoyed a slice with a bit of butter and a glass of milk…….ah, childhood memories!