Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Favorite Bread

It has not been easy finding a bread recipe that works for our family. My ideal bread is whole wheat: flavorful, hearty, with a texture you can really sink your teeth into. I once tasted an olive bread from Central Market. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It had chunks of kalamata olives baked into it. It was quite simply the most delicious piece of bread I had ever tasted, and I still remember it with reverence.

Ryan's ideal bread is Wonderbread.

This would not be a problem - I could buy my olive bread (if there were a Central Market anywhere nearer than four hours away) and he could buy his Wonderbread, if not for the fact that we also want homemade bread. For two years we have, either one or the other or both, been unsatisfied with the bread that has come out of the oven, and our frustration was high.

Then, three weeks ago, I accidentally found a bread recipe that satisfies both of us. It has the whiteness of white bread and the healthiness of whole wheat; it has a wonderful crumb; it has a delightful crust. It is flavorful. It's a very modified version of the Potato Bread in George Burnett's The Breadman's Healthy Bread Book. I intend no copyright violation, and I think that I have modified the recipe enough to avoid any copyright violations anyway. At any rate, surely he won't sue someone who has a link up to his book on Amazon and an endorsement to buy it because it has lots of other great recipes too, right?

Hope so. Anyway, here goes.

A Friendly Home Potato Bread

In a bread machine, mix
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon butter
1Tablespoon honey
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup soft golden whole wheat flour
1/3 cup mashed potato flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Set bread machine on dough cycle. Place an oven-safe dish with at least 2 cups water on the bottom rack of your oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When bread machine beeps, shape dough into a loaf and turn it out onto a floured baking stone. Let rest for 10 minutes, longer if you want a lighter texture, but don't let it rise so much that it will fall if you touch it. Use a serrated knife to cut lines about 1/2" in the top of your bread, to make room for oven spring. Bake on the middle baking rack, above the dish of hot water, for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Pretty simple, but there are some Very Important Rules.
1) You HAVE to use soft golden whole wheat flour. The nutty flavor that we all associate with homemade whole wheat bread comes from hard red wheat, which is the common grocery store whole wheat flour. If you like that flavor, fine, but I know sometimes it's hard to get used to, especially for all of us who grew up on grocery store bread. I use Prairie Gold from Wheat Montana Farms. Seriously, DON'T CHEAT ON THIS INGREDIENT. (before you die of a heart attack, the link is to a 50 lb bag. It's about twice as expensive as grocery store all-purpose flour. I do NOT pay $50 for a 5 lb bag of flour.)
2) Don't forget the dish of water in the oven. The steam will give you a wonderful, thin, crisp-but-not-crunchy fresh-from-the-bakery crust.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we do! If you have trouble with the recipe or if you find you have to make altitude adjustments, please let me know. I'd like to be able to post the best, most complete version I can.

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