Honey Whole Wheat Bread

This is my go-to bread recipe.  I usually double it and freeze 3 loaves.  This way I only need to bake bread about every 3-4 weeks.  Due to the honey content, it has an amazingly long shelf life for homemade bread.

For in-depth pictures to identify when to stop adding flour, how to knead and when to stop kneading, see my post on Refrigerator Roll Dough.

Time:  1.5 hours hands-on,  4-6 hours total

Yield:  2 loaves

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water  (110 to 115°F)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter, soft or melted
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2  1/2 cups very warm water
  • 4  1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2  3/4  - 3  3/4 all purpose flour

In a small shallow bowl sprinkle the yeast over the 1/2 cup water.  Stir it in and let it dissolve completely.  Set it aside.

In a large mixing bowl stir together the 2  1/2 cups water, honey, butter, and salt.  I find it easiest to get the honey out of the measuring cup if I use the one I measured the water in.  Let this mixture cool slightly.

Beat in 3 cups whole wheat flour.  Beat 3 minutes with a wire whisk.  The mixture should be smooth and thin out as you beat it.  Beat in the remaining whole wheat flour and the dissolved yeast.  With a spoon, stir in all purpose flour until the dough pulls away from the bowl.  I usually start by adding a cup of flour at a time and then reduce the amount as the dough reaches the correct stage for kneading.  Note that the A.P. flour amount is a range. You will want to stop adding flour before the dough starts to get dry and hard.  You can always knead more flour in, but you can’t make the dough wetter.

Scrape the dough out of your bowl onto a floured surface, and knead it for 5-10 minutes, or until it is smooth, elastic, and moist but not sticky.  If possible, knead all the flour up off of your surface for easy cleanup afterward.

Clean out your bowl and oil (or grease) it generously.  Place the dough in the bowl and turn it over to grease it completely.  Grease the cover of the bowl (if you have one) or a sheet or two of plastic wrap and cover the bowl completely.

Let it raise 30 to 60 minutes, or until it’s “ready”.  Test readiness by poking it with your finger.  If the indent remains, without shrinking, and the dough around your finger hole starts to form larger bubbles and deflate slightly, the dough is ready.  If, however, the dough stays firm and the finger hole shrinks back, it needs more time.

Grease 2  9″x5″ loaf pans with butter, shortening, or margarine.  Do not use oil or nonstick spray, as it will become absorbed into the bread.  Without punching it, dump the dough out onto the counter, split it in half with a sharp knife, and form it into 2 loaves.  Try to keep the outside of the loaf smooth and uniform, and eliminate the possibility of large air pockets forming within the loaf by rolling it tightly.

Raise the loaves until doubled, 30 to 60 minutes.  ”Doubled” can be a difficult measurement, so I try to bake the loaves when they have risen above the level of my loaf pans.  They will continue to rise some as they bake.

Preheat the oven to 350°F  and bake 35-50 minutes.  When they are brown I pull them out.  Most bread recipes say the loaves will sound hollow, but I personally never got the hang of that method of testing doneness.  I just know my oven and this recipe and know what “fully cooked” looks like. You may need to make a few batches of bread before you feel confident that they are baked just right.  Sorry about being vague here.

When they are done to your satisfaction, pull them out of the oven, remove them from their pans, and let them cool on a wire rack.  Let the loaves rest at least 10 minutes to let them firm up a snidge for easier cutting.  For softer, more tender bread, wrap or bag them slightly before they are fully cooled.

If freezing, wrap them in 2 layers (fully covered) of plastic wrap, then 2 layers (fully covered) of aluminum foil, or double-wrap them in plastic wrap and put them in a 2 gallon zipper storage bag.  Thaw before cutting.  The bread should taste about like day-old bread.

 

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