Let me preface this post by telling you that (a) making bread is easy and (b) I also make a lot of other staples (salad dressing, baby food, yogurt, ice cream, broth, etc). I wanted to share both of these pieces of information because I really don’t think they’re related. Making your own bread is EASY regardless of if you make any other staples or have ever made homemade bread in your life. So don’t be intimidated – be encouraged! Okay, preface over. Let’s begin!
When I was halfway through college and moving out of the dorms into my first apartment, I decided to make my own bread each week instead of buy it. At the time, I didn’t really have any sort of reasoning as to why, it was really just on a whim – almost as if it were a challenge to myself to not buy bread. Well, I didn’t buy bread at all during college (though I can tell you I sure ate a lot of it), and fast forward several years and I’m still making my own bread. Occasionally I will purchase bread, but only if it’s a specialty bread that I don’t have the time or inclination to make myself – like the focaccia bread from the Italian grocery down the road (yum!). Other than that, I always make my own. Not only have I found that I enjoy the simple process, but also I’ve come to realize just how much healthier it is. Store-bought commercial bread has so very many added ingredients, most of which are unhealthy, not kind to our digestive systems, and only serve the purpose to keep the bread “fresh” on the shelf longer or to look more like “normal” sandwich bread. Did you know that the “wheat flour” listed as an ingredient in many commercial breads isn’t even whole wheat flour?! I mean, you would think that’s what it is, but it’s really just a clever marketing tool to make plain old white flour (what it actually is) seem healthier. No thanks!
Anyways, let me show you just how easy is it to make your own bread, and you don’t even need a bread maker! (I don’t own one and have never felt the need for one.) I always chuckle to myself when people have some of my bread and ask “Did you make this?” in a tone mixed with shock and awe. Every time, they are very impressed, but they really shouldn’t be. A five-year-old could make bread, it’s that easy. Or come to think of it, maybe even my three-year-old nephew could make it, as he’s quite competent in the kitchen. Seriously!
I’ve used one main recipe over the years, and while it has been changed out of my rotation from time to time (lately I’ve been making this honey whole wheat recipe – it has more ingredients but I love how soft and flavorful the bread turns out), it always seems to find its way back. Why? Because it tastes good, it’s hard to mess up, and it only has four ingredients. Yes, really! It’s the main recipe found in the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, with my only revision being the addition of whole wheat flour.
Simple Light Whole Wheat Bread
-1.5 Tablespoons of yeast
-1.5 Tablespoons of salt
-3 Cups of water
-3 Cups of whole wheat flour
-3.5 Cups of white flour
Mix yeast and water and let sit for a few minutes until yeast is bubbling. Add in salt and flour and mix with a wooden spoon only until all ingredients are combined and dough is shaggy. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a dish towel and let rise for 2.5 hours. After initial rise, place covered bowl in the fridge for 1-7 days (dough will be too sticky to handle without refrigerating). The longer you leave the dough in the fridge, the more tangy the flavor will be. upon removing dough from the fridge, let it sit out at room temperature for an hour or so (you can skip this step if you’re short on time). Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Take half of dough, shape it loosely – no kneading! – into a circle, place in the middle of a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silpat mat, and let it rest while the oven finishes preheating. Once the oven is fully preheated, use a serrated knife to draw a line or two in the dough and then bake the bread for 25-30 minutes (the time varies based on your own oven). Let cool before eating (or freezing). Enjoy!