Monday, February 8, 2010

Whole Wheat Bread With Molasses

This is a delicious bread with a mildly-sweet richness that comes from the addition of molasses. It calls to be sliced and slathered with butter and eaten with some delicious soup or stew. It also makes an excellent sandwich bread or can be shaped into rolls. The following recipe will make two loaves of bread, or as I'll show you below, one loaf of bread and 12 dinner rolls.
The bread/rolls freeze very well, but if you only want one loaf of bread you can halve the recipe.

What You'll Need:
  • 2 packages or 4 1/2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water plus an additional 1 1/2 cup water for later use (warm water should be between 105 to 115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup organic molasses
  • 2/3 cup organic milk (preferably whole milk)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup oil (I used coconut oil, which is very healthy for you and has fabulous flavor, olive oil would be good too)
  • 8+ cups of whole wheat or spelt flour
  • olive oil

  • Large mixing bowl plus a second one or wash the first one after you've mixed the dough
  • small bowl
  • plastic wrap to cover bowl with
  • bread loaf pan
  • cookie sheet and parchment paper or oil to cover it with
  • mixing spoon
  • sharp knife

To Get Started

Mix the yeast and 1/2 cup warm water together and allow to sit for approximately 5 minutes. The yeast should begin to bubble and perhaps froth a bit. If it doesn't do anything start over with fresh yeast. Most likely your yeast is dead, unless your water was too hot (should be between 105 - 115 degrees) and will ruin your bread.

In a large mixing bowl add 7 cups of flour, molasses, milk, 1 1/2 cup water, salt, oil and yeast mixture. Use your mixing spoon (or jump right in and use your hands), mix ingredients together until thoroughly mixed. You should be left with a very sticky, moist dough.

From here, turn your dough out onto your kneading surface (a well-washed kitchen table or counter works fine, just make sure the surface is smooth). Knead 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour at a time into your dough until your dough is slightly sticky and still moist. One big mistake first-time bread makers make is adding too much flour. This will leave you with an overly-dense and dry bread. This is why it's a good idea to add only a small amount of flour at a time. Depending on how you fill your measuring cup with flour as well as the grind of your flour will affect how much is needed in any given bread recipe. I grind my own flour, so I may need to add a different amount of flour in comparison to someone who purchases pre-ground flour from the store. When I made the bread for this recipe, I believe I added approximately an additional 2 cups of flour.

Knead your dough by hand for about 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. If you have a large mixer like a Kitchen Aid, you could use it with the dough hook, but kneading dough by hand always seems to give better results in the end. Plus it's a little extra work out! : - ) When you knead, push the dough forward with the palm of your hand then fold in half and repeat again, slightly turning the dough each time. This is how you develop the gluten in the dough and will ultimately play a huge roll in how well your dough will rise and turn into delicious bread. After you've done it a couple of times, kneading dough is very easy and you will naturally develop your own rhythm. Since this dough needs to stay on the moist side and remain a bit sticky, be sure to not add too much flour to your working surface as you knead. The dough will stick to your surface a little, but if you keep it moving it shouldn't be a problem. Occasionally use a dough scraper or a sharp knife to scrape up the dough on your working surface. This will help keep the dough from sticking too much and you won't need as much flour. You know you are done kneading when your dough is elastic and smooth.

If you haven't washed out your large mixing bowl, do so now or use a clean one. Pour approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil into bottom and place dough inside bowl. Turn dough over once to coat in olive oil and then loosely cover with some plastic wrap.

Place the covered dough in a warm place for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until it has doubled in volume. My favorite way to help dough rise in the winter is turn my oven on for a couple of minutes and let it get warm, probably to about 80 - 90 degrees, turn the oven off and then put the dough in. We keep our house around 65 degrees in the winter and the dough often takes longer to rise on the counter than I'm willing to wait.

Below is a picture of what my dough looked like after an hour of rising.

Once your dough has risen, punch it down to deflate it of the air. Cut dough in half reserving one half for dinner rolls. With the first half shape it into a loaf and place in a well-greased loaf pan. An 8" x 4.5" loaf pan works well, but you could use a little larger one too. Spread a little olive oil on top of the loaf and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about an hour or until doubled and you have a nice bread loaf shape.

For the dinner rolls, divide your dough into 12 equal portions. I find that it's easiest to just cut the dough into thirds once and then cut in half twice to make 12 even-sized pieces of dough. Shape dough pieces into balls and place on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or coated with oil. Spread/spray some oil on plastic wrap and cover the rolls and allow to rise for about 1/2 hour or until doubled in volume.

An extra step you can do here, is after shaping your dough into balls press down on them to flatten them some. This will give you a bit flatter, but wider roll, great for sandwiches and spreads. By no means do you need to do this, but in the following pictures I did add this step.

Note: Since you can't bake the rolls and the loaf of bread at the same time, it can be helpful to place one or the other into the refrigerator until one of them is in the oven and baking. The cold temperature in the refrigerator slows down the rising. For example, I baked my rolls first, so while they were rising I put my rising loaf of bread in the refrigerator. Once the rolls were done rising and I had put them in the oven, I took the loaf of bread out of the refrigerator and allowed it to rise the rest of the way on the counter. The loaf of bread was just about done rising when I was pulling the rolls out of the oven. The timing worked very well.

Below are before and after pictures of what the dough looked like once it has risen.

Finally, heat your oven to 350 degrees for the rolls and 425 degrees for the loaf of bread. I'd recommend turning the oven on about half an hour before you think your bread will be done rising, that way you know it will be hot and ready to go as soon as the bread has finished rising. You don't want your bread to accidentally over-rise, because you have to wait for the oven to heat up. You'll be left with some very disappointing bread if this happens.

The rolls will bake about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Tap on them, if they sound hollow and have a nice golden color to them then you know they're done. If not, let them bake a couple more minutes. Once you've pulled the rolls out of the oven and they are still hot you can take a little butter and coat the tops of them, this isn't necessary, but looks and tastes good.

For the loaf of bread, you'll want to bake it at 425 degrees for 10 minutes and then turn your oven down to 350 degrees and bake an additional 30 - 40 minutes. Your bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. If you don't trust the tapping method, you can also stick a thermometer into the bread (go in at the side, so you don't have a hole in the top of your bread) and if it reads close to 19o degrees then it's done. Allow the loaf of bread to cool some before slicing. Have fun and enjoy.

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