As a teen, I loved baking bread and even wrote in my journal that I wanted to make bread for my family instead of buying it. You see, I hate the taste of store bread....always have. So much so, that I didn't like sandwiches as a kid. My mom would send me Chef Boyardi and soups for lunches at school. I find that there is a weird "wang" in the flavor of those bagged loaves. Several years ago, I started baking bread weekly for my family. We have all come to love it.
I don't think baking bread enters the heads of most modern cooks. Why should it? There are myriads of different brands of bread lining the grocery store shelves...from cheap, simple white bread to the more expensive artisan loaves. Relatively inexpensive as well, from around $1 for the store brands to $4 for a loaf of artisan bread. Bread baking is an investment of time, but so worth it. Not only is the bread delicious...you get the control what goes in the bread AND it is considerably cheaper. I figured out once that I spend around $0.90 in supplies and get THREE loaves of "the-grocery-store-can't-compete-with-this" bread.
The basics for bread are yeast, water, flour, salt and maybe a little oil. BUT with a few more ingredients, you can add flavor and nutrition. I find my Kitchen Aid mixer invaluable to making bread since it kneads for me, but if you don't have a mixer, don't fear the kneading.
Honey Flax Whole Wheat Bread:
1 c. warm water (not too hot...like the temperature of a nice bath)
4-1/2 t. yeast (not rapid rise)
1 T. honey
1-1/2 T. kosher salt
1/3 c. honey
1/4 c. butter
2 c. milk (you can also use 2/3 c. dry milk and two cups of water)
1/2 c. ground flax seed
1/2 c. wheat germ
1 c. bread flour
7 to 8 c. whole wheat flour
With a whisk, dissolve yeast and 1 T. honey in 1 c. of warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Wait five minutes. It should look like this:
During the five minutes that your yeast is "waking up", place salt, butter and honey in a 2 c. pyrex measuring cup and microwave in 30 second increments until the butter is melted. (Don't get it too hot or it will endanger the yeast when it is added to the mixer bowl.) Add one cup of milk to the pyrex cup and make sure the salt is dissolved. I like to use a whisk. Add the second cup of milk. This mixing cup really represents the flavor you are adding to the bread.
Add the milk, butter and honey mixture to the yeast in the mixing bowl. Next, add the nutrition part of this bread, the wheat germ and the ground flax. Also, add the cup of bread flour. (The bread flour is used to develop gluten. If you omit this, your bread will not rise properly.) Use the paddle attachment of your mixer to do a quick mix. It will look lumpy.
Remove the paddle attachment now and used the dough hook. Add whole wheat flour one cup at a time with the mixer on the lowest setting. (NOTE: My Kitchen Aid is only a 4.5 qt. model...a work horse that has served me for over 12 years. As wonderful as my machine is, it isn't large enough for this dough, so after I add 4 or so cups of flour I have to divide the dough in half. If you are kneading by hand or have a large enough mixer, skip the dividing part and continue to add your flour until it isn't sticky and knead it for 8 minutes.)
After about 4 cups of flour, divide the dough so that it will fit in the 4.5 qt. mixer. Place half the dough in a greased bowl and set aside .
(This is about half of the dough in a greased bowl.) Next, continue to add whole wheat flour until the dough is no longer sticky and looks like this in the bowl:
At this point, keep the mixer on second to lowest speed and knead for 8 minutes, checking from time to time to see if the dough is sticking to the bowl. If it does stick, then add a bit of flour. I normally do that a couple of times during the kneading. After eight minutes, take the dough off of the hook, switch it out with the dough in the bowl and repeat with the second half, adding flour as needed. After both halves are kneaded, knead both together for about 30 seconds to make one large dough ball.
Now it is time for a rise in a warm oven, but don't turn the oven on. If you have a gas oven, the pilot light will add enough heat. If you have a electric oven like me, turn the light on and that will add enough heat. Let it rise until it doubles in size, about an hour or so.
Place it in a greased loaf pan (I used stoneware so I don't have to grease it) and push it down to fill as much of the bottom as you can.