Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kitchen 101 - Easy Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

If you really want to knock someone's socks off when they come to eat at your home, give them homemade bread. Not from a box mix, not from a terrifying can that pops open, not "take-and-bake," but real, honest to goodness bread. People go NUTS over it. Probably because they don't know how easy it actually is.

I started making our own sandwich bread at least a couple years ago. It's one of the very few recipes I have committed to memory because I use it so frequently. It's a very moderate adaptation of this bread recipe here, so don't let me lie and fool you all into thinking I created it myself. I don't need anyone coming out of the woodwork to sue me for Maddie's Disney Princess dollhouse or Amelia's teething rings or something. I'll even give you a head start and let you know that I get most of my recipes from All Recipes, The Chew, Skinny Taste, and every pin on Pinterest ever in the history of ever. Have fun with that!

The first reason I started making bread was because I wanted to save money. I'm not going to be able to go out and buy a new car or anything with what I save on bread, but a few dollars here and there do add up in the long run and I can at the very least give myself a pat on the back for attempting frugality. When I did the math (... five minutes ago) this particular recipe cost approximately $3.94 to produce. As written, the author states that the dough should yield three loaves, which is $1.31 per loaf. I like bigger loaves so I only split the dough twice, which would make them $1.97 each. The cheapest loaf of honey whole wheat sandwich bread at my local supermarket is $1.99. So again, I'm not buying a private island anytime soon. Compared to actual GOOD bread and not just the store-brand, blah whatever, smaller than my piece of cheese nonsense, the fancy organic brand is almost $5 per loaf. Ain't nobody got time for that!

The last time I had to grab bread off the shelves, though, is what really drove it home for me. I cook from scratch because I like to know what I'm eating and what I'm feeding my family, right? That's like, the whole point of this blog? I'm obsessive about checking labels and what I was reading on the nutrition labels were making me really twitchy. Now, before you come at me, I FULLY UNDERSTAND that processed food is going to have preservatives in it. But if I know that the bread I eat almost every single day has exactly water, yeast, honey, flour, butter, and salt in it and not a lick of anything else, I get a little annoyed when I see this:

Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, Whole White Wheat Flour, Yeast, Honey, Sugar, Wheat Gluten, Salt, Soybean Oil, Enrichment (Calcium Sulfate, Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3), Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Datem, Grain Vinegar, Monoglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Citric Acid, Potassium Iodate, Calcium Phosphate.

On every. Damn. Bag.


Anyway so that's why I'm a crazy bread making lady and if you want to be, too, here's how to do it!

This is all you need to start off with: water, honey, yeast, bread flour, and a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the warm water (no more than 110 degrees, though, to prevent killing the yeast) to the mixing bowl, then squirt your honey in, and sprinkle the yeast on top. Once the yeast starts to bubble up you're ready to add in the flour.

MMMMM bubbly yeast
Slowly add in the flour without getting it all over yourself and your kitchen and mix until just combined. It won't look like much. 

Throw a towel over the whole contraption for a half hour and find something else to do.

When you come back, it's gonna be a little crazy.

Add the butter, salt, and the rest of the honey and mix it just a bit before you add the rest of the flour. The dough will come together fairly quickly. After about seven minutes in the mixer I like to dump it out onto the counter and knead it myself until it gets smooth; usually only another couple of minutes.

Work smarter, not harder. Spray the mixing bowl that you just used with some oil and dump the dough ball back in, turning it to coat. Cover with a towel and let it double in size. I honestly have no idea how long this takes. Less than an hour. I usually go off and do other things while I leave the dough to mind its own business.

Quick (cool!) tip on giving your bread a good place to hang out and get fat: put the covered bowl in a cold oven. AFTER you put it in, turn the oven on and set a timer for one minute. The second the timer goes off, turn off the heat and walk away. It won't get very hot in there at all, but it will be JUST warm enough for the yeast to work it's magic.

After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide into two or three loaves (greasing the pans first), depending on how gigantic or normal-sized you like your bread to be. Repeat the same trick I just told you for the second rise after placing the uncovered bread pans back in the oven. If you want big, obnoxious bread like I make, you want the dough to top the pans by about an inch. Less if you don't want big, obnoxious bread.

Once your bread is as big and obnoxious as possible (or not. Boring.), bake the loaves at 350 for 30 minutes. After taking the bread out, brush some melted butter on top to keep the crust from getting too hard and allow it to cool on a wire rack. Slice and store in the fridge or freezer!

A friend of mine asked me today if I've ever added anything to the dough like cheese or seeds and I AM TOTALLY INTRIGUED BY THIS. I have a few bread recipes that I use for dinners and holidays, but I never thought to really play with this recipe for everyday munching. I forsee a bread baking bonanza weekend in my future for sure.

So don't let baking your own bread intimidate you! It took more effort to write this post about baking the bread than it actually took to bake the bread. Get to it and report back ASAP!

Easy Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup honey, separated
  • 1/2 oz active yeast (2 packets, or 1 tbsp for the jar)
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 5 tbsp melted butter, separated
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • Spray oil


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 1/4 cup of honey to 3 cups of hot water. Sprinkle yeast on top of the water and let rest for 5-10 minutes until bubbly.
  2. Add bread flour and mix until just combined. Cover with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes until dough is bubby.
  3. Add remaining honey, salt, and 3 tablespoons of melted butter to the dough and stir to combine.
  4. Add remaining flour bit by bit until a dough ball forms, about 7-10 minutes.
  5. Knead dough on countertop until the ball is smooth.
  6. Spray a large bowl with cooking oil and place the dough inside, turning to coat with the oil. Cover and let rest until dough has doubled in size.
  7. Grease your loaf pans, and divide the bread into two or three loaves. Let the dough rise a second time in the loaf pans until the dough tops the rim by about an inch.
  8. In an oven set to 350 degrees, bake the loaves for 30 minutes until they are golden brown.
  9. Remove from oven and brush remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter on top to prevent the crusts from getting too hard.
  10. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool.

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