For almost 5 years I’ve been baking our everyday sandwich bread. As I began researching it I realized that I would need to make a commitment to it since the equipment to get started was so expensive. I had 5 young kids at the time and wasn’t sure–but I decided to make the plunge. I’m so glad I did! I’m not much of a cook; alright, I’ll be honest. I don’t like being in the kitchen more than I have to! But this is doable! If I can do it, so can you!
I bought the mixer, grain mill and many supplies from Urban Homemaker (urbanhomemaker.com). (You can also make the bread by hand and buy wheat flour at the store if you don’t want to get a mixer or mill.) I get 100 pounds of wheat berries at a time from a food co-op called Country Life Natural Foods. I also order their 75% protein gluten flour (vital gluten) and Sucanat (sweetener). I bought two 5-gallon buckets from Home Depot and put gamma lids on them. The gamma lids (also available from clnf.org) completely seal the buckets so that nothing can get in. Nutrimills and Mixers can also be found at Amazon.com or Ebay.
Ingredients: oil, Sucanat (could also use honey), dough enhancer (optional–I actually don’t use this anymore), vital gluten, ground flax seed (Bob’s Red Mill), yeast, salt, and wheat berries:
Bosch Mixer and Nutrimill Grain Mill:
Six bread pans to make six loaves at a time. This lasts us about a week. (Update: I bought some pans a little larger, so we now get 5 loaves a week.)
A 5-gallon bucket with gamma lid on:
Here is the recipe for Marilyn’s Famous Whole Wheat Bread Recipe. I use 2/3 cup Sucanat or honey, 2/3 cup olive oil, 6 cups water, 3 TB of yeast, 2 TB of salt, 2 TB dough enhancer (optional), 6 T of ground flax seed (if you use the golden, the kids won’t notice it’s in there as easily), and 1/2 cup of vital gluten. One time I ran out of vital gluten, so I left it out to see how the bread would be different. The bread was very crumbly and wouldn’t hold together when cut. It was still edible, but the texture is much better with the vital gluten. My oldest son even said, “Mom, did you forget to put the vital gluten in this?” I grind about 11 cups of wheat berries, but I’ve never counted exactly how many cups of flour I use. Sometimes, there is some left over, which I put in a baggie or container in the freezer to use the next week. Sometimes, I have to grind a little more. It depends on the humidity, etc.
Step 1: Set everything out. I’ve found that it only works for me to bake the bread starting first thing in the morning. Otherwise, I might have to wait up too long for it to cool so it can be put in bags. It takes me 2 1/2 hours from start to finish, not including cooling the bread. But I’m not working the whole time, so we get started on our schoolwork when the bread is rising and baking.
Step 2: Grind 2 cups of berries in the mill. While it’s grinding, put Sucanat/honey, oil, dough enhancer, ground flax seed, yeast, and very warm water in the mixer. Add 2 cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour. Mix a few seconds and let it sit there for 15 minutes. This is called sponging.
Step 3: Put about 9 more cups of wheat berries into the mill to grind. It takes about 7 minutes to complete.
Step 4: After the 15 minutes of sponging is up, add salt and vital gluten to the mixer. (Don’t forget the salt!) Mix a few seconds. Add one cup of flour at a time and mix a few seconds. You’re done adding flour when the dough cleans the sides of the bowl.
Step 5: “Knead” the dough for 6 minutes–just turn the mixer setting to “1″ and set the timer.
Step 6: Turn the oven on for a couple of minutes to warm it, then turn it off. Remove the dough hook from the mixing bowl and place mixing bowl in the warmed oven for 30 minutes to an hour. Instructions usually say to cover the bowl with a damp cloth, but I never do. (It’s now time to wash the dough hook by hand; if you wait, it’s so hard to clean later on.) (Wow, I took these pictures 3 1/2 years ago; my oven sure was clean then!)
Step 7: After 30 minutes, my dough has always started to come out over the sides of the bowl, so it’s time to put into the bread pans.
Step 8: Pull out dough and put enough into each pan to fill it halfway. I shape the dough by patting it into a nice oblong loaf-looking-object. I used to just stuff it in there and try to flatten the top! It looked OK, but I think it rises better now that I shape it.
Step 9: Place the 6 (or 5) pans back into the warmed oven (turn back on for a couple of minutes if necessary.) Set the timer for 30 minutes again. By that time the dough has always risen to the tops (or a little above the tops) of the pans.
Step10: Turn the oven to 350 degrees and set the timer to 30-35 minutes once more. My bread has always been perfectly baked by following these instructions.
Step 11: If you let the bread cool a bit before cutting, it will slice better (won’t be so doughy).
Step 12: Cool completely and place in bread bags. I keep 1 or 2 loaves out and put the rest in the freezer. Don’t put bread in the refrigerator as that will dry it out.
Step 13: Enjoy!