Monday, January 17, 2011

bread making

Are you ready for a posting all about bread?  I really can't help myself since yesterday I actually made a loaf of bread that was not only beautiful to look at but incredibly tasty.  This might not seem like such an amazing feat since man has been making bread for thousands of years, but after producing quite a few dense, unappetizing loaves I'm ecstatic to have finally made a good one.

I'm convinced that bread making is an art, a talent that one hones baking many loaves and knowing all about how yeast, humidity, and the simple combination of flour, yeast, water and salt can create so many different types of breads.  In bread making patience is indeed a virtue, but in the end it's all worth it. 

I'm not sure if my failed attempts are due to the recipes I've used or my technique but I'm happy to have finally gotten it right.   My friend Leah shared her favorite recipe and it's definitely a winning one.  It produces two fabulous loaves that are perfect for sandwiches, toast or just snacking (since I know few people that can resist the aroma of a fresh loaf of bread.)

OK, I'm sure you are all tired of me waxing poetic about a loaf of bread- onward...

Recently when searching for a recipe on I came across an article about the top 10 bakeries in America. Bon Appetite's January issue listed Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic, MA as one of them. How is it that I've lived in this area for 10 years and I don't know about this bakery?  As soon as I mentioned its existence to my husband he said, "let's go!"  I was tempted to take him up on the offer but then remembered that I'd have to bring a toddler and infant along for the ride and I decided that a two-hour round trip drive for a loaf of bread probably wasn't worth it.

Founder Richard Bent has been making bread for over 25 years and takes the subject very seriously.  All the grains used for bread making are freshly milled and soaked and fermented to reduce phytic acid and increase the beneficial enzymes (but that's a subject for a whole different post.)  I can't wait to stop by the bakery on our next trip to the Berkshires.

Berkshire Mountain Bakery
Don't these look delicious!

Soaked Whole-Wheat Bread
Yield 2 Loaves
This bread is the perfect sandwich bread.  The crust may seem hard when first taken from the oven but it softens nicely.  The bread will stay soft for about two days when left covered at room temperature.  To keep for longer slice, wrap tightly and store in the freezer.

6-7 cups whole-wheat flour (divided)*
2 1/2 cups warm water (divided)
2 tablespoons of plain yogurt or plain kefir
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil (you could also use sunflower or vegetable oil)
1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons salt

Step One
Combine 5 cups of flour, 2 cups of warm water and 2 tablespoons of yogurt/kefir in a covered bowl overnight.

Step Two
Proof yeast by combining 1/2 cup warm (not hot) water, honey, and yeast.  Let sit for five minutes.
Add oil and salt to yeast mixture.
Mix yeast mixture into soaked flour.  Work in additional flour as needed until dough is just slightly sticky.  Knead dough for about 8 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 2.5 hours or until doubled in size.

Step Three
Punch down dough and knead for 3-4 minutes.  Divide dough in half and place in two greased loaf pans.  Cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until dough has risen about a half-inch above the pan.

Step Four
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for 30-40 minutes or until an internal thermometer registers 200 degrees.  Let cool slightly then remove loaves from pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.

*I actually used 5 cups of unbleached white flour and two cups of whole wheat flour

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