Ruth L. Snyder, a friend from my professional editors’ group, The Christian PEN, shares her botched bread baking experience, along with some tips and a recipe. I’m ready to start baking!~~~
A few weeks after my husband and I were married, I decided to surprise him with homemade bread, fresh from the oven. I mean, what could be better than welcoming my husband home with the tantalizing aroma of fresh bread? Especially when bread is one of his favorite foods? I had successfully made bread many times before with white flour. I figured it couldn’t be much different to make it with whole-wheat flour. (His mother made almost all of her baked goods with whole-wheat flour and he seemed to like that better.) How hard could it be?
I smiled to myself as I mixed the dough. It seemed to be rising. The texture was a bit different, but I expected that. I set the dough to rise, humming as I washed the dirty dishes. Soon it was time to shape the loaves. I set the bread pans on the counter to let the dough rise again. The bread rose a bit, but not as much as I expected. Maybe I hadn’t put enough dough in? Oh well, we’d just have smaller loaves.
While the bread was baking, I prepared supper. The timer rang, so I grabbed some potholders and opened the door. Instead of fluffy, risen loaves, I saw a strange u-shape in each pan. The sides of the loaves were high, but the middle was low. When I jabbed a toothpick into a loaf, it came out clean. Obviously the bread was baked, but it looked terrible.
Just as I was deciding what I would do with my botched loaves of whole-wheat bread, my husband walked in the door. I greeted him and tried to distract him from seeing the loaves. However, the aroma attracted him to the counter. I held my breath.
“Thanks for making me bread! It smells wonderful.”
I sighed. “Yeah, but it doesn’t look that wonderful.”
My husband chuckled. “It’s not that bad. You should have seen my Mom’s bread the first time SHE used whole-wheat. It was flat as a pancake and hard as a rock.”
I laughed, despite myself. We both enjoyed our supper, and I’ll always remember my bread-baking botch.
Since then, I’ve learned several tricks to baking with whole-wheat flour:
1. Whole-wheat flour doesn’t have as much gluten as white flour, so the dough needs to be mixed longer to activate the gluten that’s there.
2. Whole-wheat flour is heavier than white flour, so you don’t need to use as much, especially in raised goods. You should use one-half to three-quarters the amount of flour the recipe calls for to get results similar to those you get with white flour.
3. Whole-wheat flour may require you to use more yeast than white flour, for the reasons already mentioned.
4. Freshly ground whole-wheat flour doesn’t like to rise. It’s better if you grind your flour and let it sit for a few hours before you make your bread. (I don’t know the science behind this. Does anyone care to enlighten me?)
Here’s my favorite bread recipe: Feather-Light Bread Buns (from Campus Cooks at Prairie, recipe submitted by Mrs. Esther Johnson)
2 Tbsp yeast 6 Tbsp shortening
1 cup lukewarm water 1 cup water
2 tsp sugar or honey 2 cups cold water
¾ cup sugar (optional) 2 eggs
1 tsp salt 8 to 10 cups flour (6-8 cups whole-wheat!)
Sprinkle yeast into sweetened lukewarm water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Boil the sugar, salt, shortening, and 1 cup water for 5 minutes. Add the 2 cups of cold water and well-beaten eggs. Add well-stirred yeast preparation. Gradually stir in the flour, kneading well. Let rise until a little more than double in bulk. Shape into buns or bread. Put in lightly greased pans. Let rise, then bake in 375° oven for 15-20 minutes for buns or 40-50 minutes for bread.
“Cecile’s Christmas Miracle” by Ruth L. Snyder will be released in e-book format on December 1, 2013, as part of the anthology The Twelve Days of Christmas. Cecile, a young missionary nurse, is spending her first Christmas in the Kalahari Desert, far away from family, friends, and everything familiar.
For more information: http://ruthlsnyder.com