Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Favorite Ritual

A few months ago I wrote about finding meaning in the daily rituals of life.
Bread baking is probably my favorite of all my life's rituals. I don't have to remind myself to love it - it's just visceral. I'm smitten with the whole process - a flour dusted kitchen, the hum of the Bosch, the chemistry of leavening yeast and gluten forming, the intoxicating aroma of baked grains and that first warm bite - the goodness of which just cannot be described.

There's also goodness in the satisfaction of homemade, in a process that you measured and mixed and tended to completion. Today I want to share my favorite bread poem (again - it just can't be read to excess) and my favorite bread recipe.

The poem:

B a k i n g B r e a d
Carol Lynn Pearson

There seemed more accusation

Than admiration in Vivian's voice

When she said,
"Well, I wish I had time To bake bread!"

And so sometimes when

The loaves were in the oven

And Vivian was at the door

Louise mumbled something about

Another bake sale again

And never even tried to explain
Her near-religious ritual:

How the flour on her fingers

Was the sun and the rain

And the earth

How the thump of her palms
On the dough

Was the dance of women

On the ancient threshing floor

How the smell of baking
Leavened her

And left her believing that

We rise, we rise

How the cutting

Of the first warm slice

For the first child home

Made her a bounteous goddess

With life in her hand

And the recipe:

100% Whole Wheat Bread

I combine the following ingredients in my Bosch:

3/4 c. honey (or any combination of honey, brown sugar or molasses -- I usually use 1/2 c. brown sugar and 1/4 c. honey)
1/2 c. oil
3 T butter, melted (I use salted)
1 T salt
2 T dough enhancer (optional)
2 T wheat gluten
4 c. very warm water
5 c. freshly ground wheat flour

Mix all ingredients on low for about a minute.
Add 2 T active dry yeast

Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds. Cover mixture and let stand for 15 min (this allows the bran to absorb the water, if you're in a hurry you can skip this step, but the bread won't turn out quite as nicely).

After 15 mins, remove covering and turn mixer on low speed. Begin adding flour 1/2 c. at a time. When the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the mixer (around the 10th or 11th cup, which includes the 5 you added at the very beginning) turn off mixer and do the "floured finger test."

*floured finger test: dip your finger in flour and poke the dough. if finger comes out clean, you're done adding flour
if dough still sticks to your floured finger, continue adding flour 1/4 c. at a time until the test comes out clean.

Once you've determined that you've added enough flour, turn your mixer on to medium speed and let knead for 6 minutes.

Turn off mixer and the dough should "move."

Grease your hands with cooking spray or oil as dough will be sticky.

Divide dough into 3 parts (I divide it into 4 as I prefer to make four smaller loaves) - work out any air bubbles that may have formed

Form loaves and place into greased bread pans.

Let rise about 30 minutes, until doubled

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes -- you'll have to tweak the baking time for your oven/altitude. I only bake mine for 26-28 minutes when I make 4 loaves.

**If any of this is unclear, leave me a question in the comment thread and I'll respond!



Jesslyn said...

I've never used dough enhancer. What does it do for the bread? Is it mainly just a helper with whole wheat bread?

Joan said...

Minor dilemma: my mom's kitchenaid broke and I don't have one!?! Our bread baking bliss has come to a complete halt! Not fun.
I even attempted making bread with a hand mixer b/c I got so was more like concrete than anything.
So for now we eat lame old store bought bread. boo hoo.
Enjoy your warm doughy goodness for the both of us, okay? :)

sarah/book bound bindery said...

better than the bread making is the smell of the wheat as it grinds! that's my favorite part. we have stone grinder and it fills the house with whole wheaty goodness. love it!

Bloom said...

Jesslyn, dough enhancer will improve the texture and crumb of the bread.

When I googled it, I read that it also enhances the natural flavor, and increases dough strength and shelf life.


Jonesy said...

Looks yummy Em! I have yet to find the perfect whole wheat bread recipe, so I'm excited to try this one out!

Also, here's a link to make your own dough enhancer...

Mary said...

Thank you for sharing that poem with us! I love it.

Christina said...

Joan - you might want to look into the Tassajara Bread Book. It gives clear instructions for good bread without a mixer. They should have it at your local library if you just want to try it out.

toddnjoelle said...

Thanks for the bread recipe. I am always making bread, but haven't found the perfect 100% whole wheat recipe yet. I am excited to try this one.

Rachael said...

Em, I have this poem taped inside my baking cabinet. Love that you love it too.

Ryan & Keri said...

So where do you buy your enhancer and gluten? Is there a special place that sells those things in bulk for cheaper? Please advise. Also, when I'm adding the flour 1/2 cup at a time, this is in addition to the already added 5 cups right? So does that mean that the recipe takes over 10 cups flour?

stacey said...

I too am curious about the total amount of flour. Is it 5 cups or 10 cups? And also do the T's stand for teaspoons or tablespoons?