Here is a recipe for Honey Whole-Wheat Bread. This is a good basic bread recipe; especially if you have never baked bread before. I have not managed to keep a yeast starter alive as of yet, but once I figure out how to do that I will post a recipe using a self-made starter.
5 teaspoons instant yeast or dry active yeast
2 C whole milk heated to warm (105 degrees-115 degrees F)
1/4 C honey
2 large eggs
6 C whole-wheat flour (I substitute some of the flour for more hearty grains, usually 2-3 cups) plus extra for kneading (only use whole wheat flour for kneading)
2 teaspoons sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp (I also sometimes substitute part of the butter for olive oil, up to 3 tablespoons)
*I try to use as many local and organic ingredients as possible.
In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in the milk and let stand until foamy–about 5 minutes.
Put the yeast in first and then pour the milk on top of it–doing that will mix it enough without you having to do anything. Yeast is basically good bacteria that makes the dough rise. In this case the yeast is dry and the warm milk acts as an agent to activate it. If the milk is too cold or too warm it will kill the active dry yeast. Heat the milk either over the stove or in the microwave and use a candy thermometer to gage what temperature it is. If you over heat the milk simply let it cool and pour it over the yeast when it reaches the right temperature. When the mixture begins to foam a bit (or produce gas bubbles) you will know that you have properly activated it.
Using a wire whisk stir in the honey and eggs. Add the flour, salt, and butter and stir with your hand or a wooden spoon until rough mass forms. Using a plastic pastry scraper. scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until it is smooth and elastic, dusting the work surface with only enough dough to keep it from sticking. Approximately 10 minutes.
Kneading is what gives the bread its consistency. If you don’t knead it enough it will be crumby and the more you knead it the better it will bind and hold onto itself (it will be structurally weak).? It is pretty hard to over knead it when doing it by hand, but it is possible.? If you kneed it too much the dough will be tough and therefore it will be difficult for the gas produced by the yeast to cause the dough to rise.? Kneading bread is basically taking the bread and folding it over into itself and punching it down, turning it, fold, punch, repeat. Use flour to keep it from sticking to your hands and the work surface.
Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft free spot until it doubles in bulk, 1.5-2 hours (you will need a fairly large bowl for this).
Grease two 9-by-5 inch loaf pans.
Punch down the dough and, using a pastry scraper, scrape it out onto a clean work surface. Cut it in half and with a sharp knife or a bench scraper. For each half, evenly flatten the dough with the heal of your hand. Roll the bottom third up onto itself and seal it by pushing it gently with the heel of your hand. Continue rolling and sealing the dough until you have an oval log. Place the log, seam side down, in the prepared loaf pans. Press on them to flatten them evenly into the pans.
Punching down the dough is to even out the air bubbles. The goal is not to punch all of the air bubbles out, just to even them out and to get rid of any large air bubbles that will leave you with gaping air pockets in your baked bread. The more you punch the bread down in this process the denser you bread is going to be. You usually don’t want dense bread. Dense bread tends to be dry, tough, heavy, and brick-like.
Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let the loaves rise in a warm, draft-free spot until they double in size, 45-60 minutes.
Position rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 375 degrees F.
Dust the tops of the loaves with whole-wheat flour or grains. Bake until they are honey brown and sound hollow when tapped on the top, 35-40 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake this bread or it will be dry. Carefully remove the loaves from the pans and let cool completely on wire racks before slicing.
Let the loaves of bread cool completely before cutting because they are still cooking at this point.
Store the bread in a reusable container either on the counter or in the fridge or freezer. I usually cut the loaves in half, wrap the halves in kitchen towels and leave one half loaf (or however much I will be using in the next few days) on the counter or freeze the rest. Remember that this bread will go moldy quicker than store bought bread because it is not chock-a-block full of preservatives.
**Here is little tip for reviving a stale loaf of bread. Give the loaf a good spritz of water with a spray bottle. The crustier the bread the more generous you will be with the water. Put the loaf in the oven anywhere between 250-300 degrees for about 5-7 minutes. This will get any moisture that has been lost back into the bread.
Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions! Have a great weekend.
Adapted from Essentials of Baking.