I would like to start out by addressing the accusations from Hannah’s previous post (that I am crazy). In response, I just say, is it really more crazy to do an hour of yoga in a hot room than to run THIRTEEN MILES in a row… for FUN?! Think about it…
Now that that is out of the way. Y’all, I’m starting to think finals are coming up.
I’m not just saying this because I want to scare you or because I want to be ridiculous.
No. Finals coming up is a nightmare. And believe me, I’m trying to ignore it. But the signs are cropping up everywhere.
Number one: I went to the store yesterday and somehow walked out with a 4-pack of sugar free Red Bull, an enormous bag of Sour Patch Kids, and a box of Cheez its. This is troubling. I also purchased about 10 frozen meals and two huge boxes of mac and cheese. I only do this when I am convinced I will not eat if I have to cook. AKA when I know I’m going to be busy and stressed. AKA finals time.
Number two: I am having the most bizarre dreams. The other day I woke up from one where I got shot in the stomach and then walked around for an entire day telling people not to worry. That if I didn’t move too much and dislodge the bullet, I was totally fine to keep going about my business. I generally have these dreams when I am feeling an impending sense of doom. AKA finals time.
Number three: I am starting to get overly nauseous. All the time. I’m hungry but I also have a crazy upset stomach. This usually means I’m anxious. You know when I get really anxious? …finals time.
Number four: I am feeling an overwhelming need to make and eat cookie dough. This is not that out of the ordinary. What is out of the ordinary, though, is my complete inability to address that need. I cannot find a recipe I want to make. This is terrifying for me as you can imagine. I get supremely indecisive about things that aren’t school during (guess!) finals time.
Number five: I really, really, really need to bake bread. And I’ve found it to be more therapeutic than usual. One of the greatest stress relievers I’ve ever found is baking bread. It forces you to slooooow down. Because you have to wait a total of two to three hours (at least) for your dough to proof. Plus, there is little in the world more satisfying than kneading kneading kneading that dough and letting your mind go totally blank. Ugh. I just love that step.
Light Wheat Bread
Makes one 8.5 x 4.5 loaf
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsp honey or agave
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp powdered milk
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp unsalted butter or shortening, room temp
1 1/2 cups water, room temp
- Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add shortening (or butter), honey (or agave), and water. Stir until a dough comes together into a ball. If there is still flour on the bottom of the bowl, add more water a teaspoon at a time. You don’t want the dough to be too wet, though, as it won’t be sturdy enough to rise (learned that the hard way). So you don’t want it to be crumbly or tacky. Find the happy medium.
- Sprinkle bread flour onto your counter and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough about 10 minutes or until it passes the windowpane test. The purpose of kneading is to make the dough uniform throughout, to complete the mixing process. The windowpane test basically tells you when that has happened. If your dough doesn’t pass it after 10 minutes, keep kneading until it does. Be careful not to overknead, though. Then your bread will be tough. So I would say don’t go past 15 minutes max. Don’t freak out about proper kneading form or anything. You just want to make sure you’re folding the dough onto itself and turning it. Find your own technique. It’s one of the best parts of making bread.
- Lightly oil a large bowl and place your ball of supple (ew) and smooth dough into it. Make sure the dough get well-covered in the oil. This will keep your dough from drying out while it rises. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let proof at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it doubles in size. If it’s cold in your house, it might take longer. If it’s warm, it might happen more quickly.
- Turn the dough out onto the counter again and press into a rectangle that is about 9×6. Make sure there isn’t any excess flour hanging out on the top of the dough. This can make your loaf get holey in the middle. Roll the short side toward the center, pressing the crease down with each turn. This helps increase the surface tension of the loaf and makes it rise all nice and pretty.
- Continue until you have a nice, compact log.
- Place in a lightly oiled loaf pan(8.5×4.5), cover with plastic wrap, and let proof again at room temperature for 1 to 1/2 hours, or until the loaf begins to pop over the edge of the pan.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate pan and then continue baking for another 15-30 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown on the top and sides and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. The loaf should slide out of the pan without any problem, so if you aren’t sure by looking at it, flip it out, grab a wooden spoon and knock the bottom of it. If it sounds hollow, you’re golden. If not, let it bake a bit longer.
- Let cool for at least an hour before slicing and serving. Since mine generally goes straight into the freezer when I slice it, I like to wait a few hours before cutting into it.
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I totally adore this bread. I no longer buy bread from the store. Partly because I enjoy the process of baking bread so much. Partly because store-bought bread tastes sad and processed compared to this. What I do is slice the whole loaf and then freeze it. Then, I take slices out as I need them. They defrost and toast perfectly in my toaster oven. The time from breakfast to lunch is the perfect amount for defrosting for sandwich purposes.
Baking your first loaf of bread can be intimidating. But it’s also so, so awesome. Get into it! Bake with love!