Internet Potluck – My Favorite Bread Recipe

With the hot weather of our new locale, my summer was depressingly low on barbecue events, so it was impossible for me to resist a good Internet potluck.  Sarah over at No Whey, Mama put out the invite and posted her recipe offering for Aunt Ruth’s Stew.  She is even offering bonus points for dairy-free recipes!  Perfect for me, though I have no idea what I could actually cash in those bonus points for.

 Anywho, when I took on a strict dairy-free diet, I was amazed by the number of breads that contained milk ingredients.  From whey to caseinates to nonfat milk in all its foresaken glory, milk was certainly present in portions of the bakery that I had not anticipated.  Yet this is really what initiated my true love for baking.  My first mission became that loaf of bread.  I trialed many French bread recipes, but was elated to come across a good wheat bread recipe that I could use for everything from sandwich bread to a hearty slice of toast.  Really, there is nothing better than making a loaf of bread from scratch (kneading dough is a great way to get out some aggression!) and tasting how much more wonderful it is than store bought. 

I have often made a loaf of this go-to bread on a Sunday (halving the recipe) to last us the week.

Whole Wheat Bread 

Yield: 2 loaves

(Can be Vegan, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-free, and/or Soy-Free)

1 ½ T active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 ½ cups tepid plain or unsweetened milk alternative
¼ cup honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or brown sugar
¼ cup olive oil plus extra for greasing
2 t salt
3 cups whole-wheat flour
¼ – ½ cup flaxseeds (ground or whole) or 7-grain mix (in the bulk department)
3 ½ – 4 cups whole wheat bread flour (plus extra as needed)

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir to dissolve.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes. 

In a large bowl, combine the milk alternative, honey or maple syrup, oil, salt, and 2 cups of the whole-wheat flour.  Mix until creamy.  Add in the yeast mixture and remaining 1 cup of whole wheat flour, and mix until creamy.  Stir in the flaxseeds and/or 7 grain blend.  Add the whole wheat bread flour ½ cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the bowl sides.  Knead, and continue adding bread flour 1 Tablespoon at a time if the dough sticks, until smooth but slightly sticky when pressed, about 5 minutes. 

Transfer the dough to an oiled deep bowl and turn the dough once to coat it.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1-1 ½ hours.
Lightly grease two 9 by 5 inch loaf pans.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide in half and pat each half into a long rectangle.  Fold 1 rectangle like a letter, overlapping the short sides in the middle; press to flatten.  Beginning at a narrow end, tightly roll up the dough into a thick log.  Roll the log back and forth with your palms until it is the same length as the pan.  Pinch the ends and the long seam to seal.  Place the loaf seam side down, in a prepared pan, tucking the end under to make a neat, snug fit.  Repeat with the second portion.  Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until about 1 inch above the rim of each pan, about 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake until the loaves are golden brown and pull away from the pan sides, 35 – 40 minutes.  Turn out onto racks and let cool completely.

This is a very versatile recipe.  Soy, almond, or rice milk will work great, depending on your dietary preferences, and your favorite cooking oil can be used in place of the olive oil.  Also, you may add raisins, dried blueberries, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, or other bonus add-ins of choice.