|Annoying paddle hole!|
I have been trying to move our family towards a simpler eating lifestyle. I used to buy at least one loaf of whole wheat bread from our local grocer at least once per week. The ingredient labels on even the healthiest loaves I can find make me cringe. Why in the world does a loaf of bread require so many ingredients? Surely folks back in the 'olden days' didn't add mono and diglycerides, calcium propionate, etc. If the loaf won't start spoiling until after 12 days, I don't want to eat it. So, I vowed to start baking all of our bread in the bread machine. It started out well. The smell was wonderful. However, when it came time to get the freshly baked loaf out of the machine, it was very difficult to nearly impossible. It always gets stuck on that darn paddle on the bottom. And when I did finally dislodge the loaf, it had a huge hole in the bottom where the paddle made its mark. The loaf was oddly shaped... more like the shape of a cinder block than something taken out of Grandma's oven. When sliced, the slices were very awkward to eat because they were so large, and they didn't fit into any of my reusable sandwich containers. Something had to be done. So, I started doing a little bit of research and found some sources out there for using the bread machine to prep my dough and the oven to finish it. After many loaves of trial and error, I'm ready to share the method that works best for me.
I am lucky enough to have a dough setting on my Sunbeam bread machine. When using a bread machine, you always add wet ingredients first and then your flour and then your sugar, salt and yeast. I use a simple recipe supplied by Sunbeam shown below (http://www.sunbeam.com/Splash.aspx), and I have found it to work best for me.
1. Add your ingredients to your bread machine. For a 1 1/2 pound 100% whole wheat bread loaf, I add the following in this order:
2 tablespoons softened butter
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 teaspoons regular active dry yeast (quick acting dry yeast is fine)
Set your machine to the dough cycle. For this loaf, my machine takes 1 1/2 hours to prepare the dough.
2. Prepare your pan. I use a bread pan I bought from a local retail store. It's a 9x5 inch pan. Spray the pan lightly with olive oil spray. Any other non-stick spray will work. You can also grease it with butter or some type of lard. If I am out of spray, I will grab a stick of butter, open the end and rub it all over the inside of the pan.
3. Remove your dough from the machine and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. I use a piece of wax paper on top of my countertop. I flour it with the same wheat flour used in making the dough.
4. Punch the dough down with your fists and shape it into a rectangle that is approximately 10 inches wide. It is not necessary to knead the dough. I don't even use a roller. I just kind of push it around until I get the shape I want.
6. Place a damp cloth over the bread pan and place in a warm, stable environment like the oven or a microwave. Don't turn either of them on. I place my bread in the microwave because I like to free up my oven so that I can preheat for step 7. The dough needs to have time to rise for about 1 hour before baking. This can be fudged a little bit. I sometimes leave it in there an extra 30 minutes when I'm busy doing something else. Your final loaf will look very similar to what you see after this step is complete.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, give or take a few minutes depending on your oven. My oven bakes a little bit hot, so 30 minutes is usually the perfect amount of time. It should sound hollow when you thump it.
8. Take it out of the oven, turn it out onto a board or plate or rack and let it cool. I usually let mine cool for about an hour before I put it in a gallon ziplock for storage. If you put it into a container too soon, the steam from the bread will add too much moisture to the loaf/container and will encourage mold to grow. So, make sure it's cool before you store it. I keep my loaves out on our counter in a ziplock. They usually last approximately 4 to 5 days for a family of four. Sometimes they only last a couple of hours because butter on fresh bread is ridiculously yummy.
I hope you enjoy the whole wheat recipe and the fresh baked bread. This method sounds very time consuming, but it's actually quite easy once you get the hang of it. There is a lot of 'hurry up and wait' with baking bread.