Nothing brings friends and family together like sharing a warm loaf of bread fresh from the oven, and when that bread comes from your own oven and your own hands, the experience is even better.
With this recipe for a quick way to make yeast bread, you will baking bread very doable, something to enjoy and not intimidating.
The secret is to mix the dough one evening and refrigerate it until the next evening. That is when you will shape the dough, let it rise and bake it. There’s no punching down or kneading with this recipe; all you really need is a large wooden spoon for mixing the dough.
I can, and do, bring bread home from the bakery quite often, but making bread myself is a source of pleasure, particularly in the winter months when I seem to crave the comforting aroma of fresh baked bread, and eating it warm from the oven.
After baking, for a winter morning warm-up: Toast two slices of raisin-walnut whole wheat bread, top with butter; serve with hot coffee or tea.
This bread also makes for a very tasty sandwich at lunch; one I like is sliced turkey with a honey mustard spread, add crisp lettuce.
Whole Wheat Bread with Raisins and Walnuts
Makes 1 loaf
11/4 cups lukewarm water (85 to 95 degrees)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (for do-ahead version) or quick rising dry yeast (for same-day version).
1 cup warm whole milk (105 to 115 degrees)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup (one-half stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
11/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
21/2 cups (about) bread flour
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1. Stir water and yeast in large bowl to blend. Stir in warm milk, honey and salt, then melted butter. Add whole wheat flour and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until well mixed. Add rye flour, oat bran and cocoa powder and stir until well blended. Add enough bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to form moist and sticky dough, stirring vigorously until well mixed. Mix in raisins and walnuts. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
For do-ahead version: Refrigerate dough overnight.
For same-day version: Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour (do not punch down dough).
2. Spray 9-by-5-by-3-inch metal loaf pan with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to prepared pan, being careful not to deflate dough. Cover loaf pan loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm draft-free area until dough is puffed and almost reaches top of pan, about 45 minutes for refrigerated dough and 20 minutes for room-temperature dough.
3. Meanwhile, position rack in center of oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Generously spray inside of oven with water* (about 8 sprays); immediately place bread in oven. Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake bread until top is deep brown and crusty and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes. Turn bread out onto rack and cool completely.
* Spritzing the oven with water creates a more humid environment, which in turn gives the bread a nice crust. Use a standard spray bottle filled with tap water.
NOTE: This bread, after baking, can be frozen for up to two weeks. Cool completely, then wrap in foil, enclose in a resealable plastic bag and freeze. Before serving, unwrap the bread and thaw it at room temperature, or heat thawed foil-wrapped bread in a 350-degree oven until warm.
Bread baking tips
Beating: By hand or with an electric mixer, vigorous beating speeds up gluten formation. This is important when making batter breads, because they are not kneaded. Batter breads have been beaten enough when the dough leaves the sides of the bowl.
Kneading by machine: If you are fortunate enough to own a mixer with a dough hook attachment, prepare your yeast recipes as usual but use the dough hook if recipe calls for kneading. Operate mixer on speed 2 for only about 3 to 4 minutes, rather than the 8 to 10 suggested when kneading is done by hand. The dough will come away from the sides of the bowl and will be smooth and elastic.
Warm all ingredients to room temperature to insure proper rising of dough. If yeast is to be dissolved in bowl, always warm bowl first by rinsing with warm water to prevent liquids cooling off.
Patricia Altomare invites feedback. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write care of Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930.