Whole Wheat Bread
On special mornings, I can’t imagine dining on anything better than a fresh loaf of bread.
Over the summer, Alex’s aunt told me that she’d gotten in the habit of making two loaves of sandwich bread every other week. She’d freeze one, slice the other for breakfasts and lunches, and then defrost the second and do the same. Supermarket bread was so full of additives, and fancy sourdoughs weren’t always right for simple PB&Js. They spoiled fast, too. She printed out the recipe for me and added her notes. As soon as the weather cooled down, I baked my first batch.
The bread requires kneading and has generous amounts of fat and sweetener in the ingredient list. But it slices beautifully to show off a fine, dense crumb, and you’ll be so happy to have it around.
The first time I made the bread, I made two changes accidentally, both of which made the goodie seem more of a Christmas morning breakfast than a weekday staple. First, I didn’t have any oil, so I melted a stick of butter and subbed that in instead. Second, I wanted to serve the bread with a pot of chowder for dinner. By the time the soup was on, the bread was only just out of the oven. Rather than letting the loaf cool, like a good little bread baker, I put it on the table with a bread knife and a saucer of softened butter, and we attacked it. Ours slices were more like pulls–it felt almost like we were eating monkey bread or cinnamon rolls! Swiped through the butter, each bite was divine.
Though it was only September, that made me think immediately that this bread, warm from the oven, would be ideal as a holiday breakfast–one that was special without being indulgent, that felt like a treat without asking you to do oodles of work. I’ve included a schedule in the recipe so that you can do most of the work the afternoon before you want to eat, then proof in the fridge overnight and bake fresh first thing in the morning.
You could make a batch of honey-nutmeg butter to serve alongside.
- 2 cups warm water
- ¼-ounce package (2½ teaspoons) active dry yeast
- ¼ cup molasses
- 5 to 6 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ cup (8 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled
- In a small bowl stir together 1¾ cups warm water and yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a measuring cup whisk together remaining ¼ cup warm water and molasses. In a large bowl stir together 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and oil and add molasses and yeast mixtures, stirring until combined well. Stir in enough of remaining 3 to 4 cups flour, ½ cup at a time, for mixture to form a soft dough and turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, and shape into a ball.
- Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat, and let rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and let rise, covered, 45 minutes more.
- Oil two 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pans. When the dough is ready, divide it in half. Lightly knead each piece and shape into ovals. Transfer the loaves to the pans and cover with plastic wrap. Transfer to the fridge and let rise for 12 hours. (If you're doing this all at once, simply allow 45 minutes at room temp for this last rise.)
- When ready to bake, remove the loaves from the fridge. Let come to room temperature, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Midway through this, preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F, then bake another 25 minutes, until the loaves are rounded and brown.
- Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then use a butter knife or offset spatula to remove and transfer to a rack. Eat immediately, with butter, or cool completely and then reserve for sandwiches.