CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Bread has become such taboo. What a shame. Carbohydrates are not bad and neither is bread. However, bread that falls under the rules of clean eating is hard to come by.
Bread is filling and convenient, but with that comes good news and bad news. The good news is whole-grain bread can be delicious, but the bad news is you have to make it. But there is a third option: You can buy clean bread from a trusted source or a health food store, but you'll pay the price. Once you get over the hurdle of establishing a bread-baking pattern, you'll gladly pencil baking time into your schedule.
In my food world, there is nothing better than warm, homemade bread with butter. When I started inspecting bread labels, I stopped buying packaged sandwich bread. Even if it's whole grain, it usually includes other junk that I don't want in my family's daily diet. We slowly stopped eating bread, and that's sad. So, I started making it, and it turned out to not be that big of a deal. It's a compromise that makes sense.
We tend to savor things a bit more when we have to put forth some effort. Butter isn't hard to make when you're just making a smidge. Buy a gallon of fresh milk from a dairy and pour it into a pitcher. Let the cream rise to the top and skim it off into a jar, or buy good cream from the store. Shake the jar until the cream sticks together. This is a great project for kids. Keep shaking it until you have a clump of butter; the remaining liquid is buttermilk, so save it for whole-grain pancakes or biscuits. Knead the butter under cold running water to work out any remaining buttermilk. I like to knead in a little salt as well. The result will be fresh butter for your warm bread. Your hard work will pay off, I promise.
The toughest part of baking bread is following the recipe. Baking is a science; someone has worked hard perfecting that bread recipe, and you need to follow it. I've learned this the hard way, so take it from me: Do not tweak a bread recipe. Make up your own recipe on your own time, but don't mess with perfection. Even if your whole-grain bread turns into a brick, you can always make bread crumbs. Just pop them into the freezer for later use.
Try these whole-grain bread recipes as a start to regular bread baking.
Couldn't-be-easier slow-cooker bread
1 tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm skim milk or 1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 whole egg
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
Grease a deep metal or glass bowl (or 1-pound coffee can); turn slow cooker on high to preheat. Dissolve yeast in water; combine with milk, oats, salt, oil, honey, egg and wheat germ. Add flour and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Turn dough immediately into bowl or can; cover loosely with foil. In bottom of slow-cooker, place 1/2 cup of water and a trivet or some crumpled foil. Place can or bowl on this; cover and bake on high for 3 hours. Note: Sides of bread brown and crisp beautifully; top will slightly brown and be soft to touch.
100-percent no-knead whole-wheat bread
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons molasses or maple syrup
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Thoroughly grease 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch pan. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Beat the mixture vigorously for about 3 minutes. Scoop the dough into the prepared pan. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for about 40 to 45 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil after 20 minutes. The bread is done when it is golden brown on top. Remove it from the oven; after 5 minutes turn it out onto a rack. Brush with melted butter, if desired; this will keep the crust soft. Cool the bread completely before cutting it.
Adapted from breadexperience.com
Oatmeal whole-wheat quick bread
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grind oatmeal in a food processor or blender. In a large bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, dissolve honey in vegetable oil then stir in the milk. Combine both mixtures and stir until a soft dough is formed. Form the dough into a ball and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until bottom of loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
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