Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tuscan Whole Wheat-Herb Bread

For whatever reason, this weekend I decided I wanted to try making a new kind of bread. Browsing through my cookbooks, I stumbled across this whole wheat bread that sounded good and looked really easy to make. Aside from the fact that wheat bread is healthier than white, I'm not a fan of white bread and never have been (thanks Mom and Dad for feeding me whole grains as a kid!). This bread has a crusty outside and soft and chewy inside, just how I like it. I'll definitely make it again.

I used my KitchenAid for mixing the ingredients and kneading the dough so I can't say much about how accurate the kneading time is in the recipe. If you don't like sage, pick any other herb you like or leave the herbs out all-together.

During the winter, my house is typically somewhere between 65 and 70 degrees, which is not ideal for making yeast breads. Ideally, you want dough to rise in a draft-free spot between 75 and 85 degrees, but I don't think many houses are quite that warm in the winter, at least in Wisconsin. I place the dough in a bowl on the top rack of an unheated oven with a large pan of hot water on the rack underneath and let the dough rise in the closed oven. There are a few other methods out there for creating a warm spot for your bread to rise, but this is the one I like best.

Tuscan Whole Wheat-Herb Bread
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book

1 1/3 c. warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 t.)
1 T. olive oil
2 t. snipped fresh sage or 1/2 t. dried sage, crushed
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 to 2 1/2 c. bread flour or all-purpose flour

1. In a large mixing bowl stir together the warm water, yeast, oil, sage, salt, and sugar. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes.

2. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the whole wheat flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the bread flour or all-purpose flour, a little at a time; stir until most of flour has been absorbed and the dough begins to form a ball. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining bread flour or all-purpose flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total). Shape the dough into a ball. Place into a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease the surface. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double (45 to 60 minutes).

3. Punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease a baking sheet. Shape dough into a 8x4-inch oval loaf. Place on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with additional flour. Cover; let rise until almost double (for 30 to 45 minutes).

4. Using a sharp knife, slash top of loaf several times, making each cut about 1/2-inch deep. Place in a 425 degree oven. For a crisp crust, spray or brush the loaves with cold water every 3 minutes for the first 9 minutes of baking. After 9 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; lightly sprinkle bread with additional flour. Bake about 20 minutes more or until bread sounds hollow when you tap the top (if necessary, cover loosely with foil for the last 15 minutes of baking). Transfer to a wire rack; cool completely.

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