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It doesn’t really matter what day it is… there’s just something about fresh homemade bread that makes me happy. It could be 100 or -20 degrees outside and it wouldn’t matter to me. Give me a slice of warm, perfect wheat bread with honey butter and I’m your new BFF. (For the record, fresh homemade bread with strawberry jam or plain butter qualify for BFF status, too!)
Anyway, this recipe is a variation of one that my mom and grandmother learned at a cooking class at Shar’s Kitchen. I haven’t personally taken any of their classes, but I remember how highly my mom spoke of them.
Ready for some awesomeness in just a few hours? Then let’s do this!
If you can, you’ll want to start by grinding your own wheat. If you can’t or don’t want to, don’t stress. You can use bread flour, plain ole flour, or a mix of flours and it’ll still be amazing. Personally, I’m a big fan of the freshly ground stuff. My husband and kids like seem to like the taste of a mix of flours: 75% whole wheat and 25% bread flour mix. Whichever flour you choose, that’s awesome. Go with it. You’re makin’ bread and that’s pretty stinking amazing.
You’ll also need to have your mixer ready. I have an older generation of this Bosch. It’s the best. Seriously.
In your mixer with a dough hook, mix the following in this order:
- 6 cups warm water. I turn the tap all the way warm and that’s generally the right temperature. The official recommendation is to have it at 115 degrees Fahrenheit. If you make your own Greek yogurt, you can easily substitute room temperature whey for equal amounts of water. It does NOT affect the flavor of the bread and adds protein and other nutrients.
- 2 tablespoons sea salt. I’ve also used kosher salt – although you’ll want to do closer to 2.25 tablespoons or the bread will lack that extra oomph.
- 2/3 cup canola oil. Do this before the next step. Trust me.
- 2/3 cup honey. If you did the oil first, the honey will slide out of the measuring up a LOT easier.
- 3 tablespoons dough enhancer. It took me a few years to decide that this was actually a good idea. It does make a difference to the flavor – in a great way. Don’t leave it out – your mouth will thank me.
- 2 cups high gluten bread flour OR 2/3 cup vital wheat gluten. I know that gluten is a hot topic. I’ve made the bread without this just fine, though the bread doesn’t rise as well. I tend to only put a few tablespoons in (like 3) and the bread is just fine.
- My own special ingredient: flax seed meal. It’s another ingredient that has ZERO impact on the flavor and adds a ton of nutrition. It makes the bread appear speckled and more whole-wheaty. My picky boys don’t mind it at all. Check your local whole foods store or Costco – that’s where I get mine.
- 3-4 cups of fresh ground flour. This isn’t all you’ll need, so have more than this. I typically end up using about 10-12 cups whole wheat and 2-3 cups of white bread flour.
- 3 tablespoons instant yeast. I’ve used a variety of yeasts and so far all have worked just fine. I use whatever I got on sale. (if your bread has trouble rising evenly or falls, cut back to 2.5 tablespoons. It makes a huge difference!)
Got all that? Great! Let’s keep going.
Mix the ingredients together for a few moments. Then turn off your mixer, put the lid on, and WALK AWAY. Trust me. Go check your Facebook feed. Or better yet, come hang out with me on social media. Just check the sidebar where it says “Let’s hang out” and then click the social media platform of your choice. My favorite spots to hang out are on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Hang out with me there for 10-15 minutes and let the yeast do its work. This will make a world of difference in how the bread tastes and rises.
When you come back and take the lid off, you’ll notice the amazing smell of a strong yeast bread. You can thank me now.
Next you’ll turn on the mixer and start adding flour. How much? Well, you’re going to keep adding flour until the all the dough is pulled off the sides and bottom of the mixer. The goal is to use the least amount of flour possible to achieve this. Why? Simple. It means you’ll have super yummy bread – and it won’t be dry or crumbly.
I turn the mixer off when I add flour, then turn it on for a minute to evaluate how much more I need to add. I do this because I have four small children who like to help… and I like their fingers where they are – attached. You can leave it on while adding flour if you’re better at pouring flour than me, don’t have small helpers who like to touch things they shouldn’t, or if you’re okay with the possibility of having to clean up large amounts of flour scattered around your kitchen because it shot right back out of the top of the mixer.
Let it knead for about 10 minutes with the lid on (for safety). Admit it – you’re glad for another break to check out more posts and pins. Oh – and be sure to pin this recipe!
From here, there’s two different ways you can go to finish the bread: making bread ASAP or waiting for some extra flavor to develop. Since both have the same cooking steps, we’ll cover how to get the extra flavor first.
Option 1: I’m willing to wait a few minutes for perfect wheat bread
Once the bread is done kneading, dump it all into a well-greased bowl or bin. Cover it and let it sit in a cool spot for up to 24 hours. I like to stick mine in my cool storage room. It’s generally cooler than the rest of my house, which is what we’re going for. When bread rises more slowly, it creates a richer flavor for the bread.
In other words, if you’ve got time (and planned ahead), this is the way to make bread.
When I’ve got the time, I usually let mine rise in the cool storage room for about four hours. That’s about all my patience can handle because I want the bread ASAP. And, that’s generally long enough for the dough to double in size.
Once it’s doubled in size, go ahead and punch the dough. Not only is it therapeutic, it’ll also help the dough get back to a manageable amount. Then, we can go on to getting it ready to bake. Go ahead and follow all of the instructions in Option 2 and you’re gonna have some of the most amazing bread EVER.
Option 2: I need perfect wheat bread ASAP!!
Once the bread is done kneading and is a beautiful ball of dough, make sure you have a large area of clean and clear counter space (or a giant silicone pastry mat like these. I love mine) and oil your hands. I’ve used both oil spray and from the jug – and honestly the spray is easier to use.
OH! A quick heads up. If you want regular, perfect wheat bread, please continue. But if you want to add some cinnamon goodness, well, click here to make cinnamon swirl bread.
Pour out the dough and start shaping your loaves. I use a plastic dough scraper when cutting my dough to avoid damaging my pastry mat. I use standard-sized Pyrex glass bread pans and I’m able to get 6-8 loaves of bread. It varies because sometimes I skip measuring things, so I end up with an off amount of dough. Or an off-sized loaf of bread. In any case, if you want regular-sized loaves, weigh the dough. Then put the same amount of dough into each bread pan.
Place the dough into well-greased pan (or sprayed with cooking spray). Place the pans somewhere safe and warm to rise. I put them on the top of my stove and start preheating it to 350 degrees. Then cover each loaf or pan of rolls with a towel.
Let the loaves rise for about thirty minutes, or until they double in size. Don’t wait any longer than that, because they’ll still rise some while you cook them.
Then, cook them at 350 degrees Farenheit for 30-35 minutes. The official recommendation is to cook them until the interior bread temperature is 200, but I’ve never checked that because I don’t like holes in my bread. Between my oven’s quirks and the glass pans, 35 minutes has proven to be just perfect.
When I pull the pans out of the oven, I set the pans on a cooling rack for about five minutes and then I take the bread out of the pans to cool out of the racks. This helps the sides of the loaf set up better so the loaf doesn’t collapse on itself. Nobody likes squishy bread.
Let it cool. I admit: I’m not good with this step. I want to eat the bread I just spent 90 minutes making!
Time to enjoy! After I’ve eaten too much good bread, I let the bread finish cooling on a cooling rack under a towel. When it’s cool, put it into a bread bag and freeze it for up to a month. It doesn’t last that long in our house, because I eat it.
On a budget? No problem!
Once you’ve got the gear, the costs for making bread at home are quite minimal. In fact, I did some math to figure out what it’s costing me. And, based off a recent power bill and the cost of ingredients, I love that I can make amazing wheat bread in less than two hours and for about $1 a loaf.
Now go enjoy making some amazing bread. I’m certain you’ll love it, too.
Perfect Wheat Bread
- 6 cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 2/3 cup canola oil
- 2/3 cup honey
- 3 tablespoons dough enhancer
- 2 cups high gluten bread flour OR 2/3 cup vital wheat gluten
- My own special ingredient: flax seed meal
- 10-12 cups of fresh ground flour and 2-3 cups of white bread flour
- 3 tablespoons instant yeast
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes. Enjoy!