Wow, did this one test me. And sadly, it tested me for no apparent reason other than my own stupidity. You see, the first loaf didn't rise at all. It didn't rise because I left the packet of yeast in my car in warm weather. What a doof. Then the second loaf didn't rise because my thermometer battery went out right when I needed to measure the temperature of the milk. Silly me, I thought I'd be able to tell on my own.
At this point, I thought about giving up. Then I remembered why I made my 30 Things to Make While I'm 30 list--to challenge myself and find some go-to recipes. I was not going to be defeated. I went to the store to get a new battery for the thermometer. Appropriately armed, I rolled up my sleeves and went in for loaf three.
Fortunately for me, the third time (and appropriate equipment) really is a charm. This bread (finally!) turned out beautifully. I got to enjoy the delicious smell of fresh bread baking. Even better, I got to successfully check another item off my list of things to make this year.
Honey Whole-Wheat Bread
from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking
**Note: This recipe makes two loaves. You should be able to successfully halve it for one loaf.
2 packages (5 tsp.) active dry yeast
2 c. whole milk, heated to warm (105-115 degrees F)
1/4 c. mild honey
2 large eggs
6 c. whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading and topping the loaves
2 tsp. sea salt
6 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
1. BY HAND--In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk and let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Using a wire whisk, stir in the honey and eggs. Add the flour, salt, and butter, and stir with your hand or a wooden spoon until a rough mass forms. Using a pastry scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until it is smooth and elastic, dusting the work surface with only enough flour the keep the dough from sticking, 5-7 minutes.
BY STAND MIXER--In the 5-quart bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the milk and let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Using a wire whisk, stir in the honey and eggs. Add the flour, salt, and butter. Place the bowl on the mixer, attach the dough hook, and knead on low speed. Add a little more flour as needed for the dough to come away from the sides of the bowl after a few minutes of kneading. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5-7 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl.
2. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise un a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, 1 1/2-2 hours.
3. Butter two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
4. Punch down the dough and, using the pastry scraper, scrape it out onto a clean work surface. Cut it in half with a bench scraper or sharp knife.
5. For each half, evenly flatten the dough with the heel of your hand. Roll the bottom third up onto itself and seal it by pushing it gently with the heel of your hand. Continue rolling and sealing the dough until you have an oval log.
6. Place each log, seam side down, into a prepared loaf pan. Press them to flatten then into the pans. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let the loaves rise in a warm, draft-free spot until the double in size, 45-60 minutes.
7. Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
8. Dust the tops of the loaves with whole-wheat flour. Bake until the are honey brown and sound hollow when tapped, 35-40 minutes. Be careful not to overbake or bread will be dry. Carefully remove the loaves from the pans and let cool completely on wire racks before slicing.
two years ago: Traditional Irish Stew the Bailey, Irish soda bread, and chocolate pecan pie with chocolate-Jack Daniels ice cream