Ask Amma

Baking bread at home

In Recipes on 17 June 2014 at 11:46 am
Today's loaf of bread

Today’s loaf of bread

When I first baked bread I used the recipe in Laurel’s Kitchen.  For years I followed this and usually baked one loaf every weekend.  It would be an afternoon’s undertaking, with all the mixing and kneading, waiting, kneading again and rising and baking.  It tended to be crumbly but we inhaled it all the same.

For many years I used almost no other cookbook.  Suddenly we were eating rye, buckwheat, black-eyed peas and other things we’d never tried before.  My friends started using it.  My friend Pam and I grew misty-eyed over the dedication and somewhat vexed over the second edition for deigning to accommodate the rush-rush of modern life.  My copy got so worn out my roommate Wendy got me a new one as a graduation gift.  It was good preparation for life in the co-op where I lived in Madison.

* * *

Chetana shared a whole wheat bread recipe today which she generously called “Aravinda’s recipe.”  I searched my email to see when and with whom I had shared this recipe and found that in the same thread from late 2010, I had announced the starting of Ask Amma.  Ah, the memories!

“Every long journey begins with a single step, and the first step may be nothing more ambitious than learning to make whole wheat bread.” – Laurel Robertson, author of Laurel’s Kitchen.

Smart Bread Machine RecipesLaurel's KitchenIt should actually be called “Anupama’s Recipe.”  My sister Anupama, of DC Vegetarian fame, started baking early and often, and perfected the bread recipe for the bread machine.  She would go on to venture into the world of artisan baking, grinding her own grain, weighing her ingredients to the gram, and usually using the bread machine only for kneading dough and making bread in various shapes including Bagels, pita bread, and various pastries.

For more than a decade now I have been using a bread machine and making bread a few times per week.  Only recently was I won over to the kitchen scale, allowing me to weigh my ingredients rather than scooping them out in cups and spoons, which are not only less precise, but also need washing.   It is a long way from the spirit of slow food that is Laurel’s Kitchen, but it does promise fresh bread with less effort than it takes to go to the store.  And if you do weigh your ingredients it makes it easier to add oatmeal even while using a machine – see below.  This recipe comes from a book of recipes for the bread machine and includes one helpful ingredient, vital wheat gluten.  I think that if you buy “bread flour” in the store it may already have gluten (and diastatic malt powder) added but if you get plain whole wheat flour then those 15 grams of gluten make a difference in increasing the dough’s elasticity and therefore allowing for better rising.  Oatmeal also helps.  As does soaking the flour prior to kneading.  But for the simplest way, here you go:

Whole Wheat Bread
In a bread machine, add, in order:
1½  tsp salt.
2 TBS oil  (or 15 grams lecithin)
2 TBS honey OR molasses  (or 25 grams)
1¼ cups warm water.  (315 grams)

Add above to bread pan and slosh around a bit.  Then add

3 cups whole wheat bread flour (415 grams)
1½ TBS wheat gluten
1 tsp yeast
Turn it on!  You can load the machine at night and set it to be ready when you wake up.  I find this works even better because the flour gets a chance to soak.  Of course you can bake bread in the oven, but it should be a proper oven, not a microwave oven.
And here to demonstrate is the lovely host of the Young Person’s Cookery Show, Khiyali herself:

P.S.  DISCLAIMER FROM KHIYALI:  This is a very early YP’sCS, so it may not be quite perfect… You are highly advised to measure more carefully than I did.

Baked Pizza topped with fresh basil.

Roll out the same dough to make pizza!

Pizza dough:  Same.  Serves 4-5 avid pizza eaters.  If you are kneading by hand, feel free to multiply the recipe.  In a machine, you can get away with up to 2 cups water and 5 cups flour.  Use 1.5 tsp yeast and maybe change salt to 2tsp if you want as well.  Since you will work with the dough by hand to some extent you can adjust as needed.

A little oatmeal: If you are weighing your ingredients, here is a simple way to add oatmeal, which makes the bread a little less crumbly:  Make some oatmeal and use 150 – 200 grams of it.  Add enough water to reach the total of 315 grams.  What I usually do is heat 1 cup of water and add 1/4 or 1/3 cup oats to it and cook.   That makes a very runny oatmeal which I pour into the pan and then add enough water to make 315 grams.    If you aren’t weighing it is a little harder to add the oatmeal unless you are kneading by hand and can adjust the water and flour as needed.  Even in the machine you can watch it and adjust as it goes along and eventually get your own idea of how much oatmeal and how much water substitutes well for 1¼ cups water.  Sometimes I just leave everything the same and just add in about ¼ cup of oatmeal.  Just check after a few minutes and if it looks too wet, sprinkle on some flour.
Remove the kneading paddle after the machine completes the final kneading action.  This reduces the size of the hole at the bottom of the bread.  If you forget, or if the kneading paddle is not removable, don’t worry about it, it just means you will have to remove it from the baked bread (or the baked bread from it).

If you have no machine just knead the dough yourself.  With toddlerpower this should be easy 🙂  Knead 30 minutes, let rise 1 hour, knead again, place in bread pan to rise again for 1 hour then bake in preheated oven at 350° F or 180° C for 45 minutes / till done.   Yes I did this for 20 years, I know it works.  Note that you need a convection oven and not a microwave oven.

Shapes: My daughter likes to knead so we sometimes do it this way and in order to take advantage, we form the loaf in various shapes – a braided loaf, rolls, or mini – loaves in smaller pans, baked in the oven.  If you have a 48 ounce aluminum can you can even put your dough in there and get round bread, which then fits nicely into a round tiffin dabba.

If you have no gluten, you can expect the loaf to be somewhat more dense and crumbly.  It will still taste good, especially if eaten right away, but will not rise as well without the gluten.  Soaking the flour will help.  Just mix the flour and water first and wait up to 12 hours before kneading in everything else.  If your loaf is still coming out hard and heavy, you could sift your flour, to remove some bran and thus proportionally increase the quantity of gluten present in the grain.  (When I do this I sprinkle the bran back after the dough rises.)  You could also try making something smaller like rolls that do not require slicing.

Read about gluten and more science of bread making.

In anticipation of this post I took a dozen pictures of the loaf that spring forth from my machine today.  One is enough but why not several?  Enjoy 😉

  1. […] your pizza pans to rise one more time, for another 45 – 60 minutes.   (You may also use a bread machine to mix and knead.)  Bake this in a preheated 350 F / 180 C oven for 15 minutes.  Now you […]


  2. […] the sake of bread aficionados in India who pine for a loaf of really whole grain bread, I posted Baking Bread at Home, which you can do either in a bread machine or in an ordinary oven.  You can also use a convection […]


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