Yeast was no match

February 16, 2010

Cracked Wheat Bread

Here are some very true things you should know about me. I’m not one to boast. I’m modest. I’m uncomfortable talking about accomplishments.

Ok, with that off my chest I’m going to brag. Real quick. Just for a moment so I can get it overwith. I baked bread! And it looked, smelled and tasted like bread! And it was actually good! Whew. Though I should have prefaced this moment of puffy chested crowing by declaring that I am a self-diagnosed yeast-phobe. Aside from making an easy peasy foccacia (rarely), pizza dough (even more rare) and bagels (once in my lifetime and I am still scarred), I flee from yeast bread recipes quicker than you can say pumpernickel. Well, fled. I decided it was time to face my fear and conquer this whole bread issue. Or at least cozy up to it a bit. And so I scheduled it in my calendar (not kidding) to reinforce this commitment and on February 13, 2010 I managed to bake something edible. Hot dang.

Let me say that you have every right to roll your eyes/chuckle/poke fun if baking bread is a weekly or monthly gig in your house. I certainly have a new found respect for those who do bake regularly. Because while I learned it’s not extremely difficult, you do need two things that tend to run short around here: time and patience.

First of all the time issue. In this recipe, Martha Rose Shulman advises that you really only need 15 minutes of hands on active time. Score! But, you need to be around (at home) for a solid 5 hours to facilitate the 4 risings and bake time. And on a Saturday morning, we’re normally out and about taking care of business (thus, the bread making appointment in my calendar). And patience. Oh patience where art thou? I seriously lack this skill. God help me when we multiply. But in terms of cooking, I like immediate gratification. Which is why I burn my tongue every time I bake cookies because I seem to ignore the cooling step. So you can imagine my impatience with yeast bread. You mean I start this thing at 8:30 am and don’t get to taste it until 1:00 pm? Come on! Well, I learned waiting 4 hours is a very small price to pay for this thing called homemade bread.

I followed this recipe exactly as Martha indicated except I added a full tablespoon of kosher salt instead of a scant tablespoon (misread) and couldn’t have been more pleased with the result. It was dense but still soft and moist. I hoped for a basic whole grain bread and that’s what emerged from the oven. Nothing fancy about it, which is what made it so terrific. Well, that and the fact that I stared yeast down and won (this time).

Cracked Wheat Bread

(A Martha Rose Shulman recipe via the NYTimes)

As Martha indicates, this is not a true cracked wheat bread. Cracked wheat is replaced with bulgur, yielding a lighter, moister bread.

For the sponge:

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons mild honey
  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • 1 cup medium or coarse bulgur
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour

For the bread:

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour, plus additional as necessary for kneading
  • 1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water for egg wash

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and water, and stir until dissolved. Stir in the honey and molasses. Whisk in the bulgur, then whisk in the flours a cup at a time. Stir or whisk this mixture a hundred times for about two minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, cover the bowl tightly with plastic, and leave to rise in a warm spot for one hour until bubbly.

Add the oil to the sponge and fold in, using a large spoon or spatula. Add the salt and fold in. Fold in 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Place some of the second cup of flour on your work surface, and scrape the dough onto it. Use a paddle to help fold the dough over to knead until it has absorbed the flour on the work surface. Flour your hands and your work surface, and knead the dough for 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until the dough is elastic and springs back when you press it with your finger. It will be dense and slightly tacky. Shape the dough into a ball. Rinse and dry your bowl, and coat with oil. Place the dough in it, then flip it over so that it is coated with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and set in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.

Punch down the dough again, cover the bowl and allow to rise for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Divide the dough in two and shape into loaves. Oil two 9 x 5-inch bread pans, and place the loaves in the pans, seam side up first, then seam side down. Cover with a damp towel, and allow to rise for 30 minutes or until the middle of the loaves rises above the edges of the pans.

Gently brush the loaves with egg wash and, using a sharp knife, cut two or three 1/2-inch deep slashes across the top of each loaf. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, brushing again halfway through with egg wash. The bread is done when it is golden brown and responds to tapping with a hollow sound. Remove from the pans, and cool on a rack.

Yield: Two loaves.

Advance preparation: These loaves, wrapped airtight, freeze well for several weeks. The bread will keep for about five days, but refrigerate after three days.

  1. allison

    February 16, 2010 at 7:56 am

    congrats on tackling yeast! i still “hide” from it but your bread looks so warm and good. perhaps i’ll make an appointment to finally come face-to-face with that yeast i fear so much! thanks!

  2. H

    February 16, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Good first try! Check out white whole wheat it makes a lighter loaf with all the great nutritional benefits as regular whole wheat. Adding gluten powder or powdered milk will help your loaf be less dense. Strive for more crumb.
    Oh just found your website and it is now in my google reader!

  3. Angela

    February 16, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Looks like you deserve to brag :) I too steer away from baking breads because I’m intimidated of yeast, but you’ve inspired me try it again and make some warm bread to cozy up to this winter.


  4. Lentil Breakdown

    February 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Nice job. Looks very tasty!

    I am about at the same bread-making stage as you and have had an appointment to make a certain cranberry-pecan rye for the past three weeks that I’ve broken! There’s always next weekend.

  5. Sara

    February 16, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    ha i completely understand that feeling of accomplishment! I baked a hearty loaf a few weeks ago and I was giddy about it for a good 24 hours. Congrats to you, looks so good!

  6. Abby (Nibble, Nourish, Run)

    February 16, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Oh I’m so jealous! I still haven’t tackled the baking my own bread challenge…! I need to get over it and go for it…especially now that I’m drooling over these pictures and want hot and fresh bread to enjoy in my own kitchen – I mean is there anything better?!

  7. Katie @ Cozydelicious

    February 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Congrats!!! Yeast breads scare me too. Mine always come out tasting a bit strange and yeasty (and not in a good way). But I’m determined! I’ve mastered pizza dough, and maybe I’ll give this recipe a shot. Wish me luck!

  8. Monika

    February 17, 2010 at 1:22 am

    There is nothing better than a homemade bread, congrats!!! once you start doing it, you will not care for the store bought one, nice set of photos.

  9. Carolyn

    February 17, 2010 at 9:25 am

    much thanks for all of your nice comments! next up, french baguettes! (um, maybe)

  10. molly

    February 19, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Oh my, this looks good! And great fun to read :) (yes, you can blush now)


    February 19, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Congratulations! I do believe that everyone should be able to make bread. It’s a survival skill, no? I have been making my own bread for a few weeks now and I am still “playing” with the flours and the raising time. Yes, patience (or rather not-instant-gratification) is something I am learning. Good luck!

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