Taking my bread machine for a spin with whole-wheat recipes

Taking my bread machine for a spin with whole-wheat recipes

 

I'm not exactly a health nut. I'm willing to challenge you to a chocolate-eating contest, and I bet I'd win.

However, I am a big fan of being able to pronounce the things I'm eating, and I know it's important to eat whole grains.

 

But the really good whole-wheat bread can be expensive (at least compared to its less-healthy counterparts), and many brands still contain ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup.

 

For these reasons and because it's delicious, I've always loved the idea of making my own bread. But until I purchased a bread machine second-hand earlier this winter, it was never feasible for me.

 

Now that I've got the bread maker's settings and timer figured out and the right ingredients, there's no stopping me. It takes five minutes to add the ingredients, and I've started setting the timer in order for my loaf to be done right when I wake up or when I get home from work. It's especially good topped with peanut butter or apple butter for breakfast, or used in a grilled-cheese sandwich.

 

So far, I've tried these recipes, from my bread machine's manual for 2-pound loaves. They all use the machine's whole-wheat setting.

100% Whole Wheat

1 ½ cups water

4 cups whole wheat flour

½ cup vital wheat gluten

¼ cup molasses

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons butter

2 ½ teaspoons dry active yeast or 2 teaspoons fast rise yeast

 

This was good, but dark because of the molasses. Same goes for this next recipe:

 

7 Grain Whole Wheat

1 ½ cups water

3 ½ cups whole wheat flour

½ cup gluten

½ cup seven-grain cereal

¼ cup molasses

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons butter

2 ½ teaspoons dry active yeast or 1 ¾ teaspoons fast rise yeast

 

This one was delicious. I wasn't sure what to expect after adding the seven-grain cereal, which reminded me of oatmeal, but the flakes broke down enough in the finished loaf to add texture without being distracting.

 

This recipe is my new favorite:

Honey Whole Wheat

1 ½ cups water

4 cups whole wheat flour

½ cup vital wheat gluten

1/3 cup honey

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons butter

2 ½ teaspoons dry active yeast or 1 ¾ teaspoons fast rise yeast

 

To make the bread even healthier, I substituted flax meal for the butter, according to the directions for baking on the flax package. You multiply the amount of cooking oil or shortening by three when substituting flax, so I added 6 tablespoons and it came out great. It adds a nutty flavor to the bread; I think improves the taste. I'm embarrassed at how fast I ate my first loaf. It was delicious - not like health food at all.

 

Next, I'm planning to try the manual's recipes for corn meal whole wheat bread and three-seed bread. The latter calls for bread flour, poppy, sesame and amaranth seeds and using the machine's French bread setting. Amaranth seeds were just about the only specialty ingredient I couldn't find at my new favorite grocery store, Beachy's Bulk Foods, southeast of Arthur. I'll substitute whole flax seeds. The recipe also suggests substituting unsalted pumpkin seeds.

 

Beachy's is an Amish store full of interesting and unusual spices, ingredients and of course, bread-making supplies. (Its hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. It's closed Sundays. Beachy's address is 259 N. County Road 200 East, Arthur.)

 

It sells supplies in bulk, but everything is pre-measured. Many times, the larger the quantity you buy, the lower the price per pound.

 

I've purchased seven-grain cereal, rye flour, caraway seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds and many other ingredients for bread making and other cooking. I keep a list of unusual ingredients for periodic trips to Arthur and usually find just about everything I need there (minus amaranth seeds, of course). Last time I was there, I bought a little more than a pound of vital wheat gluten and should've bought more. It sells for $2.39 a pound there, which is far more reasonable than this price.

 

Gluten is crucial, I've found, when making loaves of whole-wheat bread. It improves the texture and rise, and makes it seem more like bread you might purchase at a store or bakery. It's the extra gluten in bread flour that makes it work so much better in bread machines, as well.

 

Here are some other prices of bread-making supplies at Beachy's:

Whole wheat flour – 59 cents a pound

32-ounce bottle of molasses – $2.49

Seven-grain flakes – $1.89 a pound

Rye flour – 79 cents a pound (I'm going to try rye bread in my machine sometime soon)

Raw wheat germ – 79 cents a pound

 

If you stock up on these supplies, you can see how a trip to Beachy's would be worth the drive.
 

Now that I have an easy way to make my own bread, my affection for the machine is starting to rival how I feel about my slow cooker. What about you? What's your favorite kitchen appliance? And do you have a fool-proof bread machine recipe? If so, share it. I'd love to try it.

 

Photo: My first try making the honey whole wheat bread, which substituted butter for flax meal.

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Tags (3):food, homemade, recipes

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greerwilliams wrote on March 02, 2010 at 9:03 am
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I have tried so many times to make bread but something always goes wrong. If often looks like bread and smells like bread, but is about the density of a brick. I must be doing something wrong when I am letting it proof? Maybe I knead it too much or not enough? I don't know.

I think I should invest in a bread machine.

Meg Dickinson wrote on March 02, 2010 at 10:03 am
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Try adding gluten. I tried my first machine loaf without it, and it came out really bricky. Have had nothing but good results since I've started adding gluten to my loaves.

But I vote yes on getting a bread machine. It's so, so easy and the results are so good!

brechin wrote on March 02, 2010 at 10:03 am
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Most of the "specialty" ingredients are available in bulk at local shops like Common Ground, Strawberry Fields, or Natural Gourmet. I try to make bread (by hand) at least once a week. It's so tasty and much cheaper than the grocery store loaves. Once you see that you can quickly and easily make a delicious homemade loaf of bread the way you like it, it's hard to pony up $2 for a pale, flavorless "fresh-baked" loaf from the store.

Meg Dickinson wrote on March 02, 2010 at 10:03 am
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Oh, great, thanks for pointing that out. Would be a lot easier than driving to Arthur. I do love going to Beachy's, though, especially because I always get a whoopie pie when I go. It's like a cakey, delicious, Amish version of an Oreo. Yum.

Golden wrote on March 02, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Hmmmm. Might get mine out of storage. There really was nothing like waking up to the smell of fresh baked foods.

Meg Dickinson wrote on March 02, 2010 at 3:03 pm
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I agree - it makes waking up so much easier! But you mention storage - the machine takes up most of the counter in my small kitchen. I need to find an alternative spot for it. Maybe a shelf?

I run into the same problem with my slow cooker. And blender. And coffee pot. Hmmm...

elippitz wrote on March 04, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Mmmmmmm. Next time you bake, bring it in to share. This looks fantastic!

Meg Dickinson wrote on March 04, 2010 at 2:03 pm
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I will. Maybe I'll whip up some honey butter, too. Yum.