Some back story:
Ryan and I recently read a book that changed our lives: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan. His goal isn’t a new-age diet, or some miracle vitamin like Omega-3; it’s simply a call for us to go back to eating “real food”, and to eat “a variety of everything, mostly plants.” This is actually harder than it sounds…
Real food (according to the book) should follow some basic guidelines:
- There should only be ingredients (the fewer the better) you can pronounce and that you are familiar with. Ideally you should be able to get these ingredients yourself if you wanted to make something from scratch. This rules out a lot of additives, chemicals, and other processed items.
- It should be something your great-grandma would recognize as food. This rules out crazy new items like Gushers; I doubt my great grandma would instinctively recognize that as an edible product.
- There should be few or no health benefits touted on the package (and even better, it shouldn’t even come in a package) This rules out things like Coco Puffs that claim to be heart healthy… Yes, Coco Puffs claim to be good for you. A few real food items make health claims, like Oatmeal, but these health claims are not added into the food they are naturally occurring.
- It should be processed as little as possible. This means if you have a choice between a whole fruit or vegetable and one that is chopped, boiled, diced, and premade into a meal or canned, you should go for the whole raw one. This also means you should go for whole oats for oatmeal not just oat flour, etc.
- Avoid stuff with corn syrup and any form of soy bean oil. You’d be amazed how much corn and soy we eat every day. A little is good for us, but these highly processed versions that are in EVERYTHING are too much.
We decided to slowly purge our kitchen of “imitation” food items and expand what we ate. We now have a lot more variety in the vegetables we eat, and are enjoying our meals together rather than rushing to get something made fast so we could finish quickly too.
One of the biggest surprises when we looked at what we thought was good food but really wasn’t, was bread. Even whole wheat bread came with all sorts of unpronounceable items and additives. And more surprisingly the stuff in the bakery wasn’t much better; it was loaded with hydrogenated soy bean oil and other things we decided we wanted to cut back on.
The first week of eating our new diets we felt Great! I had so much more energy at the end of the day, and Ryan reported feeling equally good. We both had more concentration and felt more “alive.” But soon the lack of bread got to us. We had salads for lunch, but we were really missing having a nice piece of bread to go with it. And peanut butter sandwiches would sure be nice…
So I was on a quest to find a bread I could make relatively quickly, that would be all whole wheat, and that would be sandwich bread quality.
I searched around the web and found a highly reviewed recipe. This was also harder than I expected, most whole wheat bread recipes called for mostly plain white flour and loads of sugar. I decided to try it, and the results were great! Here’s the original recipe, and here’s how I adapted it:
(Makes 1 loaf)
-1 1/2 cup hot water
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1/4 cup honey
-1 Tb. molasses
-1 1/2 teas. salt (sea salt or normal salt both work)
-3 cups (+/- a little) whole grain wheat flour (best if it includes the bran and germ.
-3/4 cup wheat bran (optional – you can use all flour if you want)
-1 package dry quick acting yeast
First combine the hot water, oil, honey, molasses, and salt in a bowl. If you pour the oil in the measuring cup first then the honey wont stick, and if you dip the tablespoon in the water/oil mixture before scooping the molasses it won’t stick either.
Then ad 1 cup of the whole wheat flour to the mixture to help cool it down a little bit. It will still be very runny.
Add the yeast and stir it in evenly.
Add the rest of the dry stuff: 1 cup whole wheat flour, and 3/4 cup wheat bran. Mix until evenly absorbed. Then add more flour in 1/4 cup increments until the dough is moist but no longer sticking to the side of the bowl. It will still be tacky – if you add too much flour you risk losing fluffiness in the bread, and be careful not to over mix.
Then cover the bowl and let it rise for 1/2 an hour. The dough will expand but doesn’t have to reach double the original size. Once it has risen for a while take the dough out and place it on a floured surface to shape it. You want to roll it around until it is no longer sticky and is in roughly a cylindrical shape.
Grease a bread pan (I use glass) with a lot of butter, making sure to get in the corners and on the edges.
Place the dough log in the pan and cover to let rise again until it is the size you want it to be. I have let ours sit until it is about 3/4″ above the rim of the pan, which takes about 45 more minutes.
Bake at 350 for either 36 minutes if your oven is preheated or 42 if it’s not.
Take out immediately and enjoy! You can eat this warm (so yummy!) or let is sit overnight and have toast and sandwiches later. If you do decide to cover it make sure it is mostly cooled so condensation doesn’t build up and make the bread soggy.
I’ve made this twice now and both times came out great! It looks the way bread should, is easy, and tastes awesome. The second loaf I made with a little bit of cinnamon sprinkled on top – we haven’t tried it yet, but I think this will make a nice addition to the flavor. I could also easily see adding nuts or other fun things to vary it up.