One of the things I’ve done over the last several years is try and move more towards eating all or nearly all whole grains. I’ve tried a few different recipes for a really good bread and so far, this one is probably my favorite. I have another that I use if I’m making rolls. This one is the one I use when I want big slices of soft bread.
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
2 – C. Really Warm Water
2 – Packages Dry Yeast
2/3 – C. Honey, Divided
8 1/2 – C. Flour Blend*
1 – T. Salt
3 – T. Butter, Melted
In a very large bowl, mix water, yeast 1/2 the honey and 4 cups flour. Let sit until it gets bubbly (about 15 – 20 minutes).
In a small bowl mix together butter, remaining honey and salt. Add to original mix. Mix in enough flour to be able to turn out onto a flat surface to knead. Knead in more flour until just barely sticky. Place in greased bowl, coating all surfaces in oil. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.
Punch down and divide between 3 greased loaf pans. Cover and allow to rise until just over top of pan.
Bake at 350° for about 25 – 35 minutes. May check doneness with a small wooden skewer. Turn out on cooling rack right away. Butter tops to prevent drying.
Total Time: 3 Hours Makes: 3 Loaves
*The flour blend I use is roughly a 50/50 mix of whole wheat flour and all purpose flour. Using all whole wheat flour makes a much denser, heavier dough. It is also quite a bit grainier. There for a while, I’d been able to find a great whole wheat white flour that was a bit more finely ground than regular whole wheat flour, but my store not longer carries that so I’m back to the regular.
I’m not sure I didn’t actually do this batch wrong because I don’t remember this part being quite so doughy yet. The downside to having my daughter being my kitchen helper is that she is a chatter box and I’m pretty sure I lost count and added an extra cup of flour to the first stage. It didn’t make a difference overall in how this turned out, but it just made it a bit harder to work with at this point. This is the only bread I’ve ever made that starts with all of this mixed together at once. I’m not a huge fan of that, but because this is always such a great bread, I haven’t done much to tweak it other than to add a bit less flour at this stage to make it a bit easier to work.
When covering dough to let it rise, there are several things you can use. I’ve tried just a dish towel, but the top of the dough has a tendency to dry out. I’ve tried getting the towel damp, and that helped but if the bread rises over the bowl, it can stick to the towel. I finally figured the best thing is, first to use a REALLY big bowl, one that isn’t going to let the dough crawl out. Spray the top of the dough with cooking spray to keep the surface moist and from sticking, mostly on the second round of letting it rise. Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. This keeps some of the dough’s heat in and helps it to rise a little faster as well as keeping the dough from drying out. If the dough does touch it, it is less likely to stick to the plastic wrap, especially if you sprayed it. I do this with both stages, though when it is rising in the loaf pans, I watch it closely as I’ve actually had them fall when they got stuck once (not enough spray and too tight of a covering on the plastic wrap didn’t give them the room they needed).
I will say that this isn’t always the prettiest bread after it is baked because these tend to fall once they are in the oven so you don’t end up with this nicely rounded top. Honestly, it doesn’t matter when it tastes as good as it does. This bread is awesome with soups, which is usually when I make it, and makes some of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. One of the things I love about the fact that this makes so many loaves is that I’m guaranteed to get leftovers to use for all kinds of things.