There are so many different kinds of bread. You could make sourdough where you feed a starter flour to grow it and keep it alive, you can retard loaves in the refrigerator overnight, there are paté fermentes, bigas and all kinds of other preferments and sure it is great to have knowledge of all these breads but at the same time it is nice to have a tried and true everyday bread. A bread with some shelf life, a bread that little kids like and one that is good with which to make a variety of sandwiches.
For me this is that loaf. It debunked the idea that my two girls would only eat white bread. They love it. It fits into my notion that I won’t make bread that isn’t at least 75 percent whole wheat. It makes two loaves that will be around just long enough that you won’t need to throw it out because it is old.
Be sure to buy a fine grind whole wheat flour and make sure to buy it at a store with high turnover of its whole wheat. Countless times I have brought a bag home only to open it and it is rancid. Whole wheat flour should smell like a wheat field not rancid oil or some other off smell.
I like to braid this loaf for two reasons. One it looks pretty and two, when I make this loaf on a Sunday it is nice to bake it about two hour before dinner, remove it from the oven to cool a little, then serve it warm and let people tear off a hunk. It will tear at the braids like dinner rolls would.
Makes two 4 x 8 loaves
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon dry active yeast
5 1/2 cups fine grind whole wheat flour
1 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
1 egg white mixed with a tablespoon of water
- Warm the buttermilk to body temperature. In other words when you stick a finger into it you shouldn’t feel it.
- Place the butter milk in a large bowl. Add the tablespoon of yeast and the honey to the it. Let the yeast dissolve either by whisking it or letting it bloom. Add the whole wheat flour, 1 cup of bread flour, egg and salt.
- Using a thick handled wooden spoon mix the dough in a circular fashion adding the softened butter once the dough has started to form. Once the dough has formed remove it from the bowl to a clean counter top and knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic and the gluten has formed. Roll the dough into a tight ball.
- Place the dough back into the bowl , cover it with a damp warm towel and set it in a warm place. Set a timer for 1 hour.
- At the end of the hour punch down the dough and set the timer for another hour. At the end of the second hour the dough should be doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Roll it into a ball and either divide it into thirds so you can roll it into logs and braid it or roll it into two big logs.
- Place the loaves into prepared pans. I always oil and then shake flour into my pans. The thin coating of flour lets the baked bread easily release from the pan . Cover with a warm damp towel and let the dough rise for 40 minutes to an hour. The dough should rise about an inch over the top of the loaf pan.
- Heat the oven to 375˚F. Once the loaves have doubled brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. You can also dust the tops with flour but if you do this don’t use the egg wash.
- Bake the loaves in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes rotating them halfway through baking.
- Remove the loaves from the oven and remove them from the bread pans to a rack and let them cool.