It's really a combination of a few recipes that I tried - a sort of greatest hits collection where I picked and chose the best parts of each. The great thing is that it's made with 50% whole wheat flour and is a great base recipe for other flavor variations.
Today I'll share the basic whole wheat recipe with you so you can master it and get one step closer to making crazy delicious flavors like garlic feta and chile cheddar. Seriously. I made those. They are beyond delicious and I should NOT be left alone with them. I need the shame of others to keep me from eating entire loaves of bread. (I'm only kinda kidding).
1.5 Cups Unbleached Flour
1.5 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Tbsp. Active Dry Yeast
2 Tbsp. Molasses (optional)
2 Cups Cold Water
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the two flours and the yeast.
- Add in the Molasses, if desired. This just adds a touch of sweetness to the bread and keeps it from tasting "too whole wheat".
- Stir in the water, 1/2 cup at a time. You are going for a slightly wet, slightly tacky ball of dough. (don't panic, there are pictures below)
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 3-5 hours, depending on the room temperature. You will know it is done when the dough has doubled and small bubbles have appeared on the surface. (deep breaths, remember the pictures are below)
- Remove the plastic cover and dust the surface with a bit of whole wheat flour. Then use a large wooden spoon to scrape down the sides, using more whole wheat flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the bowl or spoon. Your goal is to get it back down to a ball of dough that is no longer sticky.
- Cover again with plastic wrap and let sit for 1-1.5 hours. You want it to rise again, but only a bit.
- Take your dutch oven (or any other covered pot that can withstand 400 degree heat) and place it in your cold oven, with the lid on. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, with the dutch oven inside.
- Once heated, remove the dutch oven (with pot holders!) and repeat step 5 with the dough. Then place the dough in the dutch oven, replace the lid and put it in the oven.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes. You want it to look like finished bread, but at this point it won't have that cracked top look. YET!
- Remove the lid and place the oven back in the over for 10-15 additional minutes. This is where the top gets crusty and the magic of artisan bread becomes reality in your kitchen.
- When the bread is good and crusty, remove it from the oven and dump the bread out on to a cutting board or cooling rack right away.
- Here's the hard part...don't cut the bread until it cools for at least 30 minutes. I know, I know...warm bread makes your insides happy. Mine too, friend. I get it. But if you cut this too early, it makes the bread kind of dense. It loses it's airy inside and kind of gets...weird. Just trust me and wait the 30 minutes. It will still be warm and delicious.
OK, so let's get to those pictures I promised. If it looks hard or too involved, just trust me and give it a try. It's not bad. And if you don't have a dutch oven or think the price tag is too hefty to buy one, I hear you. The larger ones are selling for the price of rent in some towns, but the smaller ones can be affordable and you only need a few quarts for this bread. I found mine in Home Goods on clearance so check the discount stores near you or you can always try Amazon or Overstock. I got my 3 Qt. Cuisinart for about $30 and it's already paid for itself.