Pollyanna and the Perfect Bread

Hey, Anna-Liza here. I think I have now got the perfect recipe for bread. It’s not a bread machine recipe – a small but vital part on my machine broke just after the point where I had gotten addicted to good homemade bread. So I’ve retrieved my distant memories of breadmaking and have started doing it by hand. (I still plan to find a way to fix the machine, though).

The original recipe is from my favorite bread-baked-goods-and-etc cookbook, War Eagle Mill Whole Grain CookBook III by Zoe Medlin Caywood. War Eagle Mill is a really excellent source for whole grain and old-fashioned food-related yumminess.

I took the recipe for “Wheat Germ – Honey Bread” and tweaked it altered it fairly substantially, both for altitude baking and for my own tastes. (I would link to the recipe, but they haven’t posted this one yet). I wanted to substitute whole wheat flour for part of the unbleached all-purpose flour, and I had toasted almond meal on hand from making almond milk, so I used that instead of toasted wheat germ.

The two main changes for altitude were that I used less flour and had two risings instead of one before putting the dough in the loaf pans. Also, dough rises faster at high altitude, so you need to check it in about half the time you would at lower altitudes.

Anna-Liza’s Favorite Bread for High Altitude*

 2 pkgs (2 scant Tbs) dry yeast (Generally, rapid rise style yeast is not recommended for high altitude, but I haven’t had a problem with it)

½ cup warm water

1½ cups milk, scalded (I measure it in a Pyrex measuring cup and heat it in the microwave – it needs to get to just barely boiling)

1/3 cup honey

½ stick butter

2 tsp salt

1 cup crunchy stuff – I like almond meal, or sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, mixed grains (if they’re edible without cooking) or some combination of the above

1½ cup whole wheat flour

2½ to 3½ cups unbleached all purpose or bread flour

In small bowl, dissove yeast in warm water.

In large mixing bowl, stir butter and honey into hot milk – let milk mixture cool to lukewarm. Add yeast, salt, and crunchy stuff. Stir in whole wheat flour first, then 1½ cups unbleached flour and mix very well. Stir in the rest of the flour ½ cup at a time, stopping at a total of 4 to 4½ cups flour (both kinds). Turn dough out onto floured counter or board. Use some of the last cup to ½ cup flour to flour your kneading surface and add the rest gradually to the dough if needed – you might not need all (or any) of it. Depends on humidity, how much moisture your crunchy stuff takes up, how dry the flour was, etc. You’ll have to open the dough ball up, sprinkle in some of the flour, and mix/knead it so it will be absorbed into the mass.

Knead for 10 minutes, more or less. You want a nice elastic bread dough that doesn’t fall apart.

When finished kneading, put the dough in a clean, greased bowl and turn it over once. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel, set in a warm place (but not hot) and let rise until double. At altitude, that will only take about 30 to 45 minutes. Punch down, cover and let rise a second time until double, probably 45 minutes. Punch down again, divide into two loaves and place in greased 9″ by 5″ loaf pans. Cover with towel and let rise again for 20 minutes.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the bottoms of the loaves are brown. Cool on racks. Let cool for at least 10 -15 minutes before trying to get the loaves out of the pans.

I haven’t figured out how to adapt this one to a bread machine yet, but it’s worth the kneading and the time! I’ve tried toasted Kashi as the crunchy stuff, but it’s a little too chewy – although Darlin’ K and the kids like it. I might try a mix of toasted sesame seeds, flax seed, and some other grainy type thing next time. And of course I’ll use almond meal when I’ve made more almond milk – that gives a nice texture and flavor to the bread without being too obtrusive.

*Actually, it’s just my favorite bread, period.

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