Top Twelve Questions About MAKING BREAD

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After our post last week where we shared THE BEST WHEAT BREAD RECIPE EVER we got a slew of questions in blog comments, on facebook, and in our email inbox. We decided to address those questions in a separate post so that everyone can see all the answers. Without further ado, here are the top twelve questions we received:

Q. Do I have to use a stand mixer to make this bread?
A. NO! During our annual 7 Day Challenge we had a challenge where we had to make bread using NO ELECTRICITY at all. I made this same recipe and ground it by hand, kneading it by hand (yes my kneading needs work), and cooked it in a Sun Oven and cardboard box oven. It wasn’t easy but it worked!

Q. Do you have a recipe that is not so huge?
A. This recipe is very easy to cut in half and you could probably quarter it and get one larger loaf. If you want a recipe specifically designed to be a ONE LOAF recipe, we posted this Honey Whole Wheat Bread Recipe a few years ago. It’s yummy but doesn’t use 100% whole wheat.

Q. Do you have to use Vital Wheat Gluten?
A. One of our favorite things about our FAVORITE bread recipe is the TEXTURE. We feel that vital wheat gluten and the “sponging” process are the keys to this as we have not had any other recipes turn out as well without using other additives. One of our readers shared this: “I use Wheat Protein Isolate (from Honeyville) instead of Vital Wheat Gluten – it’s more concentrated than VWG, less expensive, and I need less to get the same boost from the protein for a soft crumb. I use about 1/3 to 1/2 as much of the WPI as VWG.” There are several other things that can be used as dough enhancers but I would recommend finding a recipe that uses them specifically instead of trying to sub them in this recipe for the gluten.

Q. Can this recipe be frozen to use later?
A. YES! It would work similar to frozen Rhodes Rolls. You will need to remove the loafs from the freezer with enough time to let them thaw AND rise. If you use the dough for pizza crust you can either roll it out after it thaws, or freeze it on your pizza pan already rolled out.

Q. How do you use this dough for pizza?
A. Here are Julie’s instructions on making pizza: “I make a HALF recipe, and then split that into 3 equal parts. I use two for bread and the third for pizza. I roll it out right away, and then just use a metal pizza pan, although I have used a stone as well and it has been great. I usually let it rise 1 hour or more. I find that the pizza dough getting MORE of a rise than the bread makes it yummier. You can also put it in the fridge for the day, then bring it out an hour or so before you want to cook it as well. Cook at for about 15 minutes or so at 425 with sauce, cheese and toppings on it. Spray your pan with pam if you’re not using a stone. If you like crunchy crust, you can take the pizza and put it right on the rack (take the pan out from under it) for the last 3-4 minutes. Just watch it closely – I can’t say the timing exactly, as I’m a watcher for pizza, not a timer. Wheat pizza takes a little longer to cook than white but this recipe is GOOD for pizza!”

If you like a deeper dish pizza you can follow Jodi’s directions for pizza, “For a thicker crust pizza you will need to use about half of a HALF batch. Use a cookie sheet that has sides on it. This makes a large pizza with a thick crust. Melt about 1/2 cup of butter in the pizza pan in the oven. Pull it out and plop your dough on it. Spread the dough out with your hands all the way to the edges flipping it over a few times to get it covered in butter (I never said this was the HEALTHY method). Let it rise a little while you pull out all your toppings. I don’t raise mine for very long since I use more dough to get the thicker crust and it would get HUGE. I’m impatient so maybe if I used less dough and let it raise longer I could get an equivalent crust. This ones turns out thick and chewy almost like breadsticks. Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes or until everything is golden brown. YUM”

Q. Can I substitute Agave for the honey/sugar?
A. While we have not personally tried this, we have a friend who always makes bread with Agave. We would recommend following the normal recommendations for Agave and use slightly less than the called for amount of honey. If you try it, let us know how it turns out and how much you used!

Q. Do you have to grease your pans before putting the dough in?
A. YES! It will make it much easier to get it out when they are done.

Q. How can I keep my crust from getting too dark?
A. Check on your bread after about 10-15 minutes. If it looks like it is getting dark but not quite cooked yet, put a layer of tinfoil over the top. It will give you a perfect light brown crust.

Q. What type of wheat should I use for this recipe?
A. Our favorite is hard white wheat as it seems to have less of a “wheaty” flavor. However if you like that strong wheat flavo hard red wheat will work just fine too.

Q. What is the benefit of storing wheat and making this recipe with wheat flour versus storing all-purpose white flour?
A. There are two big benefits to having whole wheat in your food storage. First, is the shelf life. Wheat will store almost indefinitely making it a great item to keep on hand without having to worry as much about rotation. Second, the health benefits of using whole grains are HUGE. All-purpose flour has been stripped of most of the nutrients in order to give it a decent shelf life.

Q. Do you have to use fresh ground wheat every time?
A. When you grind your wheat it will lose a lot of the nutrients after 24 hours. It will also go rancid within a few weeks. If you store the wheat in your freezer it will keep it from going rancid but we believe the nutrients will still be lost. Ideally you would grind it before making each batch, but a lot of times it’s easier to grind a big batch of wheat up and keep it in the freezer. Either way will work just fine for our FAVORITE recipe.

Q. What kind of yeast do you use?
A. We use saf instant yeast. When you use instant yeast, you don’t have to “proof” it. Proofing yeast is when you add it to hot water and wait until it activates before combining it with other ingredients. We like using saf instant yeast, because you can throw it into the recipe and not have any worries.

Q. What should the consistency of the dough feel like
A. Your dough should feel a little on the sticky side. If you over flour, or add flour AFTER you have done the kneading, you will get a crumbly bread. If your dough is too sticky to handle, spray it with Pam and spray the counter with Pam. That will make your dough more workable, and fluffy.

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