Bread

Wheat Bread

Minimalist Baker is one of my new favorite food blogs. I stumbled upon it while searching for a quick and painless whole wheat bread recipe. On Wednesday, I baked their Easy Homemade Wheat Bread, and while I haven’t taste-tested it myself, I have received glowing feedback.

I found out earlier this week that a colleague of mine passed up his free opportunity to chaperone the eighth grade trip to DC in April just so I could go. It was very generous and warmed my heart. He was on the fence and didn’t want to take the space knowing that I badly wanted to go. We are both hopeful that a few more students will register for the trip so that another chaperone is needed; maybe he will be less on the fence by that time.

I made him a loaf of this bread as a thank you, and according to the e-mail I received last night, the recipe did not disappoint. I may make a loaf for myself today…or I may make focaccia. Who knows?! That’s what snow days (3 this week!) are for.

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Easy Homemade Wheat Bread
recipe from Minimalist Baker
yields one loaf

2 C whole wheat flour
1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1 packet instant yeast
1 1/2 C warm water
1/4 C millet (I didn’t use this because I wasn’t about to drive to Whole Foods in the snow)
1/4 C oatmeal (I used more like 1/3 -1/2 C because I left out the millet)

In a large mixing bowl, combine warm water and yeast. Let it sit until it gets foamy. Once you can smell the aromatics of the yeast, add the flours and salt and stir with a wooden spoon. Dough will be rough and sticky. Cover snuggly with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour. You may also let the dough rise in the fridge for 2 hours.

Dough should double in size. When ready, generously flour a work surface, sprinkle the dough with flour, and dump it out. Knead the dough for a little while, incorporating the oatmeal (and millet, if using) as you go. Continue to knead the dough, adding flour when needed, until it is no longer sticky. Lightly grease a baking sheet and place the ball of dough on it. Sprinkle the top with flour and let rest for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and place a cast iron skillet on the bottom rack. Fill a glass measuring cup with 1 C water and set aside. Once you place the bread in the oven, you will pour water into the skillet, producing steam, which will help provide a crust for your bread.

After dough has rested, prepare it for baking by scoring the top. I did three scores, as suggested by Minimalist Baker, about 1/2″ deep. I also sprinkled a little more oatmeal over the top. Place the baking pan in the oven, add the water to the skillet, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 25-35 minutes (broad time span, I know) or until the loaf sounds hollow when you firmly knock on the bottom of it. It took my loaf about 30 minutes.

Let bread fully cool before storing it in a large plastic bag.

Banana Bread

This is your simple, basic banana bread. No bells and whistles here. Try adding nuts, or even better, mini chocolate chips!

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Banana Bread
Makes two loaves; serves 20 -24

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 C sugar
4 eggs, beaten
5 super ripe bananas, mashed
1 t vanilla
2 1/2 C flour
2 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two loaf pans by laying a piece of parchment paper across each of them. You should have edges of parchment hanging over the long edges on both sides. Laying the parchment this way will allow you to easily pop! the bread out of the loaf pans. Grease the areas that are exposed, near the short edges on both ends.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg) until combined. Set aside. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer or stand mixer to whip butter and sugar. Whip for many minutes in order to incorporate air into the mixture; you’ll want it to be almost white before you add the eggs. Remember to constantly scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla extract and combine. Add the banana and blend the mixture for awhile. You really want to see it come together before adding the flour mixture. This should be the last time you mix thoroughly, as once the flour mixture is added, you don’t want to overwork your batter.

Add half the flour mixture. Give it a light mix and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the rest of the flour and mix until just combined.

Pour batter between the two prepared loaf pans. Bake for 60 minutes, or until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle of a loaf comes out dry.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least two hours before popping the loaves out of pans.