We’ll start with the water, 3 to 3 1/2 cups will give you an average size batch of bread dough. This makes 2 or 3 loaves, or a loaf and a bunch of rolls, etc. I pour in about 1/2 of the amount from room temperature filtered water, and the other half out of my tea kettle (heated of course), not necessarily boiling, but quite hot. (I will say here, that some people – Chef Brad for instance – dump in all the ingredients, half the flour, and add the yeast on top to avoid any risk of killing it with water that’s too hot. So, if you’re interested you can look into that method.) You’re going for “wrist temperature” water in the mixer, that means quite warm, but not anywhere near boiling.
Add in a bit of sweetener, 1/2 teaspoon is sufficient here, but who wants to measure? This could be almost anything; like molasses, agave, barley malt, rice syrup or honey.
Now add in your yeast, about 1 Tablespoon is good for a batch of this size.
Let this proof – proving to you that the yeast is active and happy.
Add in a few cups (about 3) of the flour (this needs to be a gluten containing flour, like wheat or spelt) for the sponge stage where you’ll let this raise for 1/2 hour or so. Of course bread can be made without this step, in fact if you have a mixer you could just mix it longer to develop the gluten, but I think using the sponge step leads to lighter whole grain breads.
Now, for the fun part.
Decide how much oil, sweetener, etc. that you want to add, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of each is a good range. I actually use less oil than that and often less sweetener. (Rather than adding any oil you could use ground flax seeds). Be sure to include salt, bread made without it will remind you never to do so again. Use about 1 Tablespoon for a batch this size.
You can at this point also include seasonings, herbs, soaked/cooked grains, or nuts in your creation.
For a french style bread you’ll want to leave the oil and sweetener out entirely.
For a richer dough you could use more oil/ground flax seed and even sub some non-dairy milk for part of the liquid.
Add/knead in the additional flour. This does not all need to have a high gluten content. For instance some of it could be oat flour, which does not contain gluten. Continue to add flour until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl. You want it a bit sticky, this gives a softer bread, be especially careful when using a mixer which can make it easy to add too much flour.
Here we have what you could call the official “template”, to be used as a jumping off point.
3 – 3 1/2 cups water
drop of sweetener
1 Tablespoon yeast
at least 4 cups of a gluten containing flour, such as spelt or wheat in it’s many variations.
1 Tablespoon salt
Oil or ground flax seed
Honey or other sweetener
Any desired additions
The rest of the flour, gluten or not depending on your creation
For more information on this method, and instructions with and without a mixer see the Basic Whole Wheat Bread recipe in our recipe section.