Myrtle Allen's Brown Bread
This recipe is from James Beard's "Beard On Bread." I've added to the instructions considerably, on the assumption that you, the reader, have not baked before. If you have baked before, I hope the voluminous instructions won't be too tedious.
This recipe makes one loaf, and will take about 5 minutes of preparation time, 1 1/2 hours of rising time, and about 50 minutes of baking time.
Notes about the ingredients:
(1) Whole wheat flour goes rancid fairly quickly, so make sure you are getting fresh flour - buy a brand that moves quickly in your store.
(2) A package of yeast is about 2 1/2 teaspoons, so you need about 4 tsp of active dry yeast.
(3) Check the temperature of the water with a thermometer - if it is above 100F you run a very real risk of cooking, and killing, the yeast.
(4) If you prefer to use Instant yeast, use 1/2 as much as you would of Active Dry yeast, or about 2 1/4 tsp.
(5) Most recipes request that you proof active dry yeast. I have not found it necessary to do so. To proof the active dry yeast, put the yeast in about 1/2 cup of water or milk with a tablespoon of sugar. Stir until the yeast is dissolved. Let it sit until the yeast becomes active and the liquid becomes frothy, usually no more than 15 minutes. Both the liquid and sugar are taken from the recipe, that is, if the recipe calls for 2 cups of water, use 1/2 cup of the 2 cups of water to proof the yeast.
(6) Many whole wheat recipes use a bit of sweetener to take the edge off the bitterness some people taste in whole wheat flour. You may use molasses, honey or ribbon cane syrup. Some people feel molasses imparts a heavy taste and makes the bread taste salty. If you prefer to not use honey and find molasses to be too heavy, ribbon cane syrup is a very nice alternative. This is not corn syrup, it is flavorful and enjoyable. As far as I know, the last brand available nationally is Steen's Ribbon Cane Syrup, which is a very good choice. Some might prefer to use rice, agave or maple syrup. I've never used rice or agave syrup - if you try them, please let me know how the bread turns out.
Measure the flour by using a tablespoon to fill a measuring cup, and then use a knife to level the cup and insure the cup is full, but not overly full. Put the whole wheat flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and yeast. Stir together.
The resulting dough should be wet and sticky. If the dough seems too dry, add a bit more water. If it seems too wet, add some more flour. You shouldn't see any dry flour in the dough or bowl, and the dough shouldn't seem soupy. Because whole wheat flour varies a lot in its ability to absorb water, you may have to adjust the amount of flour you use. However, the recipe isn't too finicky and a bit too wet is better than a bit too dry. I added about 1/2 cup of additional flour when I made this batch of bread.
Spray a bread loaf pan with "Baker's Joy." Baker's Joy is a spray oil that has flour in it, so you are oil ing and flouring your baking pan in one step. If you can't find Baker's Joy, there are other similar products such as "Baker's Secret" and Pam now has a spray oil that has flour in it. If you can't find any of these products, you can always oil your baking pan and dust it with a bit of flour. Pour the dough into the oil ed bread loaf pan. Smooth the surface with a wet spatula or spoon. Cover with some cling wrap or a quick cover, and set the loaf aside in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
About an hour and 15 minutes into the rise, put a rack in your oven into the lower third of the oven and start pre-heating your oven to 450F. It will take most ovens about 15 to 20 minutes to heat up. Check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer - many ovens are as much as 50 degrees off. You can get a decent thermometer in most grocery stores for around $5.00.
Set a timer for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, open the oven door, look at the bread, and using oven mitts or hot pads turn the bread around, close the oven door, and set the timer for another 15 minutes. If the bread looked burned or too dark, turn the heat of the oven down by 50 degrees. If the bread hasn't started coloring, increase the heat by 50F.
When the timer goes off again, use some oven mitts to pull the bread out of the oven. Pop the bread out of the pan onto a cooling rack. Shove a quick reading thermometer into the bottom of the bread. At sea level, you are shooting for an internal temperature of about 205F. If you tap the bottom, it should sound hollow. If it isn't done, put it back in the oven.
At altitudes above 5,280 feet, shoot for 195F. If you can't get the loaf out of the pan, use a table knife to loosen the bread so you can dump the loaf out.
Once the bread is done, turn off the oven if you're done baking, let the bread cool at least an hour on a wire cooling rack, and then cut it. The bread should have a lovely flavor, and have lots of fairly large holes in the loaf.
If you want the bread to have a crispier crust, you can put the loaf - out of the bread pan - back into the turned off oven for another 20 minutes.
Some troubleshooting comments....
Since this bread wasn't kneaded it won't be as well developed a loaf with a nice smooth crust and crumb as you might like. Also, it tends to spread out when it rises above the bread pan. That thinner area will tend to be darker than the rest of the loaf. Don't worry, even if it burns a bit, as long as the rest of the loaf is fine.
If the loaf is too dark, bake it at a slightly lower temperature next time. If the loaf is too light, bake it at a slightly higher temperature next time. If the inside of the loaf is too dry, bake for a shorter period next time. If the inside of the loaf is too wet, bake for a little longer next time. You may have to play with baking times and temperatures a bit to accommodate your altitude and your oven.
If you find specks of flour in the loaf, that suggests you didn't stir the dough enough. Stir a bit longer next time.
If your bread didn't rise, the most common problems are using outdated yeast, using water that was too hot (which killed the yeast), using too much salt, using too much flour, and/or using too little water. Some brands of yeast want you to proof the yeast before it is used. While I haven't found this to be necessary, if your bread didn't rise, you might follow the instructions with your packet of yeast. If you still have problems, please drop me a note through our "Contact Us" page.