I’m So Kneady

“Who hath not met with home-made bread,
A heavy compound of putty and lead … ?”
— Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg (1870), Thomas Hood

So homemade bread has been getting a bad rap for at least 141 years, though I really don’t understand why. Most bake-your-own recipes don’t actually contain putty or lead … or, for that matter, high fructose corn syrup, monoglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium propionate, etc. etc. etc.

make bread, not war

But what I really love about baking bread — aside from the heavenly smell that wafts through the house, the warm-from-the-oven wholesome goodness, and the way my son says “yumba carumba!” when he takes his first bite — is pounding and pummeling the living daylights out of that dough.

It’s so therapeutic. It’s so sensual. It’s like throwing pots (think Demi Moore in “Ghost”), but then when you’re done, you get to eat them. Unless you’re baking bread for an army, I just don’t understand why you’d want to miss out on the fun by using a bread machine or dough hook instead of your own two hands.

When I need to knead, here’s what I make:

sliced bread: it's the best thing since ... ?

Hands-On Whole Wheat and Oat Bread

[1] In a large bowl, mix together: 2 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 c. oat bran (OR 1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats, ground up in food processor), and 1 packet instant yeast (a.k.a. Rapid Rise or Quick Rise). If you like a little crunch in your bread, throw in 1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds too.
[2] In a microwaveable measuring cup, mix together: 3/4 c. water, 3/4 c. skim milk (or milk substitute of your choice), 2 tbsp. olive oil, and 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup (or honey, if you prefer). Heat in microwave till “ouch”-hot to the touch, but NOT boiling — maybe a minute or two.
[3] Dump the wet stuff on the dry stuff. Mix with a wooden spoon. You’ll have a gloppy, sticky mess.
[4] Measure out 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour and keep it on the counter. Take out a board (for kneading the dough) and cover it liberally with some of the flour. Dump the gloppy dough on top. Sprinkle more of the flour on top.
[5] Now for the fun part: start kneading. Push into the dough with the heels of your well-floured hands, fold the dough over, repeat. Pound out all of the day’s frustrations — the dough can take it. Sprinkle flour on the board and on the dough as needed to keep it from sticking. Keep this up for 5-8 minutes till the dough feels smooth and not sticky. You’ll use up all the extra 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour and probably a little bit more.
[6] Form the dough into a ball, make sure it’s flour-coated, then put back in the bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
[7] Meanwhile, line a loaf pan with non-stick foil or baking parchment.
[8] Flour the board again, and put the dough ball on top of it. Press down the dough ball till it’s a rectangle of about 9×12-inches. Then, starting with the short side, roll it up. Tuck the edges under and plop it into the prepared pan, seam side down.
[9] Brush the top of the loaf with a little bit of milk and maple syrup, then sprinkle with some old-fashioned rolled oats.
[10] Turn your oven on to 200 degrees for 1 minute, and then turn it off. Then, put the loaf pan in the turned-off oven for 30 minutes to rise.
[11] After 30 minutes, turn the oven up to 350 degrees, and bake the loaf for 40 minutes.
[12] Let cool (a little). Slice. Eat. Aaaaaaahhh …

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