Easy Whole Wheat Hearth Bread

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King Arthur says that this bread is basically the one that appeared on the back of flour packages as “The Easiest Bread You’ll Ever Bake.” They’re probably right; although it’s not as easy as, say, a no-knead recipe, it’s certainly one of the nicest and easiest to work with doughs I’ve ever made. I substituted the final bits of my 12-grain flour blend and some semolina to give it some more heft, and divided into individual rolls for sandwiches throughout the week; the recipe divided well into twelve sandwich sized rolls.

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The recipe is written originally for active dry yeast, so it has built in activation time at the beginning of the recipe. I use instant yeast, so I didn’t really need that step, but I kept it in anyway.

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Instead of waiting for things to dissolve, I just whisked everything together and the sugar dissolved well enough. The yeast really broke up as well from their clumps and the whole liquid became kind of milky.

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In goes the flour; the original recipe called for 5 1/2 to 6 cups, depending on how humid your environment is, I suppose. 5 1/2 cups was plenty for me and turned the dough into a very workable, only slightly sticky dough.

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I mixed it up a bit with my hand mixer, but then I just kneaded it by hand for the most part. Like I said, this has got to be the easiest dough I’ve worked with, very pleasant to knead.

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After rising you can see just how pretty this dough ball is. At least, it’s pretty to me. Nice and smooth and easy to work with, you don’t have to worry about this one welding itself to your hand as you try to shape it.

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Shaping these little guys was really easy too: just tuck in the bottom all the way around until you have a smooth surface on one side, then put the bottom down on a baking sheet covered in cornmeal.

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After the buns rise another time, brush or spray them with cold water and slash them. They go into the oven with a pan of water that has been preheating; this is meant to create steam and result in a crustier loaf, but I even though I did this and let them cool in the oven with the door slightly propped (also supposed to create a crustier loaf), the crust softened like it does in all my breads. Oh well, it’s probably better for sandwiches that way. To be fair, the crust was more robust than in my previous loaves. The crumb was light and the semolina and the whole grain flour added a nice tooth to the bread. While not strictly the absolute easiest bread I’ve ever made, it was certainly one of the nicest in the making process.

Easy Whole Wheat Hearth Bread (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups warm water (not over 110°F)
  • 1/2 cup 12-grain flour blend
  • 1 cup semolina
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • cornmeal

Directions

  1. Mix together the first four ingredients. Let this stand until the yeastt, sugar and salt are dissolved. Gradually add the flour to the liquid and mix thoroughly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface to knead. Knead for 5 minutes, sprinkling only enough flour on your kneading surface to prevent sticking. Let the dough rest while you scrape out and grease the mixing bowl. Knead the dough again for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Return the dough to the bowl and turn it over once to grease the top. Cover with greased plastic wrap and keep warm until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Punch down the dough with your fist and briefly knead out any air bubbles. Divide the dough into as many pieces as you want rolls (I chose 12). Place the rolls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover the rolls and let rise for 45 minutes.
  5. Lightly slash the tops of the loaves 3 or more times diagonally and brush them with cold water.
  6. Preheat the oven and roasting pan with water to 500°F for 15 minutes. Brush the loaves with cold water, place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 400°F and bake for 15 to 20 more minutes, until the rolls are golden brown.
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