Whole Wheat Bread By Hand

Nothing smells or tastes better than a loaf of fresh baked homemade bread! And despite what you may think, you can make it by hand. If you have a heavy-duty mixer (like a Bosch or Kitchen Aid), and would like to make a 4-loaf batch, see the Honey Whole Wheat Bread recipe.

3 1/2 cups warm water (about 110º)
3 Tbsp instant yeast
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5-6 cups whole wheat flour

1. Mix the water, yeast, honey, salt, 1/2 cup of the flour with a wooden spoon in a large bowl until incorporated. Let sponge proof 5-7 minutes or until frothy-bubbly.

2. Add 3 cups flour and stir with a wooden spoon until almost incorporated. Add another 2 cups flour and beat until incorporated to make a moist, thick, sticky dough.

3. Turn the dough - scraping out the bowl - onto a work surface that has been sprinkled with some flour. Knead, adding only as much flour as necessary (up to one cup)* to form a soft elastic and still quite sticky dough, about 5 minutes... your hands should be tired.
*less flour is better, otherwise the bread will be dry.

4. Form the dough into a rough ball and place back in the large bowl; cover with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until the dough has doubled in volume, about 20 - 40 minutes.

5. Heat oven to 375º. Liberally grease four 8.5" x 4" loaf pans. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut into four equal pieces with a bench knife or large knife. Gently knead about ten times and shape dough into loaf shapes and place in pans. NOTE: For a more rustic look, gently rub the tops of the loaves with flour before putting them in the pans. Let loaves rise until almost doubled in volume, about 15-30 minutes, or until the sides of the loaf are 1/4" from the rim of the pan.

6. Score the tops on an angle with a sharp serrated knife. NOTE: To avoid deflating the risen loaves, use a fairly quick motion when doing this. Bake for 38-40 minutes. Transfer the bread immediately from the baking pans to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely (about 3 hours) before wrapping in plastic bags.

You can add sunflower, flax, millet and a variety of other seeds, raisins, cinnamon, cinnamon chips, dried fruit, nuts, cheese, etc. to make different kinds of bread. For an entire batch, add these ingredients at the end of step three. Or for one or two loaves, add these ingredients during the second kneading (by hand). You can also do a mix of whole wheat and white flours to make a light wheat or white batch.

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