At one time, I made bread fairly often, but I fell out of the habit the last couple of years. I got a stand mixer for Christmas and have been baking bread again.
I have a tendency to rush the dough-making process and end up with less than spectacular results. Lately, in an effort to slow myself down, I’ve been starting with a sponge, using all of the water and yeast, and about a third of the total flour. It’s working spectacularly. Every loaf has risen well and the flavor has been awesome. I think the bread even keeps better now.
This was my simplest bread yet and so, so good.
Whole Wheat Bread
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1-3/4 cups warm water (about 105 F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons molasses
Add the olive oil, molasses and salt to the sponge and whisk in with a fork. Begin adding the remaining flour a cup at a time. If you plan to knead by hand, use a large wooden spoon to work the flour into the dough. Then, turn the dough out into a large cutting board and knead for 10 minutes. If you are kneading with a stand mixer, start the mixer now, and let it run while you add the flour. You may need to stop the machine once or twice and work some of the flour into the dough with a spoon. Once the flour is incorporated, let the machine knead the dough for 5 minutes. You will probably need to knead the dough by hand in the bowl for a minute to form it into a smooth ball.
Place the dough into an oiled, medium bowl. (This can be the bowl that you measured the flour and wheat gluten into earlier.) Cover and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for an hour, until doubled in size.
Oil a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Shape dough to fit the pan. Cover and allow to rise again until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Heat oven to 350 F, and bake bread for about 30 minutes.
To test your bread for doneness, turn the loaf out of the pan and rap sharply on the bottom with your knuckes; your loaf should sound hollow. If it doesn’t make a sound, bake a little longer.