February 20, 2012

Wheat Bread, or, How I Have Overcome My Childhood Issues

When I was growing up, my job was to make bread for our family. My dad had this goal to have 12 loaves of bread in the freezer at all times and . . . I just pretty much never could make that happen. So I was always making bread at the last possible moment when there wasn't a slice of bread in the house. Stress.

Also, we had a bread machine and so the bread didn't ever fit in a sandwich bag and the bottom half would have that goofy hole in the middle of each slice, and there was no good way to store it - it didn't fit in ziplock bags or the tupperware bread box we had.

Plus, the bread was all crumbly and so invariably when you went to slice it, it made an enormous mess all over the counter or when you'd try to spread peanut butter on it, the bread would just break into a couple of large pieces. And you had to get out of a knife and cutting board every time you wanted a single solitary slice of bread and then you'd cut it reallllly thin at the top, but the bottom would be about an inch think and your sandwich ended up a lumpy mess. And I didn't even think it tasted that good.

Whew, who knew my issues were so strong? Anyone know a bread therapist?

Either way, when we got married, I just found some store-bought breads that I liked and we just went with it.

Except, then as I got more into cooking, I figured that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life hiding from bread making. Also, I was getting tired of all the fake ingredients in the cheap loaves and I didn't want to spend $3-5 on a single loaf of bread when we were eating sandwiches every single day.

Mel's Kitchen Cafe to the rescue. Finally a wheat bread that tastes delicious, doesn't crumble into a thousand pieces, and fits in a bread bag. My life is complete.

Also, I now refrigerate my bread overnight, then slice the entire loaf at once (refrigerating it makes it easier to cut, but you can also skip the refrigeration if you must), and store it in store-bought bread bag (I saved three or four from when we used to buy bread and then when I eventually lost them or they got thrown away by accident, I scavenged a few from my friends when they finished their bread). I freeze one and store the other in my fridge. And the one in the freezer comes out not even a little soggy.

And I've done this recipe with regular wheat flour, but it rises much better if you use white wheat flour. And it tastes better to me too.

I have made this bread probably a hundred times and it's been successful every single time. I love this recipe (in fact, I even sold loaves of it to some neighbors for a while). 

Wheat Bread
(from Mel's Kitchen Cafe)

Makes 2 Loaves

2 3/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 T instant yeast
1 T salt
1 T vital wheat gluten (I buy this brand on the baking aisle at Walmart where it costs about 1/3 of what it costs at every other store)
1 T nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup white flour
4 - 6 cups white wheat flour

Mix the water, sugar, oil, yeast, salt, gluten, dry milk and white flour together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add two cups of the wheat flour and then continue adding until the dough forms a ball and the sides of the bowl are mostly clean. The dough should be soft but not overly sticky. Knead for 10 minutes.

(Alternatively, mix everything together in a bowl, stir with a wooden spoon and then, when it's come together enough, knead by hand for about ten minutes. Homemade bread AND a workout! Bonus).

Grease two bread pans. Divide the dough in half (I use a big knife) and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves into the bread pans and cover with a dish towel. Let them rise for 60-90 minutes (or until they've filled out the bread pan and have risen about an inch or so over the top of the pan. Carefully place the pans in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees and bake for 38 minutes.

Let cool in pans for about 10 minutes then remove from pans and let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate overnight, then slice the entire loaf.


  1. I am trying to overcome my fear of baking bread right now and have a goal of at least baking some kind of bread once a week. I'm glad to have another recipe to try, but will have to get some gluten. What kind of white wheat flour do you use?

    1. I have a wheat grinder, actually (this one, if you care: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002LLOKBG?ie=UTF8&tag=everydayreadi-20) and I buy white wheat at the Bishop's Storehouse for quite cheap. But I also like the white wheat flour from King Arthur which most grocery stores stock.

  2. Hmm. I bought wheat flour recently, but it's not white. And I don't have a stand mixer or a dough hook or that vital gluten, which the name would imply is vital. Maybe I should try the recipe, with these changes, and then post a "review" a la, allrecipes.com ! I changed half the ingredients and most of the method and it didn't turn out! This recipe SUCKS.

  3. I've noticed the same thing with bread machine bread. I need to be able to spread peanut butter, you know?

    I'm cracking up that your family job was making bread! That's great.

  4. Mmmmm, there is NOTHING in the world better than homemade bread! I actually have the Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Swirl Bread rising in my kitchen right now--have you tried that recipe? It is AMAZING! (Although I get the impression that you're a pretty healthy eater, so you might not like the ingredients list--it has quite a lot of butter, no wheat, etc., but it sure is delicious!) I'm excited to try this recipe out . . . I've actually spent the last few weeks trying various homemade wheat bread recipes, searching for one that's soft enough for sandwiches, and won't crumble to pieces. I'll be trying it this week!

  5. I smell a sister site: Everyday Breading.

    Your story about making bread growing up is so fascinating! And... kind of hilarious, although I'm sure in the moment(s) it was stressful and infuriating.

    My husband eats a sandwich most days, so I am trying very hard to convince him that we need to branch out into making our own bread. Perhaps this post will convince him...

  6. My grandmother had a breadmaker, and it made round bread. With a hole, too. It was terribly unpractical for school lunches, but when it was her amazing cinnamon raisin bread, it was better to slice it like a really tall cake and devour it with a dollop of butter. Thanks for the recipe, I may just try and make some- even though I terribly love Smith's cottage bread.

  7. Yum! Will be trying this recipe.

  8. This looks really good. I don't have a bread maker, but my Kitchen Aid Mixer makes every much easier. My mom made homemade bread off and on during my whole childhood. There is nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread! I haven't attempted homemade bread since I got married last May, but this recipe has inspired me!
    Alesha <3

  9. 38 minutes! Very specific. I'm off to try this recipe now. We haven't had bread in the house in like...3 months. Yeah, cheap + lazy over here.

  10. I don't care for bread machine bread either. It has a high ratio of yeast to flour.

    I should try your recipe, but I use my grandmother's tried and true recipe.
    I have a Kitchen Aid, but I prefer kneading by hand. There is something extremely satisfying about watching the bread dough turn to "satin".

  11. A few hours after reading your post I was at the car fixing place getting the oil changed, and I could not fathom why your dad insisted on 12 loaves at all times. That is pretty nuts, and I feel okay saying that since I've met your parents, and neither one of them is actually nuts. But the bread thing, that is odd.

  12. Your job was to make bread for the family? If your family consumed bread at the same rate as my family (5 loaves per day per person), no wonder you get stressed over making bread. You have my sympathies.

  13. Okay I know you probably proof read and everything, but really? One tablespoon of salt? That just seems like a lot. But I'll trust you. Ty is at the store right now picking up vital wheat gluten (my sister has celiac disease, so this basically feels like the equivalent of buying an intestinal atomic bomb). I'm excited to try this.

    And also, I mostly have you (but also about 50 Facebook friends) to blame for my new addiction to Downton Abbey. My mother-in-law owns the first season and I plowed through the first 5 episodes yesterday while visiting Utah. Thanksalot.

  14. I love bread.

    And that's why all this talk is killing me.

    1. Yeah, the no grains movement gives me migraines. And I've done a LOT of research.

      I firmly believe that if we consumed our grains soaked we'd have a lot fewer problems...I've started soaking my dough and oatmeal and not only do I feel fuller but it's all SO.DANG.FLUFFY. Check out kitchenstewardship.com for info on soaking grains (I'm not affiliated with her, just an enormous fan).

  15. A thought for those of you who aren't fans of the bread machine bread - use the dough cycle, then remove the dough, quick knead, shape, second rise and bake in the oven. Bread tastes better and is friendly for the sandwich bags and Tupperware bread storage. That comment cracked me up...because I inherited one from my Gma and had NO idea what it was for since my mom used a bread machine and couldn't use the Tupperware!

  16. FINALLY had a chance to give this recipe a shot today. It was amazing, as promised. I love to make bread but have yet to have any success with wheat. Even hubby approved of this one - that's progress! I'll be bringing the second loaf to a friend who just had a baby. Thanks so much for sharing this fantastic recipe!

  17. I'm really excited to try this - thanks! I do make homemade bread but primarily artisan...that yummy crusty, pull-it-apart-and-dip-it-in-stew kind of bread. I've never had luck with sandwich bread - I was snort-laughing as I read about the "paper thin slice at the top with one inch bottom"...story of my life, sista! I'm very excited to try this recipe! thanks!

  18. Can I ask what size loaf pans you use? I have the regular ones....that are shorter than a store bought loaf of bread but I have seen online loaf pans for sale that are the same size as store bought loaves.

  19. Hmmm, mine didn't rise as much as I thought it should. Perhaps I should increase yeast or gluten?? suggestions? Actually maybe mine needs to rise longer? I live in FL so hot & humid here.

    1. maybe more flour? I live in Houston and have figured that when Mel talks about making sure you don't over flour your dough its because she lives in a dry climate. Since I live in a hot and humid climate I need to put in more flour than she does. Good luck!

  20. Made this today! It's in the oven right now and looks amazing! Thanks for the recipe and the tips. Hope you guys are doing well...we sure miss you!

  21. My aunt visited me last week and shared with me our family bread recipe. It'll be a new routine for me to bake our own bread. I've just been using and re-using the disposable tins. I can't seem to find the bread tins I need at Target, Wal-mart or any grocery store around me. Doesn't anyone bake bread anymore?? Anyway, can you give me some specs on the tins you use and that I should order from Amazon? It seems there are all sorts of variations (8x4, 9x5, non-stick, light, medium, 1lb, 1.5lbs). Thanks so much for your help!


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