A few weeks ago my little Mr. asked if I could teach him to bake bread. Baking bread was something I taught myself to do in college; in more recent years baking bread has been a special activity little Mr. and I have enjoyed doing together (what's not to love about bread mice?)
Since the arrival of our wee Bloom I've baked, cookies & more cookies, loads of cupcakes and the odd cake or tart, however we haven't baked yeasted bread nearly often enough.
It so happens that the request made by little Mr. coincided with my discovery of a yeasted bread recipe I had been hankering to try from a book called Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer (and while I won't go off on a tangent at the moment, I will note that, given the chance, I could say endless nice things about this book!) Making yeasted bread is not difficult but, with all the various stages of rising & kneading, it can be time consuming and requires a measure of advance planning; however, the recipe in Heaven on Earth is beyond simple. The bread is kneaded only once and not set to rise at all prior to baking. I wondered what kind of texture this would yield and was pleasantly surprised by the soft, rich interior of our loaves.
The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and my newest favorite, Baking Bread with Children by Warren Lee Cohen (this latter book not only contains recipes -- it's also full of bread-baking related songs, poems & stories to share with children.) But in the end, the simple recipe from Heaven on Earth won out, so we gathered utensils, ingredients and set ourselves to baking.
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp salt
2 packets dry baker's yeast
3 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups unbleached white flour
Dissolve the butter and honey in 1 cup boiling water, and add in the 2 tsp of salt.
While the honey/butter/salt solution is cooling, in a separate bowl, dissolve the dry baker's yeast in 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (I always test the temperature of the water on my wrist to assure that it feels warm but not hot.)
Pour the cooled honey/butter solution into the bowl with the yeast and then add the flour, one cup at a time, starting with the whole wheat flour. As soon as the dough feels stiff and starts to form a ball, turn it out onto a floured board, knead for a few minutes and then shape as you (and your child-assistants) wish into rolls, animal shapes, braids or loaves. Note: if you plan to make loaves, I advise you to cut the dough in half to make 2 loaves (smaller loaves will ensure even cooking.)
Bake at 350 F for approx. 40 minutes (smaller shapes will require less time.) Your bread is done when you tap it and it makes a sort of hollow sound.