A few internet searches and several botched loaves later, I found a recipe that works for me every time. It's simple, requires only a handful of ingredients, and makes a whopping six loaves. (After all, who wants to put all that effort into making bread if you can't send a loaf over to your neighbors and then bask in their praise?)
I wish I could credit the brilliant chef who developed this recipe, because they deserve the glory, but I simply wrote the recipe on a grocery list scrap paper many years ago and it has been in my recipe index ever since:
- 6 cups hot tap water
- 3 tablespoons yeast
- 2/3 cup oil
- 2/3 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 3 tablespoons Dough Enhancer
- 16-20 cups Whole Wheat Flour
Once all the ingredients are in the mixer, you can begin adding the flour, 1 cup at a time. One of the biggest mistakes first time bakers make is adding too much flour. The dough should not stick to your finger if you poke it, but it should not be dry either. The fresher the flour, the less time spent kneading the dough. It usually takes 15 minutes or so in the Bosch at speed 1. You know the dough is ready when you can stretch the dough between your hands and it doesn't break immediately. You should almost be able to create a "window" in your dough. This is very easy to recognize with white flour, but it is a little harder to see with wheat. Just make sure your dough allows you to stretch it a few inches without breaking and you should be fine.
Once you've finished the kneading process, divide the dough into 6 sections. Take each section and shape into an oval mound. I like to pull the dough from the top and gather it at the bottom so the top is smooth and finished.
Finally, lay your loaves in your greased bread pans and allow it to rise. I accomplish this by turning my oven on to warm. Then I turn the oven off and put the loaves in. I let them rise until double in size - about 30 minutes. Once they are finished rising, I simply turn the oven to 350° F and allow them to bake about 25 minutes. Keep an eye on the bread and enjoy the delicious aroma that will be wafting into the kitchen. The bread should be lightly browned and when thumped they should produce a hollow sound.
Allow your bread to cool on racks for several minutes, and then slice and serve! I'm sure you can imagine the aroma and almost taste that tender bread. Go on, it won't be as hard as you think. Just follow these simple instructions and before you know it, you'll be rolling in the dough!