Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cozy Homemade Bread = Serenity

     I spent Friday night and Saturday watching frightened New Yorkers stand in extremely long lines at super markets, hardware stores, even the video stores, desperately gathering last minute supplies before hurricane Irene hit the city.  At one point, the Trader Joe's on 6th Avenue in Manhattan had a line that stretched two city blocks.  I wandered into my local Met grocery for a few things to discover empty shelves and chaos.  

     Preparedness is important, but I couldn't help but smile about the final-hour fear.  I spent a nice rainy evening baking two hearty, sweet, nonperishable loaves of delicious whole wheat bread from scratch.  Ok, so they will eventually perish, but not in the four days to a week without power we were told was possible.

     I bake bread every few weeks, but not even for the final product.  I like bread and it comes in handy in a hurricane, but I bake it because I like the process.  It is far less laborious than bread machine manufacturers (and pretty much everyone else) would have you believe.  But it does require a certain level of patience.  You have to be willing to wait for it to rise...three times.  It takes several hours, but you are not working at it that whole time.  You mix, then relax for an hour, knead, then relax, etc.  And you have to (or get to) get your hands dirty, sinking them into the moist dough. My favorite part is the smell.  An odor of yeast and olive oil and warmth.  A smell that radiates outward from the oven until it fills my entire apartment and the hall outside.  

     This weekend, while listening to rains pelt the windows, the shuddering of winds assaulting the building and the trees outside, I lounged on my couch, watching hurricane updates and munching on a little slice of comfort. 

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread From Scratch

3cups lukewarm water (85 to 105 degrees)
Tbsp. dry yeast (2 packages)
1/2cup sweetening (honey, molasses, or brown sugar)
4cups whole-wheat flour (substitute 1 or more cups unbleached white flour if desired)
4tsp. salt
cup olive oil
3cups additional whole-wheat flour
1cup whole-wheat flour for kneading
Additions (whole oats, cranberries, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, whatever you want)


     In a large ceramic bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the sweetening. Stir in the 4 cups of whole-wheat flour to form a thick batter. Beat well with a spoon (100 strokes).

     Let the dough rise for 45 minutes.  It needs a warm - but not too warm - place to rise.  I turn my oven on very low and let the dough rise on the stovetop above.  I also cover it with a clean towel to protect and insulate the dough.

     Fold in the salt and the oil, then fold in the additional 3 cups of flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Knead on a floured board for about 10 minutes, using the additional 1 cup flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the board. Stop when the dough is smooth.

     Let the dough rise for 40 to 50 minutes, or until doubled in size.

     Gently knead in additions until uniformly distributed.

     Shape the dough into loaves and place in 2 loaf pans or a single heavy baking dish. Let rise for 20 to 25 minutes.

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

     Bake for 40 minutes to an hour, or until golden-brown. I actually knock on the loaves, you can hear whether it is still doughy inside.  When finished it makes a solid noise, almost like knocking on a door.  Remove from the pans and let cool before slicing.  Enjoy!

     This recipe is based on the yeasted bread recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book.  Tassajara is a zen meditation community in Northern California.  (Check it out at  It's a hippy culture, back-to-nature kind of thing, with a focus on sustainable living and healthy foods.  Their bread book is awesome!  Full of helpful tips and unique recipes.  It is a guide to bread from scratch complete with kneading diagrams and personalizing options within the recipes.  It is the bread baker's bible.


  1. Yay! Evil Dictator of Taste is back!!! Love this, can almost smell and taste the bread! :)

  2. Blog really great to define that dish. evil dictator taste is really awesome. blog really gives idea about bread recipes. Thanks for sharing your ideas to making bread a days people don't have so much time to make delicious recipe so Bread machine used every where in the world.

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