Mom It Down: Whole Wheat Bread

Our new apartment has a pretty great kitchen. Especially when one compares it to the previous kitchen. As a result, we bake and cook at home more, which includes my baking all of our bread. 

bread2

Up until recently, I never quite found the right recipe. The consistency was off (especially when it came to making sandwiches) or it just didn’t taste all that special. A few months ago, I found a bread recipe online somewhere, messed with it a smidgen, and ended up with something that worked.

Today I would like to share that recipe with you.

MOM IT DOWN!

I came up with a term I use a lot when I’m baking. It’s “Mom it Down”. Basically, it’s whenever I take a relatively difficult or time-consuming recipe or task and change a few things or push the limits in order to make it easy enough for a mom to tackle while she’s dealing with her kid(s).

The amount of work I put into making this bread is almost nonexistent. And believe me, if I can do this every single week, it has to be easy. I tend to give up on things when the payout received is less than the amount of work I put into it. Why would I bake bread when I can buy a loaf at a local bakery for a relatively small amount of money? 

Because it’s actually easy! 

Equipment You Will Need

  • An electric mixer. I have a KitchenAid. (If you don’t have a mixer, you can do this by hand. Obviously it will take more time, and will therefore not quite fall into the Mom It Down category, but it can be done.)
  • Loaf pans (You can get away with only having one, but that means baking them all separately and will therefore take up more time.)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of very warm tap water
  • 5 cups white flour
  • 2 packages of yeast
  • 1/3 cup honey (or sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/3 sugar (Feel free to omit this or substitute a little bit of maple syrup here. I do it all the time.)
  • 3 to 3.5 cups of wheat flour

In the food mixer, empty contents of yeast, warm water, white flour and honey. Let that sit for 30 minutes until it’s bubbly. (I have actually forgotten about my dough at this stage and it ended up fine.)

Add sugar (if you want, I usually skip it), 3 tablespoons of melted butter, salt and wheat flour one cup at a time. Let the mixer do its thing for a short while. Remove the dough, and then knead it for as long as  you want. (Seriously! I have spent a whole 2 minutes kneading this dough. That’s it.)

Take the big ball of dough and add it to a large, oiled bowl. Cover that with a towel. Let it sit in a warm place for an hour and a half or longer—it’s up to you. (Again, whatever works best with your schedule, but definitely ignore it for an hour and a half.)

Preheat your oven to 350.

Take the dough, separate it into thirds. (I do two larger loaves and one smaller one. I have also made rolls coated in poppy seeds.) Smoosh it flat into a rectangular shape, then roll it up as one might a sleeping bag. Pinch the seams together. Smooth it out—make it look a little pretty (obviously, I cut corners when it comes to this step, my bread is always bursting at the seam). The dough is really durable, so you can move it around a lot with the palms of your hand. Add the loaves to however many number of pans you have. Bake at 350 for 35 – 45 minutes.

Overcoming Obstacles

The hardest part for me was that our oven wasn’t actually at the temperature it claimed to be. The first three loaves I made were totally undercooked and that was after pushing the time all the way up to an hour. The inside was doughy, the outside was too well done. Eventually, I got a thermometer for the inside of the oven and now know that my oven is about 25 degrees off. After we figured that out, making this bread and keeping it consistent was a cinch. 

Something else I discovered was that the mixer I have is by no means industrial sized. If you have the same mixer, the amount of dough you’ll end up with this recipe is quite large and will give it a workout. To avoid burning it out, I don’t let it mix the dough for too long. I honestly haven’t run into any problems, but I think it’s important to point out. (I reckon you can cut this recipe in half pretty easily, though I haven’t done so yet.)

Variations

I usually add flax to ours. I have added wheat germ. I have skipped the second 1/3 cup of sugar. I have added only 1/3 cup of honey, skipping the second addition of sweetener. You can add cinnamon, nutmeg, even maple syrup. 

This bread is really hard to screw up and takes very little actual face time. I reckon I spend a total of 25 minutes preparing this bread, that includes the time it takes to clean up. It does the rest of the work.

I’m a bit of snob when it comes to using a bread machine (for no reason whatsoever), but I do like fresh bread because I like controlling what goes into it. (Plus, the house smells amazing for hours.) So, I’m really happy to find a recipe that works with my schedule.

I hope that if you give this recipe a try, it will prove fruitful for you as well. Feel free to share anything you’ve Mom’d Down in the past as well!

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Weight Loss, etc.

I signed up for WeightWatchers on May 30th, 2008. As of tomorrow, I’ll be halfway through my trial period. This post is an update to what’s been happening, how much I’ve lost, frustrations I’ve met, and things that have helped me out over the last month and half.

Let me begin by saying that I’ve lost 8 pounds. I expected to have lost more than that by now, and I’ve been fluctuating between a 6 to 8 pound loss for three weeks. Am I experiencing a plateau? I’m not sure. But I’m going to continue and hope that the next couple of weeks bring me higher numbers.

One of the reasons I’m so irritated by the plateau is because I’m working out as well. (Although, I just started with a regular daily routine last week, so perhaps things will pick up?) But I feel like I should have lost more weight by now. Maybe not. Who knows.

All in all, this diet is much easier to follow and stick to than South Beach. I tried South Beach several years ago and while the diet works, I wasn’t able to stick with it and I felt like I was hungry most of the time. I was on it for about 4 months. I lost 19 pounds. The diet was trying, however. And I gained it all back.

The South Beach diet just wasn’t one I could stay on indefinitely. I feel that WW is.

One of the reasons I like WW diet is because of the bonus points you’re given on top of the daily allotment. There have been some weeks where I am doing just great and then BAM! we order pizza and I devour 3 slices in one sitting. There were two days last week where I blew right past my 21-point weekly allotment. One day I consumed a massive 45 points!

But that amount comes out of the weekly “bonus” points. And so you’re not beating yourself up quite as much as you might on other diets.

Another reason I like WW is that the product line is oustanding. Let me begin by saying that I’m not super keen on eating foods with a long list of ingredients, but I decided that this time I’d blissfully ignore my inclinations and just go with it. At this juncture, I have tried several of the packaged meals offered by Smart One’s. (Only the vegetarian ones, however. We prefer our meat come from local farms), I’ve tried several of the desserts, and a whole bunch of bread products. This has helped me get a grasp on point allotment. It also helps me feel full. (Sometime down the road, I plan to take off my training wheels and give up the packaged meals. I may continue to buy their bread products, however. You simply can’t beat a bagel for two points and a whole grain english muffin for one.)

If you don’t mind eating food with a long list of ingredients, I highly recommend trying out their pre-packaged meals.

I’ve learned that foods high in fiber and low in fat are golden. So, cheese glorious cheese? Not so glorious for the midsection. Incidentally, that’s been the most difficult thing for me to give up. I am a cheese lover. But when it comes to hunger and point allotment to fulfillment ratio, cheese ranks as one of the foods to avoid.

I’ve learned that you can have unlimited amounts of vegetables and almost as much fruit as you can stomach. (I love fruit, which could be another reason that South Beach proved difficult for me.)

Wine and beer? Avoid it. It won’t do anything to make you feel full plus, it messes with your metabolism (as does caffeine, actually. But I’m not about to give that up). Beer is higher than wine, naturally. But lite beer is better than regular. (I tend to prefer the dark stuff, so beer hasn’t been something I’ve touched lately.)

Salad dressing is the devil, for the most part. Seriously. In fact, I have joked and said that if every American went into their fridge right now and threw out every condiment, we’d be a lot thinner in only a month’s time. I think there’s truth to that statement.

If you’re a snacker, you have to figure out what type of snacks to eat. I have gotten through some salt cravings by making Newman’s Own popcorn (96% fat free). I usually add Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and I have myself a relatively healthy snack. (Well, if you ignore the sodium content in the Lawry’s. heh.)

My favorite snack, however, is a cucumber salad my mother made us when we were growing up. I’ll cut up one cucumber, add a spoonful of lite mayonnaise (or fat free), and some white balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle on some pepper, and you have yourself a tasty treat. (This has gotten me from one meal to the next dozens of times over the last month. Plus, it’s awesome.)

In a nutshell the diet is working albeit slowly and some days I get really annoyed especially when my weight fluctuates. But putting on weight is much easier (and more fun but not as rewarding!) than losing it.

I am going to stand strong and readdress my situation when my 3-month trial ends. At that point in time, I’ll decide if i want to pay the month-by-month fee and continue, or if I need to figure something else out (like liposuction and a breast reduction). But I’m pretty satisfied with the way things are going, however, I’d be a LOT more satisfied if WW sent me free products and in turn I’ll write reviews and give them free advertising, because buying this stuff costs money we don’t have. I get email all the time asking me to agree to blog post sponsorship and I always say no because I worry about what I’ll have to agree to. But if WW came to me and asked me to do such a thing? I’d do it in a heartbeat.

That’s all for now. As always, feedback and/or suggestions welcome.