I have mentioned before how much I love my bread machine, but I also love love love making bread the traditional way when time allows. I use the sponge method, which means that back in the day, I was letting the sponge rise for 45 minutes, and then letting the bread rise three more times! Well, I've recently come to the conclusion that the more efficient yeast available today (the only thing I can easily get without a special trip) doesn't do as well with four total risings. I am ashamed to admit that I've cut back to three total.
But you know what? My bread really hasn't seemed to have suffered.
So even though I've tried other methods...no-knead, rapid rise, and bread machine...my all time favorite is this adaptation of the traditional method. Your mileage may vary. Just sayin...
Whole Wheat Yeast Bread
Makes 2 standard sized loaves
3 c lukewarm water (85 - 105 degrees)
1 1/2 T dry yeast (2 packages)
2 - 4 T sweetener (brown sugar, honey, molasses)
1 c dry milk powder
3 c whole wheat flour
1 c white bread flour
4 t salt
1/3 c fat (oil or butter)
2 c whole wheat flour
1 c white bread flour
Up to 1 c white bread flour for kneading
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the sweetener and milk powder. Stir in the flour one cup at a time, using a brisk circular folding motion. Beat the whole mass well for about 100 strokes. Cover with a wet linen towel and allow to rise for 45 minutes in a warm spot.
Fold in the salt and fat. Fold in the additional 3 cups of flour until the dough begins to come away from the side of the bowl. Knead on a floured surface, using up to 1 additional cup of flour. Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Return the dough to the bowl. Spray the surface with cooking spray if desired and cover. Allow to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down and fold it into a ball. Remove from the bowl onto the kneading surface (most likely no more flour will be needed). Cut into two pieces and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Knead lightly and shape into loaves. Place each into a sprayed loaf pan if desired. Allow to rise for 45 minutes. Brush the tops with an egg wash or milk if desired, and bake at 350 for about an hour. Remove from the pans to cool.