BASIC WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
This whole wheat bread is soft, hearty, light in texture, rises very well and smells like whole wheat heaven! It's an easy, great tasting, straight-forward recipe that works every time.
Note: The time it takes the bread to rise will depend on the environment and temperature of your kitchen: 75 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for getting bread to rise well. If the temperature in your home isn't quite high enough, here's a trick: Leave your bread to rise in your oven! Turn on the oven light (just the light, not the actual oven!) - this slightly increases the temperature inside your oven and your bread will rise in no time!
3 c white all-purpose or bread flour
1 1/4 c warm water
2 tsp (1 packet) instant yeast
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using a strong spoon, mix until the dough has come together, then drop it on the counter and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth. Look for a softer dough texture - not so sticky that it sticks to your hand, but not so firm that it doesn't come together.
*You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer, either way you will knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
Let the dough rise in a bowl covered with either a towel or plastic wrap in a warm area until doubled in size (about 30-60 minutes).
Once the dough has risen in the bowl, place the dough straight onto your work surface. Punch the dough down to release all the air pockets. Spread or roll out the dough as if you are making a pizza (about an inch thick). Use some additional flour if needed to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface. Roll the dough into a tight cylinder about 8 inches long, tuck in the ends and place in a greased 8.5 x 4.5 inch bread pan. Cover again and let rise until the dough is about 1/2 inch above the pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 23-25 minutes until golden brown. Take loaf out of the pan immediately and place on a cooling shelf or rack (this prevents a soggy bread bottom).
Enjoy warm from the oven now, or wait for it to cool. Top with butter, jam, or honey.
How to Knead by Hand
Gather the dough together, then push the top part of the dough away from you with the palm of your hand. Fold the dough back toward you and repeat this motion again and again until the dough is elastic and smooth. Add flour as needed, but be careful not to add too much - the dough will stick at first but the longer you knead, the less it will stick, so only add more flour if necessary.