I absolutely love the smell of baking bread. If I could package it up somehow so that you could open a vial and take a whiff when you need a little boost in your mood, I could make a million bucks. My kids get so excited when I make bread. They eat big slabs of it doused in butter and honey or jam and keep asking for more. I love it when I can come up with something on the menu that everyone likes : ). Yesterday I had a friend over and taught her how to make her own loaves. It's something that takes a little practice and you'll probably have a few batches flop until you get a feel for how to knead the dough, but it's well worth it. I always knead mine by hand because that's how I can tell if I've got enough flour in it. Plus it's therapeutic...take your frustrations out on a piece of dough because it doesn't talk back! Anyway, here's my standard bread recipe:
Heidi's Whole Wheat Molasses Bread
2 ¾ cup warm water
2 T. dry active yeast (I use Fleischmann’s Instant yeast)
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
¼ cup molasses
1 ½ t. salt
8-8/12 cups whole wheat flour
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the oil, honey, molasses, salt and 5 cups of the flour until well combined. Allow to rest 10 minutes. Then, knead in enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is just barely not sticky, and knead for about 4 minutes. Put in a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with a towel to let it rise until double (30-60 minutes). Turn on the oven to 375, punch down and form into two loaves and place into greased bread pans. Allow to rise for ONLY 10-11 minutes, then bake for 32-35 minutes.
A word about flour – I like to use freshly ground hard white wheat flour. Wheat from Montana has a higher gluten content and makes better bread. Wheat flour doesn't keep as well once ground as processed white flour, so if you grind a bunch at once and aren't going to use it right away, store it in your fridge. If you use purchased flour, it will have settled and packed down, and it may require less. To help keep the measurements more consistent, stir the flour around to fluff it up before you measure it.