When I was a professional baker, quite a few years ago now, I used to wake up when everyone else was leaving the bars and head to the bakery in the inky-black night to start making dough for all sorts of breads and pastries. It was tiring work, and I never quite got used to the crazy hours, but there was something magical in that time. The physical aspect of making bread, something so simple and basic, was invigorating, and the smiles and happiness that a warm baguette brought customers was reward enough.
I got out of the habit of baking my own bread until a few years ago when I started teaching at the San Francisco Cooking School. In one of my fundamentals classes we learn to make the basics of yeast bread. And this recipe is one of my favorites. It makes an incredible sandwich bread – hearty and wheaty and moist and just dense enough – and even better toast when slathered with butter and maybe some homemade marmalade.
Make sure you use active dry yeast, which is different than instant or rapid rise; active dry needs to be proofed before using, which means it needs to be mixed with a warm liquid (less than 105°F and it won’t activate, and higher than 115°F will kill the yeast).
Recipe: Whole-Wheat Honey Bread
Makes 1 loaf
- 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/2 lb unbleached bread flour, plus more for kneading
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (110–115°F)
- 1/2 lb whole-wheat flour
- 1/3 cup wheat bran or wheat germ
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, honey, half of the bread flour, and the water until combined. Let the mixture stand until the yeast dissolves and foamy bubbles appear, about 5 minutes (it should look like a latte). Add the remaining bread and whole wheat flours, the wheat bran, 2 tbsp of the butter, and salt. Using the dough hook, mix the dough starting on low speed and then increasing the speed to medium, until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. The dough will be sticky.