Everyone who knows me knows I like food. I like eating it, cooking it, talking about it...I think about it constantly. Some might call me obsessed, but I am always trying to further educate myself on the topic of food, with the end goal of finding and consuming the best food for my body.
Recently, I have taken up baking. I was originally inspired by another food blog called 100 Days of Real Food. I do not possess the will power to follow this program 100%, but it did inspire me to look a little harder at labels and make a few changes. At my house, we were already pretty good about buying only whole grains (or so I thought), but what I did not realize was all the added "stuff" in store brought wheat products. Stuff that, if you make your own bread, would never show up on the recipe list. Also, as it turns out, it's basically impossible to buy a loaf of bread that doesn't have at least a dozen ingredients, the second or third of which is always sugar (or sometimes worse...high-fructose corn syrup).
Go on, go to your grocery store bread aisle and I challenge you to find a loaf of bread that is:
a)100% whole wheat (no enriched flour, soy, corn, nuts, or other grains)
b) does not contain high fructose corn syrup
c) has less then 10 ingredients (all of which you can pronounce)
If you can find some, you are lucky, but after looking at three grocery stores I gave up and accepted that if I wanted real wholesome goodness and didn't want to go broke buying it, I had to learn how to make my own bread.
And so my adventures in bread baking began. Even though I consider myself a pretty proficient cook, I had always avoided bread baking like the plague because it sounded so easy to screw up and so hard to get right. So far I have made whole wheat sandwich bread, whole wheat cinnamon swirl bread, and whole wheat rolls. I still haven't gotten it down just right but it must be edible because my husband has been gobbling it up.
Tonight I daringly ventured out to make whole wheat hamburger buns (if you think it's hard to find whole wheat bread, just try finding 100% whole wheat buns....)
I hate to call my first blog cooking experiment a failure so we'll just put emphasis on the "trial" part of "trial and error". :-)
Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
Makes 6 buns
Start to finish: 3 hours
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cups warm water
1 pkg dry active yeast
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp sea salt
The recipe I used suggests that you "soak" your grains for half an hour. This is supposed to break down the gluten and help in the raising process later. If you've ever baked with whole wheat flour, you know that it doesn't rise like white flour does. That's because it naturally contains less gluten and therefore needs all the help it can get in the raising department.
Take 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix it with 3/4 cups water in a large mixing bowl. Let it soak for 30 minutes.
Since you have some time on your hands, go ahead and mix 1/4 cup warm water (between 115-120 degrees) with the yeast and a pinch of sugar. It's very important that you measure the temperature because yeast is very finicky and it will only do it's job in this window of temperatures. Too cold and the yeast won't activate. Too hot and it will die.
Let it sit for 10 minutes so the yeast can activate. It should get really foamy and double in size.
Every time I do this I have that Frankenstein voice in my head that says "It's allliiiivvvveeeee!"
Also while you're waiting, go ahead and heat the butter, honey, milk, and salt in a small saucepan. Do not, I repeat, do NOT pour the liquid mixture into the dough unless it is below 120 degrees. Otherwise you will kill your yeast.
After your grains are done soaking, turn on your mixer and add in the yeast and the milk mixtures. Be sure to use your dough hook attachment. Start adding the remainder of your flour (1 cup). I like to add my flour in 1/4 cup at a time because really you just want to add enough flour so that the dough comes together, breaks away from the sides, and is no longer sticky. In this instance I did not need the remaining 1/4 cup of flour.
Once your dough comes together, let the dough hook on your mixer do the kneading for the next 5 minutes. Then cover your bowl with a kitchen towel and let it nap for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
Dough rises best when in an environment that is moist and between 80-85 degrees. I don't know about you, but my kitchen is never that hot, so what I do is I turn my oven on warm and after a minute I turn it off and stick the bowl inside the oven. I leave the door cracked so it doesn't get too hot.
After an hour, punch down your loaf so that you get all the air bubbles out and roll it out to about one inch thickness.
You may be wondering what those rubberbands are on my rolling pin. These things are awesome. They come in different sizes so that you roll your dough to the correct thickness every time. You can get them at Bed Bath and Beyond. I mostly use them for cookie baking.
Once your dough is rolled out, use a wide mouth glass to cut out circles and place them onto a baking sheet. I have silicone liners on mine, but if you don't have those you will want to use something like parchment paper to line your baking sheet. You may need to pull together scraps and re-roll your dough to get the quantity you are looking for.
Now it's time to let them nap for another 30-45 minutes. You are again looking for them to double in size.
After they wake up from their nap bake them at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. You will know they are done when you can knock on them and they sound hollow. If your buns are done but haven't browned, fire up your broiler until they are golden and delicious looking. Mmm, golden buns....
And that's it! 3 hours may sound like a lot of time to invest in 6 rolls (you can always double the recipe) but most of this process is in-active prep time so you could do many other things like.... go for a run, catch up on DVR, or take your own nap. Just make sure you hear the timer go off!
In a perfect world, these buns would have been a lot fluffier. In fact, all my whole wheat products would be a lot fluffier, but these will do for now until I can crack the fluffy code.