A (failed) experiment in bread-making: Whole wheat, carrot & spring onion bread

Every couple of years I get the urge to make bread. The kind you knead, let rise, and so on – the whole bready shebang. Which means that every couple of years I accidentally subject the people around me to a terrible meal because, as it turns out, I’m all kinds of bad at making bread. I’ve done under-risen, over-baked, rocklike: most everything but successful. 

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The good thing about being bad at something is that, if you ever do want to be good at it, you put more effort into learning. And so, over the years, I’ve read a lot about bread, coming to understand that the success of a loaf is as much about intuition as it is about instruction. With the outcome dependent on humidity, temperature, elevation, the mill of your flour, and so on, a well-written recipe only gets you so far. 

Which is why, this time around, I resolved to be less militant about following a recipe, instead taking my cues from the look and feel of the dough. And it went well. Until I walked away from the rising loaf for a few hours so that I could go to lunch with my family and the loaf deflated a little out of what I assume was a feeling of abandonment. Out of warranted spite, it then stuck to the well-oiled pan upon baking and remained doughy inside despite being in the oven for the longest time recommended by the recipe. 

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The top half of the loaf – the part that wasn’t semi-raw – was tasty: tender, buttery and a little sweet from the honey and carrots. If you’re more competent than me, my guess is that it would make for a tasty sandwich loaf, which is what it was intended to be. My family kindly says that it’s not bad re-cooked as toast.  

bread-trio.jpgI’ll give the bread another shot this week in hopes that I can do justice to the well-rated recipe that served as my starting point (advice is more than welcome!). I encourage you to give it a try too, whether you’re a skilled bread maker or not, since the only way to a tasty loaf, outside of luck or spare change, is practice. Just be sure to have backup dinner plans.
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Whole Wheat Bread with Carrot & Spring Onions
Makes one 9x5 inch loaf
Adapted from allrecipes.com

Note: If you want to make a standard loaf of bread, feel free to omit the carrot and onions. 

Ingredients
1 cup of warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1.5 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp + 2 tsp honey
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1-2 cups whole wheat flour
1 carrot, finely grated
2 spring (green) onions, finely chopped 
1 tsp butter, melted

1. In a large bowl, mix together the water, yeast and honey until most of the yeast has dissolved in the water. Stir in the bread flour until the mixture forms a sticky, uniform ball. Let sit, covered, in a warm spot for 30 minutes or until the dough has expanded and formed bubbles.

2. Mix in 1 tbsp of melted butter and salt, then stir in 2/3 of a cup of the whole wheat flour along with the carrot and onions. On a flat, well-floured surface (or in the bowl, if it’s large), knead the dough until its surface is smooth and just slightly sticky, incorporating more of the remaining 1 1/3 cups of whole wheat flour (or more), as necessary. 

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3. Place the ball of dough in a large, well-oiled bowl and let it rise in a warm place, covered, until it has doubled in size (expect this to take between 1-2.5 hours, depending on how warm your house is). Gently squish down the dough with your hands until it has deflated, then place it in a well-oiled 9x5-inch pan. Let rise until the dough has risen an inch above the edge of the pan.

4. Preheat your oven to 350 degress Fahrenheit. Bake your bread for 30-45 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow inside when you tap the base of the loaf (you’ll have to remove it from the pan to do this – be careful, as it’ll be hot!). When the bread is good to go, transfer it to a wire rack, brush the top with 1 tsp of butter (if you so desire), and let it cool completely.

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