Whole Grain & Seed Bread
Makes two 9x5" loaves
This bread is dense and substantial (verging on heavy) and therefore better suited to toast than sandwiches. You could lighten it by substituting unbleached all purpose flour for half the whole wheat flour, but you'd be diminishing its whole grain benefits.
4 cups warm water (It should feel neither hot nor cold when you dip your finger in it.)
1/3 cup honey
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
6 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups old fashioned oats (not instant)
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
1/2 cup flax meal
4 generous teaspoons sea or kosher salt
Unbleached all purpose flour for kneading and shaping loaves (about 1 cup)
1. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, stir the honey and yeast into the water and let sit for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is foamy. (If your mixture fails to foam within 10 minutes, your yeast isn't active and you'll need to start over with new yeast.)
2. Meanwhile, in a very large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, oats, sunflower seeds, cornmeal, flax meal and salt. Add the liquid yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a stiff dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, adding small amounts of all purpose flour (no more than 2 tablespoons at a time) as needed to prevent it from sticking. (Note: I divided the dough and used my KitchenAid mixer to knead it in two parts.)
3. Unless you have a bowl the size of a cauldron (lucky you for having the cabinet space), divide the dough (if you haven't already, as I did in Step 2) and place each piece in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover with towels and set the dough in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes, or until it's doubled in size and indentations remain when you press it with your fingers.
4. Working with one portion of dough at a time, punch it down and turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Dust with flour and roll into a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches. Starting with the short edge, roll up the rectangle tightly, pressing to rid it of air pockets. Place each roll in a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray, seam side down, tucking the edges of the roll under if needed. Cover with towels and set in a warm place to rise for another 45 minutes or until doubled again in size.
5. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover loaves and place in oven on center rack; bake for about 40 minutes or until they're browned and sound hollow when tapped.
TIP: To get a brown and chewy crust, use a spray bottle to periodically (about every 10 minutes) spray the bottom and sides of the oven with water. (Open the oven door just enough to spray the water into the oven, then close it immediately.) Steam is an element you can easily add to your home baking repertoire to make your bread more bakery-like.