Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Whole Wheat Bread (and rolls)

So this year, after reading Jen Hatmaker's book Seven, I have decided to spend time really researching the food we are eating and how to make our bodies as healthy as possible.  It's turning out to be a very daunting task as our government has allowed so much filth into our farming processes, that it seems like it will be virtually impossible to avoid all chemicals, etc.  :(  But, I can at least make improvements!

So, for one, I am buying strictly organic milk.  If you want to read some really gross stuff, read about why people shouldn't buy regular pasteurized milk.  Ewww.  I will NEVER again buy regular milk for my little family.  And, therefore, I am working to find the best sources of organic dairy all around (since all cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc are made from milk...I want to buy organic!).  I thought I had found it by ordering from a local farm, what's better than fresh from the farm?  Organic, that's what.  The farm still uses lots of antibiotics and chemicals, and they only pasteurize, which is not nearly as good as the ultra pasteurized (UHT).  Pasteurization does not kill a lot of the bacteria, which is why milk is so quick to spoil.

Fruits and vegetables are another no-brainer.  There are many organic varieties available, but unfortunately, seeing as I live in a small town, there aren't a whole LOT of options.  I've found spinach, apples, peppers, tomatoes...but most of what we eat here has gotten here on a truck and so most of it is NOT organic :(  We do a garden in the summer, but I doubt that will really fill our freezer and pantry with enough for the whole year, so I will be hunting down local farmers markets this spring and summer to find a good organic source and stock up!  :)

Eggs are another one...easy peasy.  Just go to most any grocery store and find organic.

Meat however, is very hard!

I watched some documentaries on chicken slaughtering, and all I have to say is GROSS!  I don't know that I'm ready to go vegan, I like meat.  I just think that there is such a better way.  A humane way.  And, the large chicken slaughtering company I watched said that they slaughter 130 chickens per MINUTE (using machines), and that there are only 3 employees on the line.  So there is no way for them to visibly check the chickens before they are slaughtered or packaged.  Eww.  I'm not the kind of girl that worries too much about my meat seeing the light of day 24/7, but again, there needs to be a better way.  And when the chickens are confined so close together, they are pumped full of antibiotics to stay healthy.

I read a disturbing article about Tyson...who was labeling all of their chicken as "raised without antibiotics" because they argued that they pumped the actual eggs full of the medicines and did not put it into the actual chickens.  REALLY?  And to think, our government knows this is happening and they barely do anything about it!

It's just so sad, and so overwhelming when you try to learn how to feed your family in a healthy way.  I had thought I was doing a pretty good job, but now I'm not so sure.  Just because I'm not buying frozen pizza and chicken nuggets on a regular basis does not mean that my kids are getting the best nutrition possible.

SO.  Where to start?

I had already been thinking about the whole wheat bread problem.  Three months ago I had come up with a grocery list (fresh meat/seafood, fresh veggies, fresh fruit, milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts, etc). All healthy things, and if it wasn't on the list, we weren't buying it.  It worked great!  Except that I purposely left off bread, in hopes that I would just make it fresh.

Well, I didn't.  So about a month after making the list, I broke down and decided that whole wheat bread would be added.  So I went to the store and searched...and searched...and searched.  I looked through SO many "whole wheat bread" labels to find three problems.

1 - almost all the "whole wheat bread" has virtually no "whole" wheat in it.  It mostly is listed in the middle of the ingredient lists.

2 - it took almost the entire bread aisle for me to find a whole wheat bread at all...let alone a whole wheat bread that didn't have High Fructose Corn Syrup listed as one of the top three ingredients!  So, even if it does have whole wheat flour as the main is FULL of HFCS!

3 - and lastly, have you looked at the ingredient lists?  Why on earth does it take 30 or more ingredients to make BREAD!?  Bread at home takes 5, maybe as much as 10 ingredients, but that would be a very unique, exceptional type of bread.

And then, I read Jen Hatmaker's book and she said the same thing about the 30 ingredient issue.  So I decided....I'm done.  I'm making our bread.

I can't say I'll never break down and buy bread at the grocery store again, or that I will only buy organic everything.  Heck, I can't find a lot of organic stuff right now, and with one kid in school full day, another in preschool half day, and another getting ready to start half day kindergarten next year, it will likely be another year or TWO before I have the flexibility in my schedule to drive an hour each way to get groceries.

So, here it is.  My first attempt at homemade, WHOLE WHEAT bread!  :)  And I must say, it was awesome!  Tons of flavor, moist, and fluffy!  Everything you love about white bread, but with nutrition, more flavor, and not all the garbage!  :)

I don't know how long these loaves will stay fresh on the counter, so I'll have to try to remember to pay attention to that and post it when I know!  But they were fantastic and easy!

I found the recipe at I did make some changes based on the reviews.  And let me tell you, I don't bother making a recipe if it doesn't have many GREAT reviews.  This one had over 980 reviews and still had 5 stars!  And I got the benefit of reading about what other people substitute to make healthier (in this case agave nectar in place of honey, all whole wheat flour in place of a mix between whole wheat and regular all purpose, and less sweetness overall).

Here's the original recipe...and here is my version:

3 cups warm water
2 (.25 oz each) pkgs active dry yeast
1/4 cup + 3 Tablespoons light agave nectar (I actually only filled the 1/4 cup measure about 3/4 full)
5 cups + 2-4 cups white whole wheat flour
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3/4 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter to coat


  1. In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/4 agave nectar. Add 5 cups white whole wheat flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.
  2. Mix in 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons agave nectar, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky - just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. (I just mixed in my kitchen aid mixer until no longer sticky, I added a total of about 2 1/3 cups flour total at this step).  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled (about an hour and a half, last half hour in the oven set to proof)
  3. Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch. (again, about an hour and a half, this time all in the proofer)
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not over bake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely.

Note - based on a reviewer and the fact that we only have 2 of the larger size loaf pans, we made 2 loaves and then split the rest and made into rolls.  Baked for about 15-25 minutes, just watch them.  Although ours never did get brown on top...even though the loaves got a nice golden color on top.

So there it is...our first major step towards a healthier life!  Although, sadly, today for my daughter's 5th birthday she wanted Panera bagels for breakfast...and so this lovely, NUTRITIOUS bread will have to wait until lunch!  :)

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