November 29, 2014 by epaduani
Though it has been well over a year since I baked a new loaf of bread from Beard on Bread, there were a few times where I thought I would bake and therefore acquired some of the necessary ingredients for my next loaf of bread. Graham Bread is a great example of that.
To be honest, I had never heard of graham bread. Jim described it as “an old recipe that I have used for many years,” and that it “makes a very nicely textured, flavorful, and interesting bread.” Sounds good, right? It sounded good to me, so I ran down the list of ingredients and stopped when I came to graham flour. I’ve bought a lot of flour since I started this project, but I had never seen graham flour on the shelves of my local supermarket. Thankfully, I have one thing that Jim didn’t have when he wrote this book back in the early 70’s and that is the Internet. I went to Google, typed “What is graham flour?”, and my good friends at Google and Wikipedia told me that graham flour “is a type of whole wheat flour named after the American Presbyterian minister Rev. Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), an early advocate for dietary reform.” You can read all about the history and dietary significance of graham flour at your leisure (along with all of things that Rev. Graham invented), but what is important is that I found graham flour at my supermarket. Armed with graham flour, both physically and the greater knowledge thereof, I set off once again on the road of bread baking history.
Graham Bread [2 or 3 loaves]
2 packages active dry yeast
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups warm water (100° to 115°, approximately)
1 thirteen-ounce can evaporated milk
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons salt
3 cups graham flour
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
One of the things that attracted me to this recipe as the one I would use for my “comeback” was the relative ease of it. I had already decided that I would use my stand mixer to do the kneading, so having a “basic” recipe would be a fine way to polish my skills.
I started by combining the yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup of water and letting it proof for about 5 minutes. I was concerned that my yeast wouldn’t be any good since I had purchased most of it over a year ago, but it started to proof after a minute or two.
While the yeast was proofing, I poured the evaporated milk and remaining 1 1/2 cups of water into a small sauce pan and heated it up until it was “warm”. I removed the pot from the heat and added the butter and salt. I then poured the yeast mixture and the milk/water/butter mixture into the large bowl of my stand mixer and blended it well with the dough hook of the mixer. Once it was blended I added the graham flour and turned the mixer on medium as Jim said it should be “beat hard with the spoon or with your hand.” The dough hook did a fine job, and it prevented me from having to get my hands messy. I then added 3 cups of the all-purpose flour, “1 cup at a time”, and mixed it well after each addition until all of that flour had been incorporated into the dough. At this point, Jim said that “the dough will become sticky and the flour will be hard to incorporate.” He was right, but the mixer took care of the job a lot easier than I could have. I then added the 2 more cups of the all-purpose flour, one cup at a time, beating with the mixer until it made a “firm dough” and it pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Once my dough got to that point I set the mixer on medium-low and set my timer for 7 minutes. Perhaps one day soon I will follow through with Jim’s directions to “turn out on a lightly floured board, and knead, using the remaining flour, until it is smooth and elastic,” but today I would use my stand mixer to do the work for me. I did add another 1/2 cup of flour to get it to the point of not being too sticky, and after about 7 minutes I took the dough out of the mixer. I shaped it into a ball, put it into my trusted, buttered flower bowl, rolled it around to get it all covered with butter, and covered it and put it on my stove to rest until “doubled in bulk.”
The dough rose for about 90 minutes before I decided that it had “doubled in bulk”. I punched it down and formed it into 2 loaves that I fit into my two, “well buttered” 10 x 5 x 3-inch bread tins. I covered the tins and let them rise for a second time until once again the loaves had “doubled in bulk”.
I checked on my loaves after an hour or so and saw that they had risen nicely. I covered them back up while I preheated the oven to 425°, and then once my oven was ready I placed the loaves in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes I lowered the temperature to 350° and set the timer for 30 minutes. When the timer went off I took the loaves out of the oven and checked them by tapping the loaves with my knuckles to see if they sounded hollow. They did, so I took the two loaves out of their tins and let them “cool completely on racks before slicing.”
Impatience got the better of me and I started slicing the bread when it still had a little bit of warmth to it. It stayed together when i sliced it so I guess that I didn’t do any harm to it by not letting it cool completely. The loaf sliced very nicely and had a nice, firm crumb. It held together well and was light when I tasted it. I sliced another piece and buttered it, which, as always, only made it taste better. As a family we probably ate half of the loaf that night with our dinner, so I’m guessing that everyone enjoyed it.
After a year without baking, it was good to see that the skills I had developed at the start of this project were still there. Being in Florida, good bread is a luxury. I’ve had some “tasty” bread since moving here, but not the “good” bread from up north. If I must bake my own bread to enjoy good bread, then so be it. Better to bake good bread of my own to enjoy then to never have good bread at all.