I have been baking yeast breads for decades. For the last 4 or 5 years or so, I drifted away from it. Not because I lost interest, just Life 101 always seemed to get in the way. I forgot about how baking homemade bread can drastically improve your mental state and well being.
Let's start at the beginning. In my early 20's I bought a book on baking bread - still have it and the one, of all my other bread cookbooks, I go to most often. It is the 1963 version of the Better Homes and Gardens Bread Cookbook. The first loaf I made was better suited to being a baseball bat than a loaf of bread. I was devastated. But I persevered. With each success, I ventured on to different types of bread. I have made white bread, whole wheat bread, cinnamon swirl loaf, a phenomenal raisin nut braid that makes two braids that is to die for!
When my twin sons, John and Michael, were in kindergarten, I decided to make the cinnamon swirl loaf for the first time. It was still warm from the oven when they came home from school that day. I gave each of them a slice of it and John just kept shoving it into his mouth as if he was afraid someone would take it away from him! That loaf didn't last long in our house!
Here is my favorite recipe for whole wheat bread. It makes two wonderful loaves. Now stop saying you "don't have time" to devote to making bread. Find the time. You will be doing yourself a big favor.
1 package active dry yeast and 1/4 cup water
2 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup shortening
3 cups whole-wheat flour
5 cups all purpose flour
Soften the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees) Combine hot water, sugar, salt, and shortening. Cool to lukewarm.
Stir in whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all purpose flour. Beat well. Stir in softened yeast. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead till smooth and satiny. About 10 to 12 minutes.
Shape dough into a ball. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover. Let rise till double - about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down. Cut into 2 portions. Shape each into a smooth ball. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
Shape into loaves. [For the beginner: With your hands or a rolling pin, shape into a rectangle. Roll to about 1/2 inch thick and about 8 inches wide.] Place in two greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaf dishes/pans. Let rise again till double - about 1 1/4 hours. Bake in preheated oven at 375 for about 45 minutes. Cover with foil, if necessary, the last 20 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.
Notes: (1) This recipe is old, old! The size given for the loaf pans is kind of dated. Just use two loaf pans you can find at the store or on Amazon. (2) I prefer Bob's Red Mill products. I use their yeast and their flours and have good luck with them. There are other quality brands out there. (3) Over the years, I had good and not quite so good luck with getting dough to rise properly. I recently bought a proofer. All it is, is a flat bottom with a wire rack and a cover. It has a small pan in the bottom that you put water in, plug it in, set the temperature desired and put your dough in to rise - first in a bowl, and for the second rise in two loaf pans. I highly recommend it. The company is Brod & Taylor - www.brodandtaylor.com
Now put your laptop down and go gather your items to start baking bread!