Bread is one of the most beautiful creations that can come from the kitchen. The process is therapeutic and fulfilling. Taking the simplest ingredients and working them into a sticky ball that ultimately transforms into a fluffy, golden loaf is deeply satisfying. It requires patience, using your hands, and coaxing it into something divinely fragrant and used daily.
This recipe has become one of my weekly rituals. We’ve stopped buying sandwich bread and started making this for many reasons. We can control the ingredients inside, it is much cheaper and it tastes 1,000 times better. Also, it makes the house smell amazing when it’s baking in the oven. Believe me, it’s worth your time.
This bread is unique because it uses agave as the main sweetener. It also incorporates whole wheat flour and olive oil. These flavors all mingle together to create a slightly sweet, flavorful bread that is perfect for sandwiches, toast, or with a bit of preserves on the top. Or, if you are like my husband, you pound through half of a loaf in a few minutes. Beware of that. It’s easy to do.
I like to put oatmeal and flax seed on top for some extra texture. They seem to fit the scene of whole wheat speckles that make the bread more hearty feeling.
Make this bread for your sandwiches or surprise a friend with home-baked goodness. Slow down a bit and delight in the process of bread baking.
(adapted from here)
1 cup warm water (2 tablespoons for activating yeast, the rest for dumping into recipe later)
3/4 teaspoon raw sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon active yeast
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon olive oil + more for greasing bowl and bread pan
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, mix the sugar, yeast and 2 tablespoons of the warm water. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes or until frothy. If it doesn’t get frothy, your yeast is bad, or your water temperature wasn’t warm enough.
Add the flour and salt and mix until incorporated.
Add the remaining ingredients and knead by hand* for 8-10 minutes or in a stand up mixer with a dough hook for 5-7 minutes. The dough should gather around the hook and smooth out. If this isn’t happening, add bits of flour.
*If you are kneading by hand, lightly dust a counter or other surface with flour. Put your mass of dough on top. Dust your hands and the top of the dough lightly with flour. Taking the heel of your hand, push into the dough away from your body, mashing the dough into itself. Take the back half of the dough (that you didn’t push your hand into), and flip it so that it is facing your body. Continue to do so until the dough is no longer sticky, but still soft and elastic. Don’t over knead. As soon as the dough is uniformly smooth, stop kneading. The dough might freak you out at first because of the sticky factor–go with it. Keep your hands lightly dusted and work that dough into submission!
Form the dough into a ball. Place dough in a bowl greased with olive oil. Cover and let sit for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until it has doubled.
Punch the dough down and form into an oval. Make sure that you have smoothed out the place that you have punched and that there are no air pockets in the dough. Place it into a greased bread pan. If you want a free-form loaf, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Cover the dough and let it sit for another hour or until doubled. After 45 minutes, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brush the dough with water and sprinkle flax seeds and oatmeal on the top.
Bake the dough for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
After pulling out of the oven, pop the bread out and let cool on a baking rack. Do not cut the dough until it has returned to room temperature. This makes the crumb of the dough soggy. Patience pays off!