Mary, sorry it took me a few days to get around to posting this. I've been making all of our bread for the last month and a half or so and this is the recipe that I use. It makes 4 loaves. I use about 2/3 whole wheat flour and 1/3 white flour, but you can vary this ratio however you choose. This bread has turned out soft like store-bought bread every time I've made it. Even when I didn't let it raise quite long enough, it was still very good, just a little bit more dense. I got the recipe off of a forum on pinchingyourpennies.com and it was titled "Dad's Bread". It was posted by dougjenevans, who posted a bunch of other whole wheat recipes too that I am slowly getting around to trying - I'll post those too if I find any great ones. :)
10-12 cups flour (any combination of wheat & white flour will do)
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten (I get this at Macey's - I'm not sure where else they sell it)
2 Tbs dry yeast
4 cups warm water (120-130 degrees)
1/3 cup olive oil (I use light tasting olive oil, NOT EXTRA VIRGIN, or sometimes canola oil)
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbs salt
- Preheat oven to 150 degrees.
- Place 6 cups flour into mixer bowl with kneading arm attached. (I do all whole wheat for this part)
- Add 1/2 cup wheat gluten and 2 Tbs dry yeast and mix well.
- Add 4 cups warm water and mix for 1 minute. (Be careful that the water is not too hot or it will kill the yeast and your bread won't rise)
- Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Add 1/3 cup oil, 1/3 cup honey, and 1 Tbs salt. While mixing these, quickly add remaining flour 1 cup at a time just until the dough cleans itself from the sides of the bowl. (This is where I often just use white flour, but I've used more wheat flour too and it is great. IMPORTANT: YOU PROBABLY WON'T USE ALL 10-12 CUPS FLOUR. I USUALLY ONLY NEED ABOUT 9-10 CUPS TOTAL - also, the sides of my mixer bowl tend to become "clean" too easily I think, so I usually add flour until the dough is soft and just barely sticky)
- Knead for 10 minutes.
- Shape and place dough in 4 non-stick bread pans and put in preheated oven. (I spray my pans with PAM just to make sure the bread comes out easily. Also, if the dough is a bit too sticky to shape, spray your hands quickly with PAM too and that should make it easier. My oven only goes down to 170, so I preheat it to that and then turn it off when I put the bread in.)
- Let bread rise in oven until double in size. (The recipe says this should take about 15 minutes, but mine always take between 30-45 minutes. I seem to have a better result too if, when I check and they look ready, I wait an extra 10-15 minutes. Another way you can tell is if the dough is just above the top of the bread pans - you'll just have to experiment the first time with what works with your pans and your oven.) :)
- With the pans still in the oven, turn the heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. (When I think the bread is ready, I take one out of a pan, turn it over, and test through the bottom of the bread with a meat thermometer - that way the hole is in the bottom, not the top - I let it get to about 195 degrees before I take it out.)Take bread out of the oven and remove from pans immediately by turning onto cooling racks.
Since this makes a lot of bread, I usually freeze 2 of the loaves for later. I've read (and tried) that the best way to freeze fresh bread and have it taste good later is to slice it before you freeze it. Then, if you don't want to defrost the whole loaf, you can just take out a slice or two, heat in the microwave for 20 seconds or so and it tastes like it just came out of the oven. Good luck! I hope you try it out!