Two things are happening to me right now: one, I'm trying to eat better and two, I'm getting way into baking bread. These two things don't always go hand-in-hand. I want to bake yummy sticky buns and monkey bread, but that is nottttt eating better. So I am always in search of the holy grail of healthy bread recipes. At least until I get the urge to make homemade croissants and eat 1/2 of them before anyone in the family knows they exist.... Not that I would do that....That would be mean....
So anyway, I found a good recipe for "Rustic White Bread" ever-so-useful America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (a book I really like because of its photos, its explanations and its easy and foolproof recipes). Using it as a base, I decided that a way to make it a touch healthier ( i.e. get rid of some heinous carbs) would be to exchange 2 cups of whole wheat flour for 2 cups of all-purpose flour and it worked like a charm. I kept the honey in, because honey is great in whole wheat bread.
What I liked about this recipe was that it was not as time consuming as many bread recipes I've used. After baking for daaaaaaays on end with Peter Reinhart, Julia Child and Nancy Silverton's recipes, all of which are time consuming to say the least, it was a pleasure to finish my bread in a total of 4 hours (rather than two days!). The two rising times are 1.5 hours each, which is very do-able, and we were able to enjoy the bread for an afternoon snack and then with our dinner.
This bread bakes up wonderfully with a great chewiness and crisp crust. I have found that having a steam pan in the oven is essential for the best results, as is spraying the bread during the first few minutes of baking. If you want a bread that is excellent and rather easy, this is the one for you.
2 cups bread flour
2 cups plus 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 envelope instant yeast
2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups warm water
2 Tb honey
Mix the dry ingredients (minus the 1/4 cup whole wheat flour) in the bowl of a standing mixer using the dough hook. At low speed, add the water and honey and mix for about one minute, until the dough comes together. Turn the mixer off and cover the bowl right on the mixing stand with plastic wrap for 15 minutes.
Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, 10 minutes. If you need more flour, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Your dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick a bit to the bottom).
Turn the dough out to a lightly floured counter and knead for one minute. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free area for 1 - 1.5 hours.
When the dough is doubled in size, turn it out to a clean counter and dimple it with your fingertips. This will release some of the air. Once the dough is flattened a bit, pull up the sides to form a tight ball. Place the shaped dough on a sheet of parchment and cover loosely with greased plastic wrap. Let it rise again for about 1.5 hours.
Place baking stone in oven and preheat to 500 degrees F. Place a cast iron pan on the bottom of the oven (or very bottom shelf) and preheat it as well.
Let the baking stone heat up for about 30 minutes and no longer than one hour.
Once the dough has risen again, slice an "x" in the top with a very sharp knife or razor blade. Slide the parchment paper with the bread onto the baking stone. Pour 1.5 cups of water in the cast iron pan to form steam. Using a mister, mist water on the bread and on the walls of the oven. Bake for 30 seconds, remist the bread and walls. Bake for 30 seconds, re-mist again. Bake for 30 seconds and mist for a final time.
Bake for an additional 12 minutes (or less if it is getting too brown) at 500, and then lower the oven temperature to 400F and bake for another 20 minutes. When the bread is done, it will sound hollow when thumped.
Transfer to a wire rack and cool.