Bake your own bread.
Just do it, it’s so easy, and the difference between your own bread and even very good store bought bread is really night and day.
Misa got a bread machine, which worked pretty well, but still baked bread with an odd texture. Plus the center would cave in, giving the sliced bread the shape of a cat face. We called it cat bread.
But then we discovered that the bread machine also has a proofing function. You add the ingredients, it kneads and rises the bread. You take it out and shape it for a second rising, then bake in the oven. That worked great. Some ovens have proofing cycles, but the real trick is the mixing. Its the equivalent of about 20 minutes of kneading, which sure as hell wasn’t going to happen by hand. A stand mixer would also do the trick, plus looks it pretty boss sitting there on the counter.
We have played around with this recipe, which originally comes from the I heart naptime blog. The original is a great recipe (after all that bread, you’ll heart some naptime too), and we tweaked it to make a whole wheat version. The kicker was to replace the water with crushed apple or banana, which did very little to the taste, but made the bread very moist. After a couple of loaves of each, we are leaning towards the apple as the better version, though the slight hint of banana aroma is pretty enticing.
Start by proofing the yeast:
Cut, peel and mash two apples — use a stick blender to produce about 1 cup (or just buy applesauce). Microwave until just warm (not hot!), and add 1.5 tsp dry yeast on top, followed by 1 tsp sugar. Do not stir the yeast and sugar in, but let them sit for ten minutes to froth up. The yeast loves the apple mixture, so let it really go to town. If it does not bubble after fifteen minutes, you might have dead yeast. Mourn your loss and move on (by buying new yeast and starting over).
While the yeast is proofing, mix the dry ingredients: 2 cups baking flour, 1/2 cup wheat flour and 1/2 cup rolled oats. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 4 tsp (1/2 stick) softened butter, 1/4 cup water, and 1/4 cup evaporated milk.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix, with a stand mixer, bread machine, or do it by hand, you Hercules! Give it a good 10 minutes of mixing, cover and let it rise for an hour or so depending on the heat of your kitchen.
Once it has doubled in size, empty it out onto a floured surface, and gently press into a large square. You can either fold the dough in thirds and place it directly into a buttered loaf pan, or cut the dough in half to make two balls that fit together snugly.
The resulting shape will not only amuse the heck out of any nine year olds you have in the house, but will also produce a loaf that you can pull apart, so that you can wrap up the half you are not eating. Either way, let the dough rise until it is the proper shape and size. Anywhere from a half to a full hour, but generally the longer the better. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and bake the risen loaf for 25 minutes.
Now wasn’t that easy? Yes it was–the hardest part is not eating the entire thing as soon as it comes out of the oven. You can also replace the apple with an equal amount of banana.