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Busy, Smart and Strong: Baking bread, an art in the kitchen

Many people like to bake as a form of relaxation. There’s something about the technique, the kneading (even if you have help with a machine for that), the aroma. While baking is definitely scientific, it’s also an art form, in more ways than one as I found out from the valley’s own Chef Tess!

Find out more on Stephanie Petersen’s website,

Here’s Chef Tess’s recipe for Basic Whole Wheat Bread from her new cookbook “Bread Art-Braiding, Decorating, and Painting Edible Bread”

2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup cool water
6 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 tsp. salt
21/2 cups lukewarm water
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 cup oil

Dissolve yeast in half-cup cool water. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the mixture.

Dissolve honey in the 2.5 cups water and add oil. Pour this liquid and yeast mixture into well of flour. Stirring form the center, first combine ingredients to make a smooth batter. Then fold in the remaining flour from sides of bowl, mixing them together into a soft dough.

Wait 10 minutes, then evaluate dough. Dough should be supple and not overly dry.

Add more water or flour if required and knead dough about 600 strokes without adding any more flour. This takes about six minutes on medium speed in a Kitchen Aid mixer. Dough should remain soft and should become elastic and smooth.

Form dough into a ball and put in an ungreased crock. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or a lid and allow fermenting at about 80 degrees. This will take one-and-a-half to two hours.

Wet your finger and poke it into dough. If your finger goes in without much resistance and the hole remains when your finger is removed, the dough is ready to be punched down. Punch dough down. For best results, do not wait until it sighs and collapses when poked.

Gently press out accumulated gas. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured table and, keeping the smooth surface carefully unbroken, deflate the dough by pressing it with your wet or floury hand from one side to another.

BAKING: Divide dough in half. Form each loaf using the loaf-molding technique as shown on video and place in pans. Lightly coat tops of loaves with melted butter and lightly tent loaves with plastic or plastic bags, or place in a moist place to rise. Allow to rise until dough is 1/2 inch above the edge of the pan. Lightly slit tops of loaves with a very sharp knife. Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for 20 minutes and then drop the temperature to 350 for the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking. Remove from pans and allow to cool completely before cutting.

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