Robin’s Bread

Some of you know how much of an Alford and Duguid fan I am. This bread is from their book Home Baking. It’s simply called “Robin’s Bread”, after Naomi’s mom. I make this at night before bed, and let the dough rise overnight. In the morning I form the loaves, leave them a bit for a second rise, and bake. Hot, fresh bread, ready for breakfast when the kids wake up.

4 cups lukewarm water
2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk (I used part milk and part rice milk)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 cups whole wheat flour (may be increased proportionately to all-purpose flour)
2 tablespoons mild honey
9 to 11 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, or unsalted butter, softened
1 cup hulled unsalted sunflower seeds (optional)

Food and Wine has a revised recipe here (subscription required). Or, here are my abbreviated instructions:

If using mixer:
Place water and milk in mixer bowl. Whisk in yeast. Turn on machine and add whole wheat flour, then honey, then 3 cups of the all-purpose flour. Add salt, then the oil or butter and sunflower seeds. Add more flour until dough starts pulling away from sides of the bowl. Knead for 15 minutes more or so at low speed if using a KitchenAid, 6-8 minutes if using an Electrolux Assistent.

If doing it by hand:
Follow instructions above, except use a bowl and a wooden spoon initially until it gets to be where you need to use your hands. Turn the dough out into a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding flour as needed until you have a pliable, still moist dough.

Place dough in a large bowl (enough to accommodate double the volume of dough — or halve dough and use two bowls if necessary). Cover with plastic and let rise overnight, or 8-12 hours.

On a floured (or lightly oiled, my preference) work surface, divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Flatten each dough into a rectangle, then roll a short side up into a cylinder, pinching to seal the seam. Place in 9 x 5 bread pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover pans loosely with plastic (I spritz mine with oil) and let rise another 40 minutes or so until doubled.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven, spritzing the loaves with some water from a spray bottle before you put them in. After 10 minutes, lower oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake for another 40-45 minutes, rotating pans once.

To test for doneness, take loaf out of oven and pan. Knock on the bottom — it should sound hollow. Bottom corners of loaf should be firm. Bake 10 more minutes if necessary.

Cool loaves, out of pans and on a rack until completely cooled, before slicing. (This is a rule that never gets followed in our home, especially with that first loaf.)

Loaves can be pre-baked, cooled, then frozen. Wrap airtight in plastic bags. Defrost overnight at room temperature, still sealed in plastic.

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