Though always in season, a hearty loaf of bread never seems more appropriate than in winter. Perhaps it’s due to an expanded menu of soups and stews that grace our tables in the coldest months, or our biological instinct to hoard calories when the temperature dips below freezing. Do we even really need a reason?
Regardless of your justification for consuming a slice (or loaf) or two, you’ll want an easy-to-make bread in your repertoire for when the need for carbs strikes, and wheat germ bread fits the bill nicely. It’s the bread my family has always toasted in the morning, slathered with peanut butter midday, and dipped into our vegetable soup at night. Its nutty flavor and dense crumb are immensely satisfying on its own, but when butter is scraped across the surface it rises to heavenly status.
A few tips for novice bread bakers: The relative humidity in your kitchen will make a difference in how much flour you’ll need. The stickier it is, the more flour you’ll need to maintain a smooth dough. It’s not usually a problem in the winter, but just in case your visiting relatives from California have turned your house into a Swedish sauna, you should keep it in mind. The recipe will work with bread-machine yeast if that’s all you have on hand — 2¼ tsp equals one packet. And if you want to boost the nuttiness of the bread, opt for toasted wheat germ rather than the raw variety. We found ours in the hot cereal section at Whole Foods.
If you have a stew going in the slow cooker, you definitely have time to bake this bread. The challenge will be waiting until dinner is ready to eat the first slice.
Wheat Germ Bread
makes two generous loaves
4½-5½ c flour
2 packages (4½ tsp) yeast
⅓ c brown sugar
2 ½ tsp salt
2 tbsp softened butter or margarine
1½ c milk
½ c water
1 c wheat germ
Canola or vegetable oil
Sesame seeds (optional)
Combine two cups of flour, yeast, brown sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir well to blend. Add butter or margarine. Heat milk and water until warm and add to bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for two minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add one egg and one cup of flour and beat with mixer at high speed for one minute. Stir in wheat germ with a wooden spoon. Gradually stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for 5-10 minutes. Cover first with plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rest for 20 minutes on the board.
After 20 minutes, punch the dough and divide into two equal pieces. Knead each piece of dough for another minute and shape into tall domes. Place each loaf onto a parchment paper-covered sheet pan and brush lightly with oil. Cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two to 24 hours. When ready to bake, let the loaves stand on the counter for 10 minutes while the oven heats to 375°. Remove the plastic wrap and carefully puncture any surface bubbles. Mix the remaining egg with a tablespoon of water to create an egg wash and brush mixture onto to each loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired. Bake at 375° for 30-40 minutes, placing the loaves on the second-from-the-bottom oven rack for best results. If the crusts start to brown too quickly, cover each loaf loosely with foil for the last 5-10 minutes.