We’ve renewed our commitment to making our own bread recently, and today we took a step further and tried making some without the bread machine. It’s a much more satisfying process, albeit not quite as quick-and-easy; I expect we’ll keep the machine for emergencies, and for doughs that require kneading :), but I also anticipate making a lot more bread without it.
One day last week, as we were bemoaning the rising cost of damn near everything in the grocery store, I commented to my wife that we ought to look for some WW2-era cookbooks for basic, simple and inexpensive recipes. This afternoon she pulled out a book on breads of the world  and found the “Grant loaves” recipe, from – you guessed it – WW2. Developed at the request of the British government (by a lady named Grant), the bread contains almost nothing but whole wheat flour and water, and is surprisingly decent, as well as being cheap and nutritious – and not at all bitter, which surprised me a little with all that whole wheat flour (if you don’t want to risk bitterness, King Arthur Flour also has a white whole wheat flour, which is milled from a white variety of wheat that has a milder flavor than the standard red wheat).
There are a number of slight variations of this recipe on the web, but this is the one that we used; there’s a variant that calls for adding a tablespoon of molasses, and we’ll probably try that next time because it should deepen the flavor profile nicely.
12 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
5 cups warm water (95-100° F)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
(variant – add 1 Tbsp molasses)
Preheat oven to 400°.
Thoroughly grease 3 loaf pans and set aside in a warm place. Sift flour and salt together in large bowl and warm slightly.
Sprinkle the yeast over 2/3 cup of the water. After a couple of minutes stir in the sugar. Let sit 10 minutes.
Make a well in the flour and stir in the yeast mixture and remaining water. Dough should be slippery. Mix for about a minute, working the sides into the middle.
Divide into 3 equal portions in the bread pans, cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise, in a warm place, for 30 minutes or until the dough has risen by about 1/3.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the loaves are crisp and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
[edited to add: My wife figured out that the pilot light in the gas fireplace generates just enough heat to make an ideal “warm place” for warming the flour and rising the dough. This also allows us to include both the actual (kitchen) and symbolic (fireplace) hearths in the baking process, which is very cool!]
 The book is called Bread: the Breads of the World and How to Bake Them at Home, by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter. It’s a very good book, and frequently on the bargain table at Borders – I picked it up originally because it was cheap and had an awesome recipe for a loaf shaped like a sheaf of wheat, that we have made for more than one harvest ritual.