Knead: Add 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix. Mix well and watch the dough; it should begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If needed, add more flour, a little at a time, until it does. Knead the dough with your stand mixer for 5 minutes (or by hand for 10 minutes). The dough should be smooth and elastic, but still slightly sticky when touched.
Prepare Pans: Spray bread pans* with non-stick cooking spray and line the bottom of the pans with parchment or wax paper.
Shape: Spray your clean counter and hands with cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto the counter and divide it into two equal pieces. Press each portion into a rectangle about 9 inches on the long side. Roll them into logs and place in prepared pans.
Rise: Spray plastic wrap with non-stick cook spray and gently cover the pans. Allow the bread to rise for about an hour, or until the dough is rounded over the tops of the pans. *See notes for quick rise trick.
Bake: Place both bread pans on the middle rack of your cold oven. Turn the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 30-38 minutes, until the tops are golden.
Remove from oven and smooth a stick of cold butter over the tops of the hot bread. Remove bread onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Store leftover bread in a bread bag on the countertop for up to 3 days, or in the fridge. See notes, for freezing instructions.
Whole Wheat Flour: I recommend White Whole Wheat Flour (has the same nutrients of hard/red whole wheat, with lighter taste and texture). You could also use all-purpose flour or bread flour but you may need a little less or more than called for. Just pay attention to the texture of the dough; make sure it pulls away from the sides of the bowl, is smooth and elastic, and soft, but not overly sticky.Vital Wheat Gluten: can be found in the baking aisle at the grocery store and helps enhance the elasticity and give structure and softness to wheat bread. If using non-wheat flour, you can omit the gluten.Yeast: Make sure you are using fresh yeast, or the bread will not rise properly. Instant yeast or active dry yeast will work.Honey: You could substitute agave or granulated sugar.Bread Pans: Either 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch or 9x5 inch bread pans will work. I like the smaller size, for a taller loaf. Quick Rise Tip:Heat oven to 200 degrees F. Once it's at temperature, turn it off. Place bread pans in the oven (without plastic wrap) and leave the oven door open a crack. Allow bread to rise for 20-30 minutes, until domed just above the top of the pans. Leave the bread in the oven while you preheat it to 350 degrees F. Bake bread for about 30 minutes.Freezing Instructions: Place cooled bread in a freezer safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, allow to come to room temperature on the countertop (about 3 hours).