I'm so tickled I could just crap. I can't wait to try other recipes. A bread-baking monster has been created.
The verdict is in. The family voted the bread as my "best ever." Now, if you've been following along, you know that heretofore, the competition has been scarce in that area. However, I've finally found a keeper bread recipe and I'm posting it here as my new (first) go-to bread recipe.
The author of this recipe is Crystal Miller. I didn't change any of the ingredients or divert from method. I just needed to make note of my own personal touches.
2 cups warm water (I used hot tap water, 100-110 degrees)
1 T yeast
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup oil
2 t. salt
1/3 cup gluten
5 to 7 cups whole wheat flour (I ended up using a little over 5 cups. I whisked 3 cups of flour with the wheat gluten as the initial flour, then kept the rest in a separate bowl to add in as needed.)
In a stand up type mixer such as a Kitchen Aid combine water, yeast and honey. Let this sit for about 5 minutes or until the yeast is nice and bubbly. Add oil, salt, gluten flour and 3 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Knead this with your mixer and continue to add more flour until the dough does not stick to the side of the bowl and does not feel sticky to the touch. Knead for another 7 to 8 minutes.
When dough has finished kneading let it sit in the mixer bowl and rise until doubled in volume. (my notes: I preheated the oven to 100 degrees then turned it off. Covered mixing bowl with plastic wrap and put it into oven...let rise for almost an hour.) This usually takes about 45 minutes. When it has finished rising, turn on your mixer and knead again for a few more minutes to get all the air bubbles out. Remove from mixer and divide the dough into 2 pieces and shape into loaves and put in bread pans that have been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Let the loaves rise until they are about 1 inch above the rim of the bread pan. (my notes: covered loaves with linen towel and put back into oven to rise for almost an hour) Bake at 350 for approx. 30 minutes or until golden brown.