January 10, 2011

100% Whole Wheat Bread

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Except for the occasional artisan loaf (when I lack the foresight to start making it two days before we need/want it), we haven’t bought bread in over a year. 

My reasons for making bread at home are many:

- it’s cheaper
- it usually tastes better 
- it’s nostalgic
- it smells heavenly
- it’s a nice upper-body workout*
- it’s therapeutic*
- I get to control exactly what goes doesn’t go into it

*I enjoy kneading dough by hand; it’s one of my favorite aspects of the bread-baking process.  However, when I’m extra busy or just don’t have the energy, my stand mixer comes in handy (and makes it possible to whip up a couple loaves of the following bread in less than half an hour of active time).

For our everyday sandwich loaf, I use the following relatively quick and easy recipe, which I’ve adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe.  Brian will attest that this bread is anything but everyday.

100% Whole Wheat Bread

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Yield 2 loaves, approximately 28 ounces each. 

32 ounces whole wheat flour (about 7 cups)
2 ½ cups warm water (about 105°F)
3 ½ teaspoons instant yeast**
2 ¼ teaspoons (sea) salt 
1/3 cup honey (raw or processed)
1/3 cup vegetable oil

**Instant can be purchased in bulk much more cheaply than in the supermarket at places like King Arthur Flour and Amazon.


In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), combine all ingredients.  Using a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, stir to combine.  When ingredients begin to come together, turn onto a floured work surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic.  (Alternatively, knead for 6 to 8 minutes in a stand mixer on its lowest setting, using the dough hook attachment.)  The dough should be fairly firm.  If it’s too sticky or dry during kneading, add additional flour or water, as needed.


Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl.  Turn to coat all sides and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until almost doubled in size. (I like to let mine rise in the oven, with just the oven light on.) 


Once dough is risen, divide into two equal pieces, shape into loaves (see below, Shaping a Sandwich Loaf).  Place each piece of dough into a lightly oiled loaf pan. 


Cover with lightly oiled plastic  wrap and allow to rise for about 45 minutes.  (Dough should crest about ½ to 1 inch above top of the pan.)

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A few minutes before the dough has finished rising, preheat oven to 350°F.  (If the dough is rising in the oven, be sure to take it out before you preheat!)

Remove plastic wrap and bake loaves for 40 minutes.  Cover loosely with aluminum foil halfway through baking to avoid over-browning the tops.


Allow to cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.  Allow to cool completely before storing.  (This bread also freezes very well.)



Shaping a Sandwich Loaf

I have tried several different methods for shaping sandwich loaves over the past decade or two, including that described by Peter Reinhart in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  My favorite and most consistently successful method remains that which my mother taught me when I was young.  I am not sure I can explain it properly, but I’ll give it a whirl:

Lift the dough and hold it with both hands, palms and fingers facing one another. 


Lightly roll the dough back and forth between the heels of your hands, gently pulling the sides under, stretching the dough across the top, and tucking the excess under as you go.  This creates the surface tension that aids a shapely rise.


Continue this “stretching and tucking” motion down the length of the dough until the surface is tight (but not ripping) and the dough is the length of the pan.




Pinch the loose ends together on the bottom of the dough to help maintain the shape and surface tension. 




jxxc said...

I need/want to do this, but am not a huge fan of my recipe. I'll have to try this one. Thanks! :) -Jen

jxxc said...

I also have to comment on how incredibly perfect your loaves are!

efm said...

Thanks, Jen! Mom's method. :) And some practice. Even still, they don't always turn out so beautifully.

You should definitely try the recipe! We love it!

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