Sunday, March 13, 2011

Perfect Whole Wheat Bread!

As with so many things in the kitchen, bread can be made easily and inexpensively, but is a little time consuming.  Fortunately for my family, although we're in a season of life right now where we don't have much money to spare, it's pretty easy for me to find a few extra minutes to spend in the kitchen.  So my latest adventure has been bread making.

I've had quite a few attempts at this bread-making thing, starting in college when I tried to make whole wheat bread in my mom's bread machine and ended up with inedible rocks (well, if you poured butter on them, you could get them down.  My dad was really nice about eating some of it to spare my feelings).  That turned me off from bread machines forever!  Next, I found out about sourdough and how fantastic it is for you, so I made my own starter and whipped up a batch.  It was sour, alright!  And dense and flat.  

Last year, I discovered, a fantastic resource that has incredible details about sourdough and bread-making in general.  I mailed away for a sourdough starter and had some pretty great success with fluffy, light whole wheat sourdoughs.  After a few weeks of this, however, my husband announced that he wasn't really as wild about the flavor of sourdough as he thought.  So much for that.  My kids will eat anything made from wheat, so to really be successful here, baked goods must pass the husband test.  I learned so much from, though, that I felt much more confident in my bread-making skills.  I just had to find the perfect recipe.  

Here were my qualifications: it must be 100% whole wheat (if a bakery can do it without white flour, I should be able to too!); it would be fantastic if I didn't have to add gluten; it has to be light and fluffy enough for everyday use; and I'd like to either sprout the wheat ahead of time or soak the flour.

Imagine my delight when I was cruising around Kitchen Stewardship last month and saw the latest series over there - Seeking the Perfect Homemade Whole Wheat Bread!  Katie is trying dozens of variations of bread recipes, and then reporting on them and even scoring them for things like softness, rise, ease of assembly, and the like.  I tried the first bread, which she calls "Sweet and Simple."  Success!

This stuff is good.  Not "edible fresh from the oven or maybe the next day if it's toasted and buttered," but the kind of stuff you can make sandwiches from all week and actually use like store-bought bread.  In addition, it doesn't have any perishable ingredients in it, so I feel comfortable leaving it on the counter instead of refrigerating it (it won't get all dried out in the fridge!).  Plus, I didn't have to significantly change the recipe to work at high-altitude.  My only tiny change was adding whey to the 1 cup of water instead of replacing water with whey to equal 1 cup...does that make sense?  I figured it's so dry here that a little bit more moisture won't hurt.  

I altered her instructions a little bit, but kept her ingredient list the same:

Katie's Ingredients:
1 c. room temperature water
1/4 c. coconut oil
2 Tbs. honey
2 1/2-2 3/4 c. hard red whole wheat flour
1 3/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 tsp, salt
She gives instructions for soaked bread without added gluten, which is the version I used, but I changed things up a little at this point because I hate melting coconut oil ahead of time.  Here goes:

My Method:

Heat water (to at least 80 degrees) and pour into medium mixing bowl (I used my stand mixer).  Add coconut oil and stir until coconut oil is melted (I started with slightly hotter water, so it melted pretty quickly).  Add flour, honey, and 2 Tbsp yogurt whey, and mix until combined. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours.

Note: make sure the water and oil aren't too hot when you add the other ingredients, so you don't kill the healthy bacteria in your whey. 

In the morning, or whenever you're done soaking, add yeast and salt, and mix until incorporated.  At this point, you could knead by hand or use a mechanical kneading-aid, like a bread-hook on a stand mixer.  Knead until gluten is developed.  Dough will no longer be super-sticky, and if you tear off a piece of dough and stretch it out, it will pass the "windowpane test."  That is, you will be able to stretch it until you can see light through it like a stained-glass window, and it won't tear.

Fold the dough around itself and tuck under to form a little round lump that is stretched on the top (this is called a gluten cloak).  Rub a little olive oil on the surface so it doesn't dry out, then cover and let rise until doubled in size.  Then, punch down and form into loaf-shape, with the gluten cloak on top again.  Place in greased loaf pan and let rise again until doubled.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  I live at 9000 ft, so I bake mine 'til my thermometer jabbed into the top reads 190.  At sea level, I think you're supposed to bake it to 205 degrees F.  Cool on wire rack.

Now, I know that if you bake your family's bread already, you probably have your own favorite tried-and-true recipe (will you share it with me?  I'd love to try it too!).  But it you're not satisfied with your recipe, or you're just getting started with baking bread, this recipe is a fantastic place to start.

Posted at Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Meatless Monday at Veggie Converter, Tuesdays at the Table at All the Small Stuff, Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, and Works for Me Wednesday at We Are That Family


  1. I was JUST clicking through my recipe links to find sandwich bread to make for the week and this post popped up on my blog reader. I guess I have to make it!

  2. Mmmm...Looks good! We have stopped eating bread for now. The phytic acid in whole wheat bran can not be broken down enough to be safe and we are working on healing some cavities right now. We use sprouted tortillas from Alvarado Bakery. I have one batter bread that I make with soaked flour but I sift all the bran out. I found some flour that contains the germ and most of the bran is already sifted out so I am going to try and make sourdough with that once I have used up my current container of flour. I have gotten my sourdough starter from Cultures for Health and I loved it.

  3. Jackie, it must be a sign that this is the recipe for you! Hope it goes well!

    Megan, have you tried the sprouted bread from Alvarado Bakery? I don't know what the bran content of that is like, but it seems like it might be similar to the tortillas. I hope your sourdough is a success!

  4. I've been following Kitchen Stewardship's bread series too. We love the latest from King Arthur. We also liked the "Happy Rolls." I haven't tried this one. I'll have to do "Sweet and Simple" next!

  5. Here is my recipe for 3 loaves of bread which I make in the stand mixer. Melt 1 stick of butter in a saucepan. Add 1/2 cup milk, 1 3/4 cups water, 3 tsp. salt, 4 tbsp. sugar(I use maple sugar or Sucanat). Stir until dissolved. I usually turn the heat off when the butter is melted. Stick your finger to see if it is just warm. Add 4 1/2 tsp. yeast. Let sit and stir until dissolved. Pour into mixer bowl along with 2 eggs. Mix well then start adding flour. I use sprouted flour.Add a cup at a time, up to 9 cups if necessary. Usually it takes about 8 1/2. Knead with dough hook. Turn into a well buttered bowl - a large one, cover with plastic wrap and a towel. When double, divide and shape into loaves and place in buttered loaf pans. Bake 35 minutes at 350. Sometimes I bake two loaves and make cinnamon rolls with the rest of the dough.

  6. Stopped by from Real Food Wednesday and wanted to say hi! I have been working on sourdough myself as I have the 5min bread down and a perfectly delicious conventional 100% wheat bread. Glad to know Katie's bread is working for you, it gives me motivation to keep working morr soaked grains in!

  7. Anonymous, thank you for the recipe! I am looking forward to trying it, especially because of the sprouted flour.
    Ubermom, I hope hope your sourdough experiments are successful! I hope to get back into sourdough eventually once I have my family really convinced that homemade is the way to go. :) I am also interested in trying the 5 minute bread. Is there any way to soak it? Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Hi Danielle! First time on your site and saw your post through Real Food Wed. I will have to try your whole wheat bread sometime very soon. Like that you soak it overnight. I've done a lot of trial and errors with this one too and finally found a very nice version, although now I almost always eat sourdough instead, since I have a very healthy sourdough starter finally.

    Look forward to see what you have to share on future posts.

  9. Artistta, thanks for stopping by! Is your sourdough recipe posted on your blog? I'll have to come check it out - I've really enjoyed your series on the history of food in America.

  10. Hi Danielle,
    Your Whole Wheat Bread looks delicious. The texture of the bread look very good and not to dry. Thank you for sharing and have a great day!

  11. Thank you, Miz Helen! It is pretty delicious - what fun to finally have a good recipe!

  12. i would love to try this. i usually use sprouted grains in my homemade bread... do you think that would work? maybe i wouldn't need to let it soak?

  13. Tammy, I don't have much experience with sprouted grains (yet), but I don't think they would behave exactly like unsprouted. I'm not sure, but it surely wouldn't need to soak, and it's worth a try!

  14. i'm pretty sure i'm gonna give it a try.. i use sprouted flours for everything else (almost). for bread, i use a little diastatic malt that i make from sprouted wheat and some vitamin C powder. these are considered enhancers to yeast bread.

    1. I hadn't heard of either of those being associated with bread making - thanks for the good info!

  15. Visiting over from your link-up at The HHE. Thanks for sharing your bread recipe! Even though I've been incorporating the Nourishing Traditions recipes for a couple years now, soaking grains is intimidating to me. I may just have to try your recipe because it looks so simple! Thanks.


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