Best “I Can’t Believe It’s 100% Whole Wheat” Bread
When someone mentions elementary school, several images flash through my mind: a staple through two fingers, red-headed Todd Applegate who only noticed the “non-shy” girls, the monkey bar incident, my spelling bee trophy, and my rigid fear when I was up to “bat” in kickball. I have another memory…..of coming home to hot whole wheat loaves with pure butter melted over the top. Sounds like a TV commercial, doesn’t it? Advertisers conjure up that image for a reason! It filled us up and gave us an inexplicable kind of security –no popular boys to impress here or kickball teams to let down — just warm honey-slathered comfort.
Did my mother know? Maybe she only baked bread for the economic benefits, but I’m betting her out-of -the-oven-after-school timing was calculated. Wise woman! To this day my perception of my “idyllic” childhood stems back to food. Even the beef stew I hated was a nourishing symbol of warmth and stability…….something to be hearkened back to when the world got shaky.
Food is powerful stuff! I listen with satisfaction when my boys walk in the door and smell something pleasant cooking. Phrases like “Sweet!”, and “Is that chicken pot pie? Booyah!” come out of their mouths. If food is the magic, I’m the magician! Who doesn’t love wielding that kind of power?! We can’t make the world right, but we can make home right, and we can make them mighty glad to be there!
I married into a family of breadmakers whose family bylaws included this verity: “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead”. That was motivation enough to learn to make some decent whole wheat bread. Honestly, I was not a quick study, but I’ve finally got it figured out! Here is the best recipe I’ve ever used……so good that people don’t believe it’s whole wheat! It’s fluffy and high-lofted, with the perfect springy texture. It originated from some friends of mine, the Anderson girls. Below is the recipe, with photos and detailed instructions.
Note: There are different varieties of wheat. Generally, wheat that is higher in protein makes the best bread. A protein content of 12% or higher is recommended. If, like me, you don’t know how in the heck to tell protein content…..don’t worry about it! The easiest thing to do is make a batch of bread! You’ll know immediately after kneading the dough if it’s good wheat or not. High protein wheat makes an elastic dough that stretches longer before the fibers break. Poor wheat makes gooey dough that isn’t as elastic. The gluten in the recipe contributes to elasticity as well.
Trust me, you’ll want to grind your own wheat. You can start at first with purchased whole wheat flour, but you’ll soon discover that using pre-ground flour is a lot like buying non-ripe tomatoes from the grocery store to make home-canned salsa. What a waste of time! Besides, you can practically SEE the enzymes and nutrients just leaping from a drift of warm new flour. Aaaahh. Purely psychological, I’m sure, but wait ’til you try it! I’ve used a Kitchen Mill Grinder for more than a decade and I love it. A little noisy, but speedy and reliable.
This recipe can be made without a mixer. Simply mix together the ingredients in the same order, add as much flour by hand as you can mix with a large spoon, and turn out the dough onto the kitchen counter. It will be sticky, but you can add flour as you knead (in fact, you’ll have to). Knead a full 20 minutes. As you grow weary, just keep reminding yourself what a masterful multi-tasker you are — getting a workout and cooking at the same time. Bravo for you!!
A mixer, however, will make this task much more pleasant. I am an enthusiastic Bosch fan. The Bosch Universal Plus Kitchen Machine is my favorite kitchen tool. It’s useful for much more than just bread. Mine is used just about daily….sometimes multiple times a day, for everything from mashed potatoes to pie crust. Love it!
One last happy note: You don’t have to wash your loaf pans after you bake the bread! In fact, it’s better not to! Let them cool, wipe out with a paper towel (most times I don’t even bother with that, but it wouldn’t be proper to say so), and stow them away for the next batch. Eventually the loaf pans will become “seasoned”, which makes the loaves easier to get out of the pans.
BEST WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
Unbelievably delicious and easy 100% whole wheat bread. Fluffy and high-lofted, with the perfect springy texture. For best results, choose hard white wheat instead of red.
- 4 cups hot water
- 3/4 cup honey or granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 cup gluten
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 10 cups (approx.) whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons instant yeast
- Combine water, honey, salt, gluten, and vegetable oil in a heavy duty mixer (Bosch is good). Stir together.
- Add 5 cups of whole wheat flour. Mix.
- Add yeast and mix well.
- Add additional flour a little at a time while the mixer runs. Add until dough pulls away from side of mixer bowl and is no longer sticky.
- Knead on low speed for 10 minutes.
- Remove dough from mixer and divide into four sections. (Avoid tearing the dough. Use a knife instead). Shape into loaves and place in greased one pound loaf pans.
- Let rise until double — usually about an hour. You can test the readiness by pressing gently into side of loaf with your finger. If the dough springs back, it’s not ready. if the impression stays, it has risen enough. If the impression sinks or collapses, the dough has risen too long. (in that case, you may reform loaves and raise again — the rising time will be shorter)
- Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.
- Remove immediately from pans and place on a rack to cool. For softer crust, spread butter evenly over the top of the hot loaf. Enjoy!
- COURSE: Breads
- SKILL LEVEL: Moderate