A few months ago, once the weather turned colder, I decided to try making my whole wheat bread with a standing mixer and oven instead of a bread machine. Now that I had proven to myself that I was actually going to make all of our own bread, I was willing to invest in some equipment. Making my bread using a mixer and oven has several advantages over making bread in a bread machine:
- My bread machine was one of the final holdouts of Teflon in my kitchen, and its nonstick coating was already showing signs of wear. Now I make plastic-free bread by mixing the dough in a stainless steel bowl and baking the bread in my glass Pyrex loaf pans.*
- By using a mixer and oven, I have greater flexibility in the cooking process. For example, if the weather is cold and the bread is rising more slowly, I allow the bread a longer rise.
- I can make several loaves of bread at once (and freeze most of the loaves), instead of a loaf of bread every few days.
- A loaf of bread made in a loaf pan in the oven is just more aesthetically pleasing than the loaves that come out of the bread pan of a bread machine. And now that I have mastered the mixer/oven method, it will be easy to use the dough for other things, like rolls.
*For those who are considering using or who are already using a bread machine with nonstick coating to bake homemade bread, keep in mind that commercially baked bread is most likely baked in nonstick bake ware with a Teflon coating too. Baking your own bread in a bread machine, even one coated with Teflon, is still a step in the right direction (greater control over ingredients, fresher bread, less packaging and waste, and so on). I also have not gotten rid of my bread machine. In the hot summer months, when I can’t bear to turn on my oven, I will probably resort to using my bread machine in the garage to make fresh bread.
Honey Whole Wheat Bread, 2 Loaves
2 ¼ - 2 ½ cups milk (I’ve used whole, 2%, or soy), lukewarm
2 T + 2 t active dry yeast
¼ cup olive or canola oil
2/3 – ¾ cups honey
1 T table salt
3-6 T vital wheat gluten (optional)
2+ lb. whole wheat flour = 6-7 cups whole wheat flour
Dough forming a ball in the mixer (left) and after the final rise (right).
- In a standing mixer, mix milk, yeast, oil, honey, salt, gluten and 5 cups whole wheat flour (5 ½ cups if you are not using gluten) until well combined. Then continue kneading on level “2” (on Kitchenaid standing mixer) for 5-10 minutes. You may want to stop mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides.
- Let sit 2 minutes. Then add 1-2 more cups whole wheat flour (1/4 to 1/2 cup at a time) until the dough pulls away from sides of the bowl and forms a ball, but still sticks to the bottom of the ball some.
- Cover dough (I use a plate) and let rise 1-2 hours until double in size.
- Butter and flour 2 loaf pans (I use Pyrex 8.5” pans - which I can wash in the dishwasher after using). Knead very briefly to press out air bubbles and form 2 logs/loaves on floured or oiled surface and place in pans. Cover with lightweight towel and allow to rise 1-2 more hours, until dough crests a couple of inches over the edge of the pan. If the dough starts to fall, you let it go too long, and that’s about all I can tell you.
- Heat oven to 350. Bake bread 30-40 minutes, until 190 degrees internally. After about 15 or 20 minutes, lightly cover the bread with foil to avoid over-browning the top.
- Allow bread to thoroughly cool before slicing.
Checking the temperature of the finished loaf.
I barely understand the bread-making process. I tried to read some of the nitty gritty of several bread baking books, but honestly got a little bored. Since I hardly know anything about baking bread, you will not gain too much from my experience unless you are even more of a baking novice than I am.
You could probably knead the bread if you don’t have a standing mixer. You’ll probably need to knead it about twice as long, 10-20 minutes.
I grind my own hard red whole wheat in a Nutrimill grain mill, which I love, but it’s very expensive. You can use hard red or hard white wheat berries for grinding, or store-bought whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour. Whole wheat berries last a long time and are very cheap so you can buy them in bulk. Whole wheat flour does not last long so don't buy too much at once. If you end up making lots of homemade bread, make sure you buy your ingredients in bulk, which will save you tons of money.
The total amount of flour you use will vary depending on what type you use. The amount of flour you need also will significantly vary depending on how accurately you measure your liquid ingredients (milk, oil and honey) as well as the humidity. I use significantly less flour in the winter than in the summer, and significantly more flour on a rainy day. So add flour until the dough forms a ball, and then don’t add any more. If it’s a dry winter day, I start with 2 ½ cups milk; if it’s summer or raining, I might start with 2 ¼ cups and see how that goes. In general, I don’t measure my liquid ingredients too carefully.
Use the same measuring cup for the oil and the honey. I fill the ¾ measuring cup up about 1/3 of the way with the oil, use that to coat the cup as I pour it out, and then use the same cup for my honey, so that the honey slides right out.
Rising time will depend on your altitude and kitchen temperature. My bread takes quite a long time to rise in the winter, when my house is 60-65 degrees. Also, I live near sea level. If you live at a high altitude, you may need to make other adjustments, like using less yeast (to avoid an over-fast rise). You’ll want to check a more authoritative source for info on that kind of thing.
I make 4 loaves of bread at a time by making
the above recipe 2 times in a row.
I make four loaves of bread at a time, but my mixer can’t handle that much whole wheat dough, so I make the above recipe for 2 loaves, put the dough in a separate bowl to rise, and then immediately make another batch of dough, and allow that to rise in the mixing bowl. An hour or two later, I form all four loaves at once, let them rise, and then bake them all together. I only have to wash my baking tools and mixer bowl once for 4 loaves. My family immediately devours at least half of a loaf. I freeze 2 or 3 of the other loaves.
I’ve made the recipe with 6 T gluten (about 1/3 cup), 3 T gluten, and no gluten. More gluten gives you a better rise, but the bread with no gluten is still absolutely delicious and in no way brick-like. During my most recent baking day, I made 2 loaves with 6 T gluten and 2 loaves with zero gluten for comparison.
Loaf made with no added gluten (on the left) next to
2 loaves made with 3 T added gluten each or 6 T total.
I did not end up baking them all at once because the no-added-gluten bread took significantly longer (30-60 min.) to rise. I think I actually could have let it rise even more, but it was 9 pm and I needed to get to bed. Next time I’ll try letting the no-gluten bread rise even longer. The no gluten bread is a little burnt on top because I forgot to cover it with foil after 15-20 minutes. It also had a small air hole in the middle, which occasionally happens with my whole wheat bread, added gluten or no added gluten, and I’m not 100% sure why (perhaps I let it rise too long?).
At this point, I think I like the recipe with 3 T added gluten (for 2 loaves) best. I will also try using no added gluten again and allowing an extra-long first and second rise, and see how that goes. I'm also open to using some white flour in place of the whole wheat if it allows me to skip the added gluten.
If you try the recipe, please let me know how it goes!