This recipe is an update of a recipe first published here.
I've been making four loaves of whole wheat bread about twice a month for close to two years now. I even made it through the first trimester of my last pregnancy, a newborn baby, and a couple of hot summers (sans a/c) without missing a step. Here is an update to show you what I've learned and how I've tweaked the recipe over the last dozens of batches.
2 ¼ - 2 ½ cups whey or milk, lukewarm
2 T active dry yeast
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup honey, maple syrup, or molasses (use 2/3 to 3/4 cup if you want noticeably sweet bread)
1 T table salt
0 to 6 T vital wheat gluten (I most often use no gluten or 1 to 2 T gluten)
6 to 7 cups whole wheat flour (2+ pounds)
- In a standing mixer, mix milk, yeast, oil, honey, salt, gluten and about 6 cups whole wheat flour until well combined. Add as much flour as you can without the motor straining and the mixer knocking. Continue kneading on level “2” (on Kitchenaid standing mixer) for 6 to 8 minutes. You may want to stop mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides.
- Let sit 1 minute. Then add 1/2 to 1 more cups whole wheat flour (about 1/4 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 until double in size. In the summer in my non-air-conditioned home, this takes less than one hour. You can accelerate rise time (in the winter if you are in a hurry), by putting the dough inside a barely warm oven (turned off). I find I get a better loaf if I don't rush the rising time, however.
- Grease (I use butter) two 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 divide in two. Then press each half into a 5" by 8" rectangle. Starting at one end, roll tightly into a log. Pinch closed the end, and place in the greased loaf pan seam side down. See photos in this post. Cover with lightweight towel and allow to rise 1-2 more hours, until dough crests about one inch over the edge of the pan. You can use the oven (as in step 3) to accelerate rising once again, but I prefer not to. If you are having trouble getting a high enough rise, or your baked loaf has air holes, try using more gluten.
- Heat oven to 350. Bake bread 30-40 minutes, until 190 degrees internally. After 10 to 15 minutes, lightly cover the bread with foil to avoid over-browning the top.
- Allow bread to cool 10 minutes on rack, then dump out the loaf onto a cooling rack. Use a knife around the edges if necessary to help ease the loaf out of the pan.
- Allow bread to thoroughly cool on rack before freezing or slicing.
Bake in Bulk
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 stainless steel bowl to rise, and then immediately make another batch of dough, and allow that to rise in the Kitchenaid standing mixer mixing bowl. I let the second batch rise a little longer during the first rise in order to stagger the baking time about 30 minutes apart. (My oven is smaller now and I can only fit 3 loaves in it, but I think it bakes best with just 2 loaves at once.) 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.
Rising time will depend on your altitude and kitchen temperature. In the summer, each rise many take less than one hour. But in the winter, when my house is 60 degrees it may take 3 hours or more. As noted above, to accelerate rising, you can put your dough in a warm oven, or any other warm place (just run dishwasher, etc.), although I find you get a better loaf if you allow a slower rise. 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.
If you need to slow down or stop rising at any point, put it in the refrigerator. When you are ready to carry on, simply take the dough out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature and follow the recipe as written.
I always use 2 1/2 cups milk or other liquid because I live in a pretty dry climate. If it's raining that day, I just end up using more flour. I most often use whey (from straining homemade yogurt) for the liquid because it's a good way to use it up. If I don't have whey, I'll use soy milk or cow milk, sometimes with as much as 1/2 cup water if necessary in each batch, if I don't have enough milk. I find I get the best loaves from bread made with cow's milk.
|Two batches in 5 qt. bowls at the end of the first rise, |
ready to be formed into 4 loaves.
I've upped the oil to 1/2 cup and I like it better that way. I use organic canola oil because it's tasteless, but I've also used olive oil (not extra virgin). Use the same measuring cup for the oil and the honey, and the honey will slide right out.
I lowered the honey to 1/2 cup. Not as sweet, but still works. You can use 2/3 or 3/4 cup honey for sweeter bread, but for some things (turkey sandwich), not-so-sweet bread is preferred. I used maple syrup once when I was low on honey, and although I couldn't really detect any maple flavor, the bread was divine. Seriously delicious. Note that maple syrup is more expensive than honey. But for that short period when my daughter is not yet one-year-old but already eating wheat, I'll be making my bread with maple syrup to avoid her ingesting any raw honey before the age of one. I haven't tried molasses yet, but I know it can be done and I'm sure it's delicious (I've loved other whole wheat bread recipes that include molasses), but molasses does have a strong (stronger than honey or maple syrup) and distinctive flavor.
I use as little gluten as possible. I hope to never ever have to give up gluten foods, and adding less gluten is sort of my way of playing on the safe side (although I have no research to back this choice up, but my gluten-intolerant sister thinks it's probably best not to push my luck). On the other hand, gluten improves the texture of your bread, allows a higher rise, and increases the bread's protein content. For photos of loaves made with different amounts of gluten, click here. The first and last photos in this post are of loaves made with no gluten.
I grind my own hard red whole wheat flour using 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. Store whole wheat flour in the fridge or freezer to increase its shelf-life. If you end up making lots of homemade bread, make sure you buy your ingredients in bulk, which will save you tons of money.
I try to make sure my dishwasher is relatively empty by the evening of the day I make bread, even if I have to run a slightly less than full load earlier in the day. If I put the four glass loaf pans and two stainless steel bowls into the dishwasher (the Kitchenaid mixer bowl is dishwasher safe) and run the load the same day I made the bread, everything comes out perfectly clean. But it takes up almost the entire bottom rack of the dishwasher. Morning after usually works too. Toss into the dishwasher your measuring cups and spoons as well, and you have four loaves of bread with no hand-washing required for clean up. That's my kind of baking.
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