Friday, October 22, 2010

Soft 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Soft 100% Whole Wheat Bread

I got this recipe from a blog I’ve read over the past 5+ years. Her blog post/recipe is lengthy so I’m attempting to share this recipe whilst simplifying the instructions a bit. I, for one, didn’t mind all the instructions and I frequently ran back and forth from the kitchen to the computer to read the next directive. It was a bit like having someone right with me, showing me how while I made it. You can read the original recipe/blog post here:

This makes 3-4 loaves depending on the size of your pans. You will have to re-tool this recipe to make it smaller if you want less….

“This whole wheat recipe is very simple and only takes about three hours from start to popping in the oven."

4 ½ cups very warm water
3 packages active dry yeast
OR 3 scant tablespoons of yeast from a jar or 1 pound foil package
1/3 cup honey
5 cups whole wheat flour [she grinds her own, I don’t…yet…]

“Stir this gently, and then leave it alone (perhaps cover your bowl with a towel) to 'sponge' for about 30 minutes. The dough should look light and slightly bubbly…a little like the top of a pancake just before you flip it, or a little like a sponge (those small air bubbles), which is why this step is called 'sponging'.”

After 30 minutes, stir in:

5 ½ Tablespoons melted butter [2.75 oz for those who weigh it out]
¼ cup honey [I haven’t weighed the honey yet, so I don’t know….]
3 teaspoons (1 Tbs.) salt

[It’s at this point that I, Cindee, add in things like cracked wheat or seeds and things. For cracked wheat bread I add a cup of cracked wheat and then add as much flour as I need for the dough to come out right. Probably ½ cup less flour, but I haven’t measured.]

4-5 cups of whole wheat flour

“Mix well with a wooden spoon. Dough will be very soft and sticky. Now comes the tricky part. You want to add just a little less flour than you think you're going to need. The key to good whole wheat bread is usually NOT to flour the board or your hands. I oil them, because whole wheat dough with too much flour makes a really hard, chewy, bread that tastes more like flour than bread. It's not good.

"But this is a very sticky dough, so you need both flour and oil. Add another cup or two of flour to the dough and to your countertop, dump the dough out and knead in the flour- your hands will be incredibly sticky and you'll have as much dough on them as you do on the counter. Add a bit more flour, knead some more, and when the dough is still pretty sticky, but starting to pull away from the counter (it still won't be smooth), oil your hands well, and also the inside of the bowl, and gently knead the dough into a smoother, but still soft and slightly sticky ball of dough.

"Put the dough in your greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough with oil (this keeps it from drying out). Cover with a clean dish towel or napkin. Let rise in a warmish place until doubled (about 30 minutes).”

“Now shape the bread. If you want loaves, you punch the dough down again, divide it into thirds, shape the loaf and put in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. [Cindee here: I have to use 4 pans because of the sizes that I have. Just dividing it into thirds made my pans overflow a bit so you’ll have to experiment here and see what works best for your situation] When I make loaves I use my fingers to press down the dough along the pan edges on all four sides- this helps give it that nice 'loaf' shape that is higher in the middle. If you want rolls, shape the dough into balls and place on a greased pan. This dough is already going to make really soft bread, and you make rolls even softer by putting them on the pan so their sides are just touching.

"FOR LOAVES: Cover the loaves with a dish towel and leave it to rise until dough has topped the pan by about an inch. Depending on your yeast and humidity conditions, this will take between 1 - 2 hours. Bake @ 350°F for 25-30 minutes. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 1 tablespoon of melted butter when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely.

FOR ROLLS: Let rise about one hour. [Cindee again: As space allows, I usually let my dough rise in an oven that has been turned on to 170 for a minute or so. Mine is a gas oven so a minute or two is long enough to make a warm, humid place for the dough to rise. An electric oven might take a little more time, I’m not sure…] Bake @ 350° for 15 minutes. Pull away a roll, cut in half, OR slice a chunk of loaf (using a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion), slather with butter, eat, chewing slowly and savoring the soft, tender goodness of freshly baked whole wheat bread.”

Cindee’s Notes:

In order to make and keep the bread really soft, I’ve found I need to let the loaves cool for 15 minutes or so and then put them into a plastic bag so they can retain the moisture. It’s tricky because if I do it too soon the inside of the bag will get super sweaty and then I need to wipe out the bag with a paper towel. In my mind, though, that’s preferable to waiting too long and having the bread dry out too much. It takes experimenting and practice, I think. If it turns out too dry, it still makes great toast! :-)

I’m not at all sure this is any shorter than the original blog post that I read. I think that’s because it’s not just a list of ingredients and an oven temperature/time. It’s also about the technique employed and that just ends up being wordy. Sigh…

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