On Bread

My update, as promised: The bread came out great! It definitely has a darker color and a slightly different texture than bread made with all-purpose flour, but the white whole wheat is so much healthier and I’m thrilled to have found a substitute. It’s very soft and not too crumbly. Remember, though – add 1 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten per cup of white whole wheat flour (in place of the white bread flour, or in my case, white all-purpose flour). I may try to make the entire loaf with white whole wheat next time, eliminating the regular whole wheat – just for fun! We’ll see!

I have been meaning to post my favorite-ever whole wheat bread recipe for a while now. I finally decided to follow through, but I also have some tweaks that I will mention below the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup honey (you will use 1/3 cup at two different points in the recipe)
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.
  2. Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky – just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled (I use a warmed oven).
  3. Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely. Yields 3 loaves.

(Find original recipe here.)

My first tweak was to only make two loaves with this recipe. The loaves turn out much taller this way, and are actually usable with sandwiches.

Now, it’s important to note that I’m not a bread flour buyer. When I first made this recipe, I had a bunch of whole wheat flour and some unbleached all-purpose flour. I had an inkling that the recipe called for bread flour for a reason, so I hopped online to research flour types. It turns out, bread flour has a higher amount of gluten in it, which is necessary for developing crumble-less bread. Fortunately (and randomly), I had recently bought a box of vital wheat gluten. I found that I could simply add vital wheat gluten to the all-purpose flour and it would produce an acceptable substitute for bread flour.

So, this left me with two choices. I can either buy bread flour, or use up my all-purpose flour along with the vital wheat gluten. Obviously, since I already had vital wheat gluten, it made the most sense for me to just use that. You, on the other hand, may choose to simply buy bread flour.

The first time I made this bread, it was way too crumbly, even with the vital wheat gluten. It turns out, I’d used only a teaspoon of gluten per cup of all-purpose flour, and actually, a better measurement is a tablespoon of gluten per cup of all-purpose flour. I’d also neglected to thoroughly knead the bread, which, especially when using whole wheat flour, can inhibit gluten development (the coarseness of the whole wheat sometimes keeps strands of gluten from forming properly). The next time I made this bread, I upped the amount of vital wheat gluten to a tablespoon per cup of all-purpose flour and I kneaded it until it was very, very smooth and only slightly sticky. The bread came out wonderfully.

After my first few tries, I decided to make a variation. I made one loaf as directed above, but chose to make cinnamon raisin bread with the other loaf. The process is simple: after the first rise, when it’s time to punch down the dough, I split it in half like always. I put a lump in one bread pan and set it aside. I take the other lump of dough and spread it out into a long rectangle on my counter. I baste the entire thing with a thin layer of milk and then I combine some organic sugar and cinnamon in a baggie. I sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly over the whole thing and then I toss on a nice amount of raisins (this is really just according to your taste). Finally, I roll the dough up tightly, pinch the ends, and place it in the other bread pan. Then, both bread pans go back into the warm oven to rise one inch above the top of the pan. It’s really easy! Oh, and when the bread is done baking, I baste the tops with butter like the recipe directs, and then I sprinkle a little more of the sugar/cinnamon mixture on the top of the cinnamon raisin loaf. This variation has been a huge hit. I love having special toast in the morning, too. That way, our regular whole wheat loaf can be used for sandwiches or as a side for dinners.

By the way…I’m not a huge sweets person, nor do I advocate routine use of refined sugar. This special variation is exactly what I love because it only has a hint of sweetness. I’d definitely like to suggest that you don’t overdo it with the sugar/cinnamon mixture! A little goes a long, long way!

And the last of my tweaks: today, Ryan ran out to grab some more all-purpose flour for me so that I could make bread again. He was so attentive and decided to buy two bags of King Arthur unbleached white whole wheat flour because it looked healthiest. At first, when he came home, I thought he’d simply bought unbleached all-purpose flour. Then, as he was reading the label to me from the kitchen, I realized it wasn’t all-purpose. However, because I’m in the process of attempting to eliminate use of refined flour in our home, I was curious to see if it would behave similarly to all-purpose flour without the density of regular whole wheat flour. As I researched, I found mixed reviews. For the most part, however, people were saying that white whole wheat is simply made from a different kind of wheatberry, and it behaves similarly to all-purpose flour, though not exactly because it’s slightly denser. To remedy this, I decided to go ahead and add a tablespoon of gluten per cup of white whole wheat flour (remember, the white whole wheat is replacing the all-purpose which is my original substitute for bread flour!), and to sift both the flour and the gluten to help with the density issue. The only problem is – my bread isn’t done baking! πŸ™‚ So, I promise to update you, at the top of this post, with the final result. If it works out, the result will be a healthier loaf of bread – which would be great!

Also, by the way…I’d like to encourage you to use real butter for both the mixing and the top coating after the bread bakes. It’s much better for you than fake butter and it tastes better, too!

I hope you are encouraged to try making your own bread. Although breadmakers are nice and they can save you lots of time, there’s no reason to be scared of making bread by hand if you don’t have access to a breadmaker. I find that making my bread by hand is very therapeutic. It gives me time to think/pray, and by the time I’m done, I usually feel like I’ve taken part in a wonderful art of homemaking. It’s important to note that breadmaking truly is a journey. It might not come out perfectly the first time, but it takes practice and lots of patience! I have only made bread probably 6 times now, and each time, it gets easier and usually tastes/looks better, too.

Let me know if you end up trying the recipe! I’d love to know how it works for you, and if you have any suggestions/tweaks of your own!

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3 Comments

Filed under making food

3 responses to “On Bread

  1. You’re really inspiring me to cook/eat more healthily. I went through a period where I made wheat bread for us but it was just too dense for sandwiches and we got tired of it. I’m going to try this recipe and maybe even the raisin bread variation.

    Also, I was going to tell you, we have a local farm close by that have grass raised cattle and free range chickens (is that what they’re called?). Anyway, I bought some of their eggs the other day and they are to die for!! My goal during this pregnancy is to eat 2 eggs a day and I’ve hated it. I bought these (a little more expensive) and I love them! I really want to buy some of their beef (we’re definitely meat eaters) but it’s so expensive I can’t bring myself to do it just yet. I’m just being convicted (if that’s the right word) about what I’m feeding my family. So I’m beginning this journey to healthier eating and I’m getting lots of tips from you! So keep ’em coming! πŸ™‚

    I’ll let you know about how my bread turns out… may take me a few times to get it right! I’m not a good bread maker! I usually knead too much or not enough! So we’ll see!

  2. I have a bread machine, but I’m going to try making this by hand. It’s a little over my head, but I’m learning. Good to know the difference between bread flour and regular flour–I had been wondering about that!

    Also, today I was thinking about what you said about how God provides what we need for our babies. We are paying for an out-of-pocket homebirth because insurance wouldn’t recognize it, and we weren’t exactly sure how we’d afford it. When we had our taxes done, the accountant mentioned that the taxes on our house seemed high and that we should call and be sure we weren’t paying the higher rate for a secondary residence. Turns out she was right, and they owed us a refund. Today we got this big check that is going to take a serious chunk out of our bill! So you were definitely right, everything is working out great πŸ™‚

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