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Second try at 100% whole wheat bread better

January 19th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Food preparation, recipes

I decided I’d give Mark Bittman’s All Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread a shot after being underwhelmed by the results of Slow Fermented Whole Wheat Bread, both of which he discussed in his NYTimes column. If you don’t remember that one, here’s my report on it. It was as bricklike as promised, a little too leaden for my taste.

I threw aside (for the moment) all the good advice you all offered and decided to try again for an easy 100 percent whole wheat loaf. Perhaps you can tell from the following photo, the resulting loaf is about 50 percent higher and less dense than the brick.

As usual, I improvised a bit to accommodate ingredients I had on hand.  Here’s my report, and a promise that next time I’ll try your suggestions, probably Joanne’s and Susan’s, as the Renegade’s recipe requires too much interaction for me! My changes are in square brackets [ ].

All Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons vital gluten
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast [“instant” is what I call quick-rise yeast; I didn’t have any, so I used active dry yeast and increased rising times accordingly]
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey, or more to taste [I used honey]
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or softened butter, plus more for the bowl and the pan [I used canola and nonstick vegetable spray for the bowl and pan]
  • Scant 1 1/3 cups cool milk, preferably whole or 2 percent (warm the milk to at least 70 degrees if you’re working by hand) [I used 1/3 cup half-and-half and a scant cup skim milk; I warmed the combination to 115 degrees as an aid to the active dry yeast.]
  • All purpose flour for dusting and kneading as needed

1. Put the whole wheat flour and vital gluten in a food processor, add the salt and yeast, and process for 5 seconds. With the machine running, add the sweetener, the oil or butter, and most of the milk through the feed tube (you’ll need a little less milk if you’re using a liquid sweetener). [I probably screwed up here; I dumped it all in.] Process for about 30 seconds, then remove the cover. The dough should be in a well-defined, barely sticky, easy-to-handle ball. [Mine wasn’t; it was quite wet.] If it’s too dry, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time and process for 5 or 10 seconds after each addition. If too wet, which is unlikely, add a tablespoon or two of flour and process briefly. [And so I did. It never formed a ball, though, but I quit attempting to process as it the motor was struggling with the dough’s stiffness.]

2. Use a little more of the oil to grease a large bowl. [I sprayed.] Shape the dough into a rough ball, place it in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise for at least 2 hours, until nearly doubled in bulk. [I let mine rise 3 hours.] Deflate the ball and shape it once again into a ball; let rest on a lightly floured surface for about 15 minutes, covered.

3. Using only enough white flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, flatten it into a rectangle about the size and shape of loaf pan. Let it rest for a few minutes. Use the remaining oil or butter to grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Place the loaf in the pan, flattening the top of it with the back of your hand. Cover and let rest for 1 hour, or until the top of the dough is nearly level with the top of the pan.

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the top of the loaf lightly with water, then put in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it (it will fall easily from the loaf pan) or the internal temperature reads about 210 degrees. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a wire rack. [Mine went about 55 minutes.] Yield: 1 loaf.

Source: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by way of New York Times.

I might make it again. We’ll see how I feel after consuming a loaf of it. Next time, though, I’m going for a loaf with some all-purpose flour in it!

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • FoodRenegade

    If 100% whole wheat and no-kneading are important to you, you might try my go-to recipe for just such a loaf:

    It’s advantages over the recipe you just tried are that 1)it’s a single-rise bread (less work!), and 2)it’s a soaked flour recipe so it breaks down the anti-nutrients in the grain.

  • Susan G.

    Most of your changes should have had little effect except that quick-rise yeast and regular yeast are, I believe, typically used at different rates. And the half-and-half increased the fat content. I wouldn’t have thought the dough would have been so sticky due to that, but something wasn’t right. I’d say that the half-n-half is the culprit – somehow.

    Baking bread is chemistry, just like any baking and even though it’s a tad more sensitive to humidity, etc., you can thrown in extra flour to compensate without much damage. But when you start messing with the basic ingredients, changes will likely happen and it’s hard to account for exactly what did what to what! All in all, though, experimentation is what moves cooking along in new directions. Good try!

  • Janet Majure

    Hey, FR. Thanks for the tip. I really don’t mind the kneading, it’s the out-of-the-ordinary ingredients that snag me. I’m not likely to take the time to make whey to make bread, for instance, and I don’t know that it’s commercially available.

    Susan, thanks for your thoughts. The yeast bit is a conundrum (see the long discussion at The Fresh Loaf) that I know I’ll not resolve, and I gave used active dry yeast before without first rehydrating it, but I think that may be the problem here. That is, there was a delay in its activity so the mixture was too wet and “loose” but then the yeast came alive and seized the dough, thus making it too stiff for the food processor. I don’t think it’s the half-and-half; I was just trying to approximate whole milk. Right you are, though, changes do happen! I still think my next effort will probably not be 100% whole wheat!