Saturday, July 11, 2009

Whole Wheat Loaves

BEST WHOLE WHEAT BREAD I'VE EVER MADE. Without question. We used to make whole wheat bread a couple of times a week with our breadmaker. Used it for sandwiches and whatnot. It was a thrilling novelty to set the timer for early morning so that we would wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread. This is FAR superior to that experience in every way. And easy enough that I would consider making it a couple of times a week to have on hand for sandwiches.

Whole Wheat Loaves-from Baking with Julia *click here for printable version*
Makes two 1-3/4 pound loaves

There's just enough honey and malt in this recipe to bring out the natural sweetness of the loaf's whole wheat flour. A tall crowned loaf with some chew and stretch in the crumb, this bread has the flavor and heft to stand up to strong cheeses and spicy cold cuts, making it first-class sandwich fare. Like the White Loaves, these are good loaves for bread-baking tyros: The techniques are basic, the rewards m

2-1/4 cups warm water (105 to 115 F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup honey
3-1/2 to 3-2/3 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon malt extract
1 tablespoon salt

Mixing and Kneading
Pour 1/2 cup of the water into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a dough hook and add the yeast and honey. Whisk to blend and allow the mixture to rest until the yeast is creamy, about 5 minutes.

Combine 3-1/2 cups of the bread flour and the whole wheat flour and keep close at hand.

Working in the mixer with the dough hook in place, add the remaining 1-3/4 cups water, the oil, malt extract, and about half of the flour mixture to the yeast. Turn the mixer on and off a few times just to get the dough going without having the flour fly all over the counter and then, mixing on low speed, add the rest of the combined flours. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat, stopping to scrape down the bowl and hook as needed, until the dough comes together. (If the dough does not come together, add up to 2 tablespoons more white flour.) Add the salt and continue to beat and knead at medium speed for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

If you prefer, you can mix the dough in the machine for half that time and knead it by hand on a lightly floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes. As with many whole wheat doughs, this one will be a tad sticky even after proper and sufficient kneading.

First Rise
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a ball. Place it in a large buttered or oiled bowl (one big enough to hold double the amount of dough). Turn the dough around to cover its entire surface with butter or oil, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest at room temperature until it doubles in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.

Shaping the Dough
Butter two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pans and set them aside.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half and, using the palms of your hands and fingertips, or a rolling pin, pat each half into a large rectangle about 9 inches wide and 12 inches long, with a short side facing you. Starting at the top, fold the dough about two thirds of the way down the rectangle, then fold again so that the top edge meets the bottom edge; seal the seam by pinching it. Turn each roll so that the seam is in the center of the roll, facing up, and turn the ends of each roll in just enough so that the rolls fit in the loaf pans. Pinch these seams to seal, turn the loaves over so that the seams are on the bottom, and plump the loaves with your palms to get an even shape.

Second Rise
Drop the loaves into the buttered pans, seam side down, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and allow them to rise at room temperature until they double in size again, growing over the tops of the pans, about 1 hour.

While the breads rise, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F.

Baking the Bread
When the breads are fully risen (poke your finger into a bread; the impression should remain), bake for about 35 minutes, or until they are golden and an instant-read thermometer plunged into the center of the bread (turn a loaf out and plunge the thermometer through the bottom of the bread) measure 200 F. (If you like, 10 minutes or so before you think the loaves should come out, you can turn the loaves out of their pans and let them bake on the oven rack so they brown on the sides.) Remove the loaves from their pans as soon as they come from the oven and cool the breads on racks. These should not be cut until they are almost completely cool.

Once completely cool, the breads can be kept in a brown paper bag for a day for two. Once a loaf is sliced, turn it cut side down on the counter or a cutting board and cover with a kitchen towel. For longer storage, wrap the breads airtight and freeze for up to a month. Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.
Contributing Baker Craig Kominiak

Here are some things that I think contribute to the extreme hearty deliciousness of this bread:
  • I used spun honey. I know, it probably doesn't actually affect the taste, but when I lick the spoon after adding the honey to the recipe, it tastes more like the fresh honey we had from our bees when I was a kid than most storebought conventional honey tastes. Thanks to Miriam for turning me on to the stuff.
  • My cousin gave me a bag of home-ground whole wheat flour, some of which I used for this recipe. If this bread is any indication of the difference in taste and texture that home grinding makes, I'm asking Santa for a wheat grinder this year.
  • Malt extract. Okay, so I couldn't actually find that exact thing. But I looked around (on the internet) and the consensus seemed to be that in this recipe it's being used as a sweetener. And since there's only 1 tablespoon of it, it's okay to substitute with some other sweetener. I chose molasses. But the bread doesn't taste molasses-y. Not in the least. It just has a lot more depth to the flavor than any other whole wheat bread I've ever tasted. However, next time (just because I'm curious about the taste), I'm special ordering malt extract. Or hitting a beer brewing supply store.
  • I followed the advice to bake the last 10 minutes out of the pans (I cooked for a total of 45 minutes). This made the crust all the way around crispy and chewy. One of the problems I've always had with homemade bread (particularly whole wheat), is that it ends up so soft it's difficult to cut into thin, sandwich-bread type slices. This recipe, though, is perfect. The bread is dense enough to hold up to thin slicing, and even with a little chewiness, it has a wonderful texture. It's a little toothy. If you know what I mean.

My problems:
  • I think my pans are the wrong size. The recipe calls for 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pans. Mine are 9 x 5. I wouldn't think a half inch would make much difference, but then, if that's not the problem, I can't explain my bread's reluctance to rise over the top of the pans (see pix above)--on this attempt, or my other whole wheat bread attempt (looked for the link and realized that was when I was only blogging about pies-here's the link to that recipe).
  • I have no idea what "bread baking tyros" means. But I do like the use of the term "breads" as opposed to loaves.
  • My camera. Is not meant for this kind of work. BUT, I found some ways to cheat the system and "enhance" my photos until I win the lottery and can afford a real camera. Please, please, click on the pictures above and look at them full-size. Okay, some of them are still a little blurry, but some of them...may inspire you to eat bread. Stay tuned as (hopefully) my pictures continue to improve.

I laugh at these recipe writers and their "let cool completely before slicing" advice. Bahahahaha! Don't they know who they're dealing with here?! Having dismissed that advice, I can tell you that the bread slices very nicely, even when hot. I can also tell you, having eaten this bread with each of the last four meals at my house, the taste and texture hold up very well to butter (when the bread is either hot or cold), toasting, BLT and A, and egg salad.

TGIP Rating--Whole Wheat Loaves--KEEPER! And possibly make every WEEK-ER! I might even try the White Loaves. Just 'cause.

Next up: A different twist on the bundt cake. I love me a root beer float. Reminds me of Grandma Fitz and M*A*S*H (and if you understand that, you could only be one of my siblings). I'm making the BAKED Root Beer Bundt Cake.


Miriam Latour said...

Mmmm. I'm glad they turned out for you, April! It look so delicious. I can totally smell the bread cooking just from looking at the photos.

Dave makes fresh bread almost every evening when he gets home from work (if I haven't already made some), and he uses all kinds of different recipes for variety, although I think my favorite is the Whole Wheat recipe from King Arthur. I'll give this one to him to try!

*still needing to purchase this cookbook*

Bill said...

I'm wondering how bread was made in the "olden days" when all they had was whole wheat. Did they have special bread flour? Or even glutton? Was the wheat different? How did they get it to rise without those high-protein, rise-producing extras?

I offer you this chilling challenge...find me a bread recipe that is 100% home ground flour that Ma Ingalls would have made and doesn't feel like a 10 lb brick hitting your stomach. Is this even possible?

April Fossen said...

A chilling challenge indeed, Bill. I'll have to do some research, but I really don't think it's possible.