Whole Wheat Bread

I don’t consider myself a baker, but apparently a couple of my great uncles were professional bakers.  There have been many times over the years that I’ve wished to have their knowledge and expertise when it’s come to making bread!  My family has been wonderful at eating my trials and errors…no matter how funky the bread has looked.

Again…I don’t consider myself a baker…but I do think that most of the time my bread looks and tastes pretty good.  It’s all about trial and error…and error…and error.  For years I used a pretty forgiving bread recipe (I’ll put that one at the bottom of this post), but a couple of months ago GadgetMan got me a Kitchen Mill wheat grinder.  Ever since, I’ve been working on perfecting a whole wheat bread recipe…and because a few people have asked me to share…I think I will.  🙂  Just keep in mind that I’m not a baker.

Whole Wheat Bread

  • 7 Cups Whole Wheat (give or take depending on humidity and liquid factors)
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar (you can substitute any sweetener…just research the conversions…and yes that does say half a cup…you can reduce it according to your own tastes)
  • 2.5 Cups Warm Water
  • 1 TB Yeast
  • 1/4 Cup Butter (softened…I use Smart Balance…any oil can be used…but I have found that the Smart Balance/butter makes the bread softer and less crumbly)
  • 1/2 TB Salt (a bit rounded…if you use an unsalted butter or oil then increase this slightly…supposedly you can substitute yogurt or buttermilk if salt is forbidden in your diet…you’d have to research the amount though)
  • 1 TB Vital Wheat Gluten (trust me…you really don’t want to leave this one out…it really does make a difference)
  • 1 TB Lemon Juice (yep…lemon juice…apparently it helps release the gluten or protein or something like that…which improves the texture and lightness of the bread…it also really does make a difference)

I use a Kitchenaid Mixer…so this recipe is designed for that.  It makes 2 bread loaves.  It would also be easy enough to do by hand if you’re so inclined.  I have heard that kneading by hand is relaxing…but my arthritis and patience won’t agree.  I’m sure store bought whole wheat will work just as well as fresh ground…at least I’d think so.  In a mixing bowl, mix warm water, yeast, sugar and 2 Cups of the ww flour.  Let this sit for 5-10 minutes to get all foamy/bubbly.  Apparently this is called a sponge…not sure why…but doing this really does help.  Add the butter, 5 Cups of ww flour, salt, vital wheat gluten and lemon juice.

Mix with the fancy dough hook…or your hands if you wish.  You want the dough ball to pull nicely away from the sides of the bowl.  Knead for a few minutes (either with the mixer or your hands)…the ball will almost look shiny.

It’s not the best picture, but I think it illustrates the idea.  There are better examples if you want to do a google search.  At this point cover and let the dough rise until about doubled.  This typically takes mine about 45 minutes…but house temps and the time of the year can effect that.  I also cover the bowl with plastic wrap because our climate tends to dry things out fast…and then put a towel over the top of that.

Yes, that is an ice cream tub…just shows that there’s no need for fancy equipment to make bread…or that I’m weird.  But we already knew that, right?  Time to turn the dough out and form a couple of loaves.  Here’s a tip I learned recently:  spray the counter lightly with a little oil (or rub a little if you don’t use cooking spray).  This will keep the dough from sticking without adding extra flour.  Whole wheat tends to absorb more moisture so adding any more flour at this point can dry out the dough and make the bread tough or crumbly.  Gently knead the dough to get all the air bubbles out…but don’t over do it because overworking the dough can make it tougher.  Divide and form into loaves.

I hate the feel of dough under my nails…so I use gloves.  Yep…I’m weird.  There are almost as many ways to form loaves as there are cultures and families through history…every one insisting their way or their great grandma’s way is the best way.  Did I mention I’m not a baker?  Maybe there is the perfect way to form a loaf…but this is what works for me.  Roll the dough a bit to make a small “snake” roll…kind of like what we did in preschool with playdough.

Tuck the ends under and then gently lift the “snake” and slam it down on the counter.

Do it a couple more times.  This knocks out any other air bubbles you might have missed…and melds the ends with the dough underneath.  My kidlets call it “spanking the dough”…they say the ends look like cute little butts…yep, they’re weird too. 😀

Place the loaves in lightly greased bread pans and then cover and let rise again.  Again this will depend on climate and house temps, but usually this is only about 25 minutes for me.  The dough should fill the pans and only slightly rise above the sides.  Too much of a rise can cause the bread to collapse while baking.  If that happens, it’s okay.   The bread is still yummy…it just doesn’t look so nice.

Bake in a preheated (I turn on the oven while the dough is rising in the pans) 350 degree oven until done.  My oven is a convection oven and I bake 8 loaves at once for 25 minutes.  I would guess in a regular oven 30-35 minutes would be needed….but you’d have to gauge that.

My original forgiving recipe:

  • 2 Cups Warm Water
  • 1 TB Yeast
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Butter (Smart Balance)
  • 5-6 Cups All-Purpose White Flour (I substituted 1 Cup with Whole Wheat)
  • 1 tsp salt (if using a no salt butter/oil then double this)

Proof the yeast in the water and sugar, mix in the rest of the ingredients and follow the same as above.

(If you try any of my recipes, please let me know how they work…and if you improve them please share!)

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