The Challenge: Baking Bread-100% whole wheat

As I begin week 3 of not going to the grocery store I am thinking about the little things. Bread, for instance. I had a couple of loaves of store bought bread in the freezer. I am now down to 2 slices. If I want to eat bread I am going to have to bake my own. Not a big deal. I love to bake bread and prefer my own- but it takes time. I think we all kind of take stuff like bread for granted sometime. Running low?- run to the store. Well, I have taken that option out of the equation. So this morning I am baking bread. Will involve more time than running to the store- but the up side is that the house will smell yummy and I like my bread better.

The bread I am making today is 100% whole wheat. I know that is sometimes tricky at home. People tell me there whole wheat bread is too coarse or crumbly to slice for sandwiches.  Or they tell me it is too heavy and dense. It does not have to be that way at all. Whole wheat bread can be as soft and easy to slice at its white-flour counterparts. The process is a little different, though.

Gluten is the protein found in wheat flour that makes it stretchy and when worked in a yeast dough helps the bread to rise. Whole wheat flour has plenty of gluten- but it takes longer to get it stretchy. You can knead the dough longer but of you knead it adding flour as you go- the dough gets too heavy. If you knead it the 8-10 minutes you would knead white dough it won’t become stretchy and rises poorly. Kneading takes about 20 minutes with 100% whole wheat bread dough. The solution is to knead the whole wheat dough on a wet board. Rather than adding flour- use a little water or oil. Just enough to keep the dough from sticking. That way you can knead the dough long enough to develop the gluten. To test if the dough is stretchy enough pick it up and start to pull it apart. It should stretch thin enough that light shows through it before tearing.  If you are using a mixer to knead the dough- get it to the thick batter stage and then just let the machine run until the dough is stretchy. Unlike white flour doughs- which take 8-10 minutes allow the dough to knead about 15-20 minutes, the same as when kneading by hand. You can see why I love my Kitchen Aid mixer so much.


Here is the bread I am making today.

 100% Whole Wheat Bread

2 packets active dry yeast

2 2/3 c. warm water

½ c. oil

½ c. honey, molasses or maple syrup

6 ½ -7 c. whole wheat flour

½ c. non fat dry milk

2½ t. salt

Combine first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir in 3 cups of the flour the dry milk and the salt. Beat with electric mixer for 3 minutes. Stir in enough flour for mixture to form a thick batter and continue mixing on low in mixer for 10-15 minutes. Dough takes time to become elastic. Add extra flour slowly until dough comes away from the sides of the work bowl, but not too soon. Note: if you must do this by hand add flour until dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl and knead with oiled  or wet hands on work surface for 10-15 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly greased bowl and cover, allowing to rise until puffy, about 1 hour. Punch dough down and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide in half and shape each half into a loaf. Place in a lightly greased 9×5 – inch pan. Brush top with oil and place a piece of plastic wrap over the top. Allow to rise until doubled. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Tent with foil after 20 minutes to prevent over browning of the top. Test for doneness by removing bread from pan and thumping on the bottom. Bread should sound hollow. Makes 2.

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