Tuesday, January 12, 2016

On Wheat Bread

Today, Cari @ Clever Hen Handmades asked me on Instagram if I have a favorite recipe for whole wheat bread. This question comes in perfect timing, as we have upped the whole grains as part of 2016 and said good-bye to white starches - it's killing me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the short answer is "No, but I'm working on it." The long answer is as follows:

I have made our sandwich bread fairly often, though not exclusively, for the past few years and have tried many recipes without landing on one that has it all. For starters, there was the Light Wheat Bread by Peter Reinhart. It was good once, but I never got a pleasing result again after trying it several times. Perhaps I was too much of a bread baking rookie and should try it again. It is good for someone wanting to have more whole wheat in their diet and/or a more hearty taste and texture but bad for someone cutting white flour because it is only half WW and half all-purpose flour.

For a while I went all white and had good results with this recipe. Over time, the novelty of home-baked bread wore off and we would eat less and less of it before it went stale. Julian tired of it in his lunch and the bread dried out so quickly that I really just made  a bunch of mediocre croutons. {I know, how can a crouton be mediocre? You've got me there.} If your family eats a loaf of bread a day, and you want white bread, make this one. It makes two loaves, anyway.

Deb @ Smitten Kitchen has recipes that are generally yummy and tried-and-true, but this one was hit-and-miss for me instead. Her Oat and Wheat Sandwich Bread was perfect the first time, "meh" the second time, and a complete inedible failure the last time {Remember the accidental beer bread I posted on instagram?}. I do like that it is all WW with the exception of some rolled oats that give it a good texture, but when I baked it right away it tasted like paste and when I let it sit in the fridge overnight, it turned to vegemite {the third time, but the first time was just fine}.

So here I am. Blathering on about all the recipes I don't like and not talking about this one which is doing a sort-of-fine job for the moment. I like that this one includes both nuts and oats to improve the texture and flavor. I also like the molasses adds color, though it makes the bread look done sooner than it really is.

Being whole wheat, let the bread do all it's rising outside the oven and transfer it rather gently when it comes time to bake. I've not traditionally gotten much oven spring from a WW loaf in the past.

In the picture above, it is served up toasted with cream cheese and cranberry chutney and makes for a very fine snack or breakfast, but being that I'm on day two of the loaf, it is too dry for sandwiches. Regardless of which recipe you try, I have learned to take anything that isn't enjoyed hot and fresh and pre-slice and freeze it immediately after it cools completely.

Oatnut-Wheat Bread

1 T. active dry yeast

1 1/4 cups warm water (100-110F)
3-4 cups white wheat flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
2 tbsp molasses

2 tsp salt

1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and 1/4 cup warm water (omit this step if using RapidRise). Stir and let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy.
 Stir in remaining water, 1 cup of flour, the oats, and molasses, and mix well. Add in salt, pecans and an additional 1 1/2 – 2 cups flour. Stir, adding remaining flour gradually, until the dough comes together into a ball a begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl (this can also be done in an electric mixer with the dough hook attached).

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes.
 Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
 After dough has risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface again. Gently deflate dough into a rectangular shape. Fold up the two long sides of the rectangle and pinch the seam together. Place seam-side down into prepared loaf pan. Again cover the bread with a piece of plastic wrap and let rise until well over the top of the loaf pan edge, about 45 minutes.

While the bread is proofing, preheat oven to 375F.
 Bake loaf for 35 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the bottom reads about 200F.
 Let bread rest for 10 minutes before turning out of pan to cool completely before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf.

* I use King Arthur brand white wheat, it is a bit softer than a regular hard red whole wheat flour.

Do you have a favorite whole wheat recipe to share? I'd love to try it!


  1. This recipe looks yummy! I'm going to give it a try. Thanks for posting it!

  2. Actually I do and one that I have been making for over 10 years. With wheat bread you must not use too much liquid and do not knead it to death :). I'll share the recipe with you in the morning since it is 1:42 am and I am finally getting sleepy :-)

    1. Amanda I did not want you to think I forgot. I'm on my way to spinning guild and will share my recipe with you later today I have to share that I do use a cup of unbleached white and it gives it an airy feel to the bread you still get the deliciousness of whole wheat without raising your sugar.

  3. I use to bake bread daily, I don't anymore. I love bread, especially sour dough with creamy butter.

  4. Amanda here is the recipe, I take 2.5 cups of whole wheat flour, 1 cup of unbleached flour, 1 tsp of sea salt, 5 tbs of melted butter, 3 tbs of honey, 1.25 cup of warm water and 2.5 tsp of yeast. Proof the yeast first with a bit of warm water, then add the flour, the salt, the melted butter, and the honey. Mix it with a long handle spoon and add the 1.25 cup of warm water. Begin to knead but not too roughly. You do want the dough to become elastic. Keep adding a bit of whole wheat bread as you knead until when you make an indentation in the dough it bounces back. Place the dough on a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place it in the oven with the light on. Wait about 45 minutes until it has risen to the top. Punch it down and place the dough in a greased bread pan and cover it with the plastic wrap you used before...just placing it on top. Put it back in the oven with the light on and wait about another 40 minutes. When the dough has risen a bit over the top of the pan, take off the wrap and turn the oven on to 350 degrees. When your oven beeps letting you know it has reached temperature, put the timer on for 35 minutes. When the timer beeps, take the bread out of the oven and turn it on its side for about 5 minutes until the bread separates easily from the pan. Let the bread cool a bit before slicing. This bread stays good for over 5 days without going dry. Enjoy it and let me know how it turned out.