Whole wheat bread is the mainstay of the baker’s kitchen. Until you have mastered whole wheat bread you cannot say you are a bread baker. The easiest whole wheat bread is a 50-50 blend of whole wheat and white flour: it makes the dough easy to work with and gives a high rise. Use fresh flour, as fine a grind as you can find, for the grind will dictate the overall texture. Remember when kneading to leave the dough a dash sticky, as the whole grains will absorb it during the rise. This is real old fashioned home baking at its best and is perfect made in the terracotta bread pans.
Makes two 9-by-5-inch loaves
- 1 cup warm water (105º to 115º)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast or 3 1/2 teaspoons SAF instant yeast
- Pinch of brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, warmed just enough to take off the chill
- 1/4 cup maple syrup, honey, or light molasses
- 1/4 cup light olive oil or plain sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour
- In a small bowl or work bowl of the electric mixer, pour in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast and the pinch of brown sugar over the surface of the water. Stir gently a few times with the handle of a small spoon to evenly moisten evenly . Let rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl using a balloon wire whisk or in the work bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the buttermilk, maple syrup, oil, salt, and 2 cups of the whole wheat flour. Beat hard until creamy, about 3 minutes by hand or 1 minute in the mixer on medium-low speed. Add the yeast mixture and the remaining cup of whole wheat flour, and beat another minute. Add the bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary if making by hand or, if using the electric mixer, insert the dough hook attachment. The dough will be slightly stiff, sticky, and just clear the sides of the bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured (about 2 tablespoons to start) work surface with the plastic dough scraper. Use the plastic scraper to begin the first kneads, if kneading by hand, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time, just enough as needed to prevent sticking. The dough feel smooth with a slight abrasive quality when your hand is brushed across the surface and springy when a finger is poked into the top surface, yet still be slightly sticky. Knead 4 to 5 minutes. If kneading in the electric mixer, knead 3 minutes by a timer on medium speed. Take care not to add too much flour; the dough must retain a moist consistency.
- Transfer the dough into a greased deep container or leave in the mixing bowl. Turn the dough once to coat the top with some oil to prevent a skin from forming. Loosely cover with a piece of plastic wrap or a damp clean tea towel, or the plastic bowl cover. Let rise at room temperature until double in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Press a fingertip into the top of the dough to see if the indentation remains. If it needs to rise more, the indentation will fill back in quickly. Do not worry or rush the dough if it takes longer.
- Lightly grease the bottom and sides of two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with oil or nonstick vegetable cooking spray.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; it will naturally deflate. Without working the dough further, divide the dough into 2 equal portions with a metal bench knife or chef’s knife. Pat each portion of dough into a long rough rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, overlapping the 2 opposite ends into the middle; press to flatten. Beginning at the short edge, tightly roll up the dough, jelly-roll fashion, into a thick log. Roll the log back and forth with your palms until it is about the same length as your pan. Pinch the ends and the long seam to seal. While placing the loaf into the pans, tuck the ends under to make a neat, snug fit. Repeat with the second loaf. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough is fully double in bulk and about 1 inch over the rims of the pans, about 1 hour (see photo in It’s All in the Pan). There will be a nice fresh yeasty smell from the raw dough.
- Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350º (325º if using dark finish or glass loaf pans).
- Remove the plastic wrap, place the pans in the oven, and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown in color, and the sides slightly contract from the pan. Lift one end of the loaf up out of the pan to check for even browning on the bottom, and tap on the top and bottom surface with your finger; it should sound hollow. Remove the loaves from the pans to cool on a wire rack.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2009
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.