Wednesday, February 20, 2013

100% Whole Wheat Bread Adventure

The Adventure Begins

A few days ago, I decided I would dive into the adventure of making 100% whole wheat bread. My mother used to make bread every week. She made three little loaves, one of which she ate, and two which she gave away. Her whole wheat recipe included some white flour and was absolutely delicious. I remember it also labor intensive and time consuming ... and a lot had to do with the handling. However, I'm not too inclined to spend a lot of time, and not too excited about variable success (and expense) while trying to perfect a lovely loaf of bread. I also did not want to use a "starter," as that sometimes triggers an annoying headache.

One of my intentions was to make a 100% whole wheat bread from 100% whole wheat flour (I know that sounds redundant), but apparently according to the "experts" there are many ways of marketing flour that makes you think you have "100% whole wheat." What I wanted was the entire wheat berry, including the germ (which is removed during processing of flour used even in "multi-grain" or "whole wheat bread," etc.). If it says only "whole wheat" and does not say 100%, they have removed the germ and over-processed it. 

My concern was that some of the 100% whole wheat homemade breads I've experienced have had the consistency somewhere between a concoction of dried drywall compound and a brick. What I'd hoped for was a recipe that would be easy and produce a moist and flavorful bread that would not turn to stone in a couple of days, and to which I would not have to add white flour to achieve it.

So ... I looked ... where else, but the internet, and found a recipe quickly. It looked good, although I'm not a big fan of molasses, nor the taste of honey when cooked ... and wondered about the olive oil. But I read the reviews and it had a five star rating with 76 reviews. After reading the comments which said that some people had substituted brown sugar for the other sweeteners, and that some had added oats, other seeds, or substituted white for wheat flour, etc., and it still turned out wonderfully, I decided to try it.

The First Baking

I thought I should make it according to the recipe the first time. I realized though, that I only had enough yeast for 1/2 a recipe. Since I wanted to share one loaf and keep the other, I divided the 1/2 recipe into 2 small loaves. I may have overcooked it for a few minutes due to the smaller loaves, but the result was VERY GOOD and EASY. Yes! Amazingly easy ... quick, hardly any time working with it ... the only time consuming part was just waiting for the dough to rise. I'm going to post the link to the recipe here so that you can read it for yourself. It's kind of a long post because some of you asked for the recipe, and I'm going to make a few observations about the process because it's quite different than any other bread I've ever made.

My two small loaves:



When they say minimal mixing, it really means minimal mixing; and as little flour as possible is a must, according to the reviews. I used my Kitchen Aid mixer with the batter beater (not the bread hook). I put REALLY hot tap water in the mixing bowl, and added the first five ingredients as the recipe said. Next I added 2 cups of flour, and literally mixed for about 5 seconds, followed by adding 1 more cup of flour and the yeast, after which I mixed for maybe another 30 seconds. It looked VERY sticky. I started the mixer on low speed and added perhaps another 1/4 to 1/2 cup (remember I was making 1/2 a batch). It started to pull away from the sides of the bowl but still looked startlingly gooey and sticky. I decided to take them at their word and removed the beater, covered it with a clean towel and let it rise for 45 minutes. I punched it down after rising, spread a bit of flour on a board and removed from the bowl. I swished it around for 2-3 seconds in the flour, made a ball in my hands. Although it didn't call for ANY kneading, I couldn't resist and kneaded it about 5-6 times (LITERALLY 5-6 times!) and divided it half. I formed each loaf by folding and stretching the top around to the under side of the loaf until it was smooth(ish) on top and the ends, and laid it in the pans. I let it rise about another 45-50 minutes and baked it 25 minutes in a 350 oven.

I didn't mind the flavor of the honey and molasses and would do it that way again; it was very mild. I would try baking it 5 minutes less (or look at it, at least) if I make two small loaves again instead of a big one. It was slightly more "dense" in texture by the 3rd day, but then there was also very little left by then. :-)

I would not have believed that something that sticky, that I only mixed for about 1 minute total (if that), and that did not require ANY kneading, would ever turn out to be bread. Everything I have experienced or read about bread required much kneading and TLC. Not this  - it's EASY, EASY EASY!

There may be a better recipe out there, but for the time being, I'm satisfied with this, and the 100% whole wheat seems to agree with me much better than commercial "whole wheat" or white bread. It's not the texture of store bread, but then it also has no artificial ingredients or chemicals, no highly processed flour with part of the wheat berry removed, no high fructose corn syrup, and no preservatives, etc. I'm looking forward to trying a big loaf to see how it does. Hope you find this as easy and successful as I did.