Real Whole Wheat and Honey Bread
What could be better than a slice of hot homemade whole wheat bread with a smear of butter and some honey? Maybe two slices? Well, let me tell you how to make a couple of loaves.
One of my childhood memories is the smell of homemade bread wafting from the kitchen. I knew it would not be long before my mother’s fresh baked bread would be ready to sample. I also knew it would not last long around my father and four siblings. Although my family usually ate whole wheat bread purchased from the local Safeway, my mother never tried her hand at whole wheat and stuck with her tried and true recipe for white bread.
Many years later now, I have found a great way to make whole wheat bread from freshly ground wheat. Most people assume that whole wheat flour is just that– “whole” wheat. Actually, it is white flour to which some of the constituents of the whole wheat removed during the processing have been added back. Any oil containing components are not restored to allow the flour to have a long shelf life. The only way to get true whole wheat flour is to have it freshly ground. Period. Seems like a lot of trouble, but I wanted a bread that had a high fiber content, all of the vitamins and minerals of whole wheat, and, most importantly, a low glycemic index. Most people find the hardest part of a low carb diet is the elimination of bread. This causes many to abandon the diet. I have been able to stay on a low carb diet for almost two years now, thanks to this bread. I have been able to maintain my weight loss without feeling deprived. I eat at least one slice every day, and am able to enjoy grilled cheese or other sandwiches without adding on the pounds. Of course, this bread is great for those who are not concerned about carbs and just want a great tasting whole grain bread.
I have been using hard red wheat to make my flour. Other wheats are fine, but they differ in protein content and will produce bread with a different consistency—some softer and some heavier. The great thing about wheat is that it lasts forever if it is kept cool and dry. In fact, I am using wheat which I purchased twenty years ago that was sealed in 5-gallon plastic buckets. Twenty years is nothing when you consider that wheat found buried with Egyptian mummies was still viable after thousands of years. My wife and purchased this wheat as part of the food storage program recommended by the LDS Church. You may find it easiest to purchase it by mail . If you do not live in area serviced by an LDS Bishop’s Storehouse.
I have made this recipe many times, and you should have success if you follow it closely. This includes measuring the ingredients by weight, not volume. One thing I noticed while living in Europe, is that all the recipes use weight for measurement. This is for good reason. It is actually much faster and more accurate. This is especially true for flour, because the volume can vary significantly depending on how densely it is packed into a measuring cup. I would recommend an electronic kitchen scale that has a “tare” function. This allows the scale to deduct the weight of the containers used and display the weights of the ingredients themselves. Many small scales are available online for very reasonable prices. I am not giving conversions from grams to cups, because it is too unpredictable.
Even if you follow each step exactly, each batch will be a little different. You are working with living organisms (yeast), and many things will affect the final result, including the age of the yeast, moisture content of the flour, gluten content of the flour, rising temperature, kneading time and just plain luck. When I get a really great loaf I ask myself what I did differently. Who knows? Anyway, here’s a step by step, starting with a little information about the ingredients themselves.
There are several sources online to purchase freshly ground hard red whole wheat flour, if it is not available at your grocer or local health food store. You may want to do this before you become a real pioneer and grind the flour from whole wheat kernels yourself. I actually use an old Vitamix blender for this. I mean old—like thirty years. I guess this is a testament to the Vitamix people. It is an all-metal model and works great for this purpose. I do not know if the newer models are capable of grinding grains into flour. You may find it best to purchase a mill made specifically for grinding flour. There are several electric and manual models available on Amazon. I usually grind enough flour to make several batches of bread and package enough for one batch in individual vacuum bags that I can just toss in the freezer for a quick start.
Use any potable water you desire, bottled tap or otherwise. The important part is the temperature. Yeast grows best at a temperature of about 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Above 130, it dies. Too cold, and it just doesn’t get going. If I am using flour I have retrieved from the freezer, I use the hottest tap water and make sure it’s temperature has lowered enough after being added to the flour to not overheat the yeast. If I am using flour which is still warm from the grinder I use water that is comfortably warm to the touch. You don’t need a thermometer—if you find it pleasantly warm, so will the yeast.
Use fresh yeast. Period. I purchase yeast in bulk from the local warehouse club and reseal the remainder in a vacuum bag and refrigerate it immediately after use. That is by far the most economical. Most grocers carry small jars of yeast, made for breadmaking. Again, refrigerate the remainder immediately after use. You can also use yeast packets (I do not use Rapid-Rise). I do not “proof” the yeast. If it is fresh and the temperature is right, it will be fine. Just saves a step.
Honey provides energy for the yeast to grow and adds a great flavor. Plus, it pulls moisture from the air to keep the loaf from drying out. I find the best price at my local warehouse club, but it is still expensive.
Ever eaten unsalted bread? Even though this bread is highly flavored, you need salt to stabilize the gluten.
A small amount is added to impart flavor and tenderness. You will want it to be soft or melted to incorporate quickly into the dough.
So that’s it—flour, water, yeast, honey, salt and butter. No preservatives. No dough conditioners. No artificial additives. Just lots of flavor.
THE RECIPE for this Real Whole Wheat and Honey Bread
1128g* freshly ground whole red wheat flour
3-1/2 teaspoonsful salt
8 tablespoonsful softened or melted butter
7 teaspoonsful dry yeast
*g means grams. One ounce=28.3g if your scale does not display grams.
Yield: two loaves, each 2 pounds. Half all ingredients to make just one loaf.
1. On your scale, tare a large mixing bowl. If you are using a stand mixer with a dough hook, you will want to use the large bowl (5 to 6 quarts). Add flour to the bowl up to 1128 grams if you will be allowing your mixer to knead the dough. Otherwise, hold back a cup or two (amount is not critical) if you will be kneading by hand.
2. Retare bowl with flour. Add water up to 624 grams. Add slowly—it is easy to overshoot.
3. Retare bowl with flour and water. Add honey up to 230 grams. (So easy to pour directly from the bottle instead of trying to measure with a cup. Just be careful not to overshoot.)
4. Add salt.
5. Add butter.
6. Stir slightly to mix partially mix ingredients so the temperature is not too high and the salt is not too concentrated for the yeast.
7. Add the yeast.
1. Machine kneading: Attach dough hook and turn mixer on lowest speed. At first it will look like a mess, but after a few minutes of kneading the dough will start to come together. Once a soft dough has formed, divide the dough into two halves if you are making two loaves. Your scale is the best way to divide it evenly. This is necessary, because most mixers cannot adequately knead the entire dough for two loaves at once. Your mixer may be big enough to do this, but a Kitchenaid Artisan is not. Knead one half of the dough for 12 to 15 minutes. It is done when the dough is smooth and rubbery. It should “snap” back when pulled or twisted and come cleanly from the bowl and dough hook. The dough should be just slightly sticky. If it is too sticky add flour one tablespoonful at a time during the kneading process. If the dough appears dry and is not at all sticky, add water one tablespoonful at a time. Knead the second half the same way. (Keep each half covered with a damp towel to prevent drying while the other half is kneading.) After both halves have been kneaded, combine them in the mixer and knead for a minute or two to mix them.
2. Hand kneading: Stir mixture until soft dough forms. Use some of the held back flour to flour the kneading surface. Turn out dough and begin kneading by continually folding and turning dough. You will need to flour the top of the dough and the countertop several times as you gradually incorporate the held back flour into the dough. Add only enough flour each time to prevent excessive stickiness. As the gluten forms and the dough becomes more elastic, it will pull the dough away from your hands and the counter. Eventually, you should have a very elastic and smooth dough. If you reach this stage without needing to add all of the flour, that is fine. Add only enough flour to produce dough that is just slightly sticky. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes and lots of muscle. In fact, you will probably burn off enough calories to justify an extra slice of the finished bread.
9. Pat the dough into a smooth ball. Rub surface with a thin layer of vegetable oil and place in bowl to rise. Cover the bowl with a dampened tea towel to prevent drying. Place bowl in warm place to rise. Let dough rise until doubled—usually between one to two hours depending on temperature.
10. Remove risen dough from bowl and divide into two equal portions. This is most easily done using your scale. Knead each half slightly to force out air and shape into log shape. Place each half into a buttered loaf pan. Cover pans with a dampened tea towel and allow to rise until doubled. This will take only about 45 minutes.
11. Place pans in cold oven and set oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes depending on how dark you prefer the crust.
12. Remove bread from oven and allow to cool for only a couple of minutes. Turn out loaves onto cooling racks. Brush entire surface of each loaf with butter. The easiest way to do this is to place your hand in a small sandwich bag, pinch off pieces of butter and rub over the surface. (Watch out—the loaves are very hot.) Do not cover the loaves or place them in bags until they are completely cooled. Otherwise condensation will form inside the bag and cause soggy bread.
Most responsible bakers will suggest waiting for your bread to cool before slicing. But you won’t be able to wait, so go ahead and grab a slice while it is hot. Slather with some butter, honey, and/or some great apple butter for a real treat.
Bread making is as much an art as it is a science. After a few batches, you will recognize when the dough has reached the right consistency. Make notes of how much more or less flour you used until your recipe fits the type of flour you are using.
Wow, I did not realize what a long process this is until I wrote it down. But once you have done it a few times, it will take no time to throw the ingredients together and start the kneading. And you will find plenty of things that need to be done while the dough is kneading and rising.