The day has come that I can say I made a delicious loaf of whole wheat bread. I assure you that I am not meaning to brag or to “toot my own horn”. It is just that this seems like this day has been a long time in the making. Here is a brief recap of my history with whole wheat bread.
My first attempt was fairly successful but I have to admit that I didn’t do it by myself; I had help from our resident bread baker at the Eco-House and we made it in the bread machine. However, it was still a little bit dense and too misshapen for my liking. My next attempt is something that I can look back at and laugh but I think I might actually have cried when I first saw it (it had been a LONG day). It was a misshapen, dense brick. Literally, no rising had occurred. The jar labeled “YEAST” contained sugar. Seriously? Lesson: pay attention to your ingredients. Now I find it rather shameful that I didn’t even notice I was adding brown sugar instead of yeast. It was the strangest incarnation of “bread” I have ever had and I had to transform it into baked French toast to make it edible. My third and fourth attempts were decent and encouraging but I knew that I still had much room for improvement. They were solid but the bread was dense and a little bit dry. (This is a recurring theme with 100% whole wheat bread). I still had faith in this recipe but just thought that my technique could probably improve more. For example, I wasn't sure if the bread rose all the way because the kitchen, where I let the dough rise, wasn’t very warm. Yesterday, Food Club had a potluck and no one had volunteered to bring bread so I thought I would make some with our local whole wheat flour. Wednesday, I set about making the dough and decided that I would take some creative license with the recipe. In hindsight this really could have gone bad since I had already committed to bringing bread and I could have gotten unfortunate results. However, this time I made sure that the dough rose enough, both for the initial rise and the second rise after it was shaped and in the pan. Also, I used a different kind of sweetener. The molasses I used gave the bread a nice color and slight sweetness. I also used a tad bit less flour.
But, I am sure you would much rather hear about the results. The bread had beautiful holes from the yeast and was light. It wasn’t dry which is a nice change from bread that you have to choke down or wash down with a lot of water. Also, the recipe is easily doubled. Here is my recipe, adapted from the one above:
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons molasses
3 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (or active dry mixed with the lukewarm water before adding to mixture)
Combine the ingredients in large bowl until a fairly wet, shaggy dough forms (you can do this with your hands or a spoon). Let the dough rest, covered for 20 minutes. Then, knead dough for 10 minutes. Allow to sit covered for 1 to 2 hours (or more if your kitchen is not warm). When it is about doubled in size, gently deflate and shape the dough. Put shaped loaf in a greased 9x 5 loaf pan. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes to an hour (or more if it isn’t in a very warm place). Preheat oven to 350 degrees about 10 minutes before the hour is up. Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.