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At Long Last, my 100% Whole Wheat Loaf Bread

I've been promising this for ages, I know.  I just didn't feel right posting a bread recipe when I wasn't baking bread myself.  But now that it's fall I'm back at it.
The finished product.

My entire family LOVES this bread.  My super picky daughter makes yummy noises when she eats it and repeatedly tells me how it is the best bread EVER.  It's a great every day sandwich/toast bread that is also decent to eat on it's own.  We go through 3-4 loafs a week in the winter (my DH eats a LOT of toast).  I have adapted this recipe from one in Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day

Fair warning- there are a few compromise ingredients in this bread that I use to keep costs managable- for example, powdered milk.  I know it's not technically a whole food, but I like to keep it in my emergency supplies, which means I have to eventually rotate and use it.  Also, using my more expensive milk to make this bread was a little painful for me.

Oh, and these instructions assume you have a stand mixer.  If not, well, this recipe is much harder and I apologize:)  Seriously, though, if you don't have a stand mixer with a dough hook, just knead by hand, and keep in mind it will take a little longer.

100% (or so) Whole Grain Sandwich Bread 
Makes 2 loafs
  • 6 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 T. sugar of choice (use a little less if using liquid, like honey)
  • 1 T. Kosher Salt 
  • 1 T. yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, melted butter, melted coconut oil, or other healthy fat of choice
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3/4 cup powdered milk (or replace water and milk replacer with 1 1/4 cup warm milk and 1 1/4 cup warm water)
  •  For more stable dough you can either add 2 T. of vital wheat gluten or substitute 1 cup of the whole wheat flour with all purpose or bread flour (I usually do the latter).  
  • If you enjoy the taste and health benefits of sourdough and have a starter, reduce the yeast to 2 tsp, add 1 cup of sourdough starter, and add flour as needed (this will depend on the moisture level of your starter).  Sourdough bread also keeps longer.

Day 1:  Mix the flour, salt, sugar (if using honey, add to water instead), and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer using the paddle attachment.  In a bowl beat the oil and eggs together, then add the water and powdered milk and stir.  Pour into the bowl of the mixer while it is running and allow to mix until combined.  Turn off mixer and let the dough sit for 5 minutes to hydrate.  Then switch to the dough hook and start kneading the dough on medium speed.  After about 2 minutes of kneading look at the dough- if it is still very sticky and clinging to the bowl, slowly add a little more flour.  If it is clinging to the hook and not moving much add a little more water.  If it's mostly stuck to the hook but loose enough that it is moving and banging against the side it is perfect- it should look a little shaggy.  Continue to knead for 4 or 5 more minutes.  Then dump the bowl into a suitable storage container, cover, and put in the fridge.  It needs to be refrigerated for at least 12 hours, but you can leave it as long as 3 days before the quality starts to go downhill.

Day 2 (or whenever you choose to bake):  Take the dough out of the fridge at least 3 hours before you plan to bake it.  Let it come to about room temp (a little cooler is fine) in this container.  Then dump the dough out onto an OILED surface (any contact with flour at this point will weaken the gluten, don't do it!).  Divide the dough into two equal pieces.

Now you need to decide if you want to bake both loafs or bake one now and return the other piece of dough to the fridge (remember to bake it within that 3 day window, though).

This next part is vital, and really simple, but hard for me to describe, so here's a video (also from Peter Reinhart... and really, if you want to get more into baking that is doable and simple and delicious, I strongly recommend picking up his book).  For each piece of dough you want to do this stretch and fold magic, then let the dough rest for 10 minutes, during which you need to prepare your loaf pans.  I LOVE my stoneware loaf pans (from Pampered Chef).  If you are blessed to have one or two of these and if they are seasoned from use, all you need to do is rub them with a little olive oil.  I didn't have quite as much luck with my metal pans.  For metal oil them and, if you want, use a little parchment paper.

Now, since the gluten had time to develop in the fridge, you may only need to stretch and fold once, let it rest, then shape the loaf, or you may need to stretch and fold again.  How can you tell?  Well, if I try to stretch and it just doesn't want to go (even after resting), then it's time to shape.  Here's a video on shaping.  Although a little tedious, this was the best example I could find of shaping a loaf for sandwich bread.  I also don't do the steam thing because the goal with a sandwich loaf is soft crust and steam makes for a crisp crust- lovely on a baguette, but not what I want for this.

Once you've shaped the loaf, place it in the prepared pan and cover with a towel.  If the air is dry, cover it with a damp towel.  Place the pan(s) in a warm place to rise, and allow to rise until the dough has risen to about an inch or two above the top of the pan.  Then preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Whole wheat sandwich dough rising.
When your oven is hot place the pan(s) in the oven, set the timer for 45 minutes, and enjoy the smell:)  When the timer beeps, thump the loaf.  If it sounds hollow it is done.  Technically the internal temp is supposed to be 195 degrees, but who wants to poke a hole in their bread?

Let the bread sit in the pan for a few minutes, then dump out onto a cooling rack.  Allow to cool for 30 minutes before cutting- I know this is hard, but it is super important.  Prematurely cutting a fresh loaf of bread can cause the entire loaf to loose flavor (due to lost gasses) and to dry out (as the moisture hasn't had time to redistribute to the bread and is lost through vapor).  Wait and you will be rewarded!

Bread always has a lot of instructions, but I assure that this recipe is simple, low on active prep, and relatively fool proof.  Give it a try!

And while you're at it, check out other home baked goodness at Homestead Revival's Barn Hop.


Sarah Jean said...

Great recipe and a great "tutorial"! Thanks for all the info...I still haven't country's perfect sandwich bread yet, so I'll give this one a try!


Jill @ The Prairie Homestead said...

Okay. I am totally bookmarking this recipe! I really, really need to find a good WW sandwhich bread, and this one looks very promising. I think I will try the sourdough option, too. Thanks for sharing this with the Barn Hop this week!

Amish Stories said...

I really love my bread, with country white being my favorite. Richard

Treasures Evermore said...

This sounds wonderful...will be bookmarking this as our family usually only eats whole wheat sliced bread....and the rest I bake myself which is white....we do love rye bread and pumpernickle.

So I think I might need to give this a try.

Thanks for posting...and a great tutorial.


Anonymous said...

So you moved the stretch and fold to the 2nd day (compared to the book recipe)? I'm curious why you decided to do that.
- Steve

Brandislee said...

Sorry it took me 6 months to answer!!! I do the pull and fold on the second day purely because it is more convenient for me. The recipe in the book calls for mixing the dough, kneading in the mixer, dividing, doing the pull and fold, shaping, putting in the pan, and then covering and putting in the fridge for 24 hours. There are a few reasons this doesn't work for me.

I use stoneware loaf pans. They don't do well in the fridge, and are hard to cover (press and seal won't stick to them, and I hate using plastic wrap anyway...).

It's a lot to do on the first day. It usually works much better for me to mix it, knead in the mixer, and dump into a cambro. Then I just have to slap the lid on and throw it in the fridge until the next day.

It just works for me! And I haven't noticed any drawbacks. Sometimes I get lazy and don't do as much pull and fold as I should and the texture suffers, but otherwise it's just as good!

Anonymous said...

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