100% Whole Wheat Bread
Make that bread out of these basic ingredients.
I would recommend getting a mixer if you do not have one yet. I would recommend either of the following mixers. If you are not going to multiply this recipe you’re probably fine getting this lift bowl type mixer, but if you want to double or more this recipe I would recommend getting this more powerful mixer.
A brief note on the type of wheat (it does matter.) Research is showing that wheat that has been sprayed with pesticides, specifically glysophate are linked to gluten sensitivities. See this report at gmo-awarness.com for details. It’s important to use an organic, non-gmo grain when possible.
It is also preferable to use freshly milled flour. You may be able to find a local mill that is milling flour fresh that you can buy, or you can buy a home mill and grind your own wheat berries into flour when needed. See our post on milling your own flours at home here.
Lets make some bread
Start with 2 1/2 cups water and warm it on your stove until the water feels just room temperature on your finger. I put the 4-Cup measuring cup right on the burner.
Pour that warm water and apple cider vinegar over 3 cups of the wheat flour and whisk it until there’s no more dry flour left and it’s like a slightly thinner pancake batter. I’ve settled on soaking with a little apple cider vinegar, but you can use white vinegar, or even just water as well. At this time if your yeast is in the fridge, get it out, get it measured, and get it on the counter. The yeast needs to be at room temp when added in. Once the flour and water are whisked together cover the bowl with a warm, damp tea towel.
Let the flour soak for at least 2 hours, but even longer if you can. I’ve got up to a 5 hour soak and the bread was even better, but I wouldn’t go less than 2 hours.
About 30 minutes before your flour is done soaking take a 1-Cup Pyrex and put 1/4 cup of filtered water up to room temperature and stir 2 tsp of honey in. Add the 2 1/2 tsp of yeast and gently stir in until it’s just mixed it. Let it sit at room temperature for about thirty minutes. This, and the soaking of the flour, are the two secrets to this bread. After 30 minutes your yeast mixture, aka “the sponge”, will look like this; bubbling, foaming, growing.
Put your salt in the bowl of a mixer. Add the 1/3 cup of honey. Add the 3 Tbs of melted butter. Pour in your soaked flour mixture. Finally pour in the sponge mixture. If you were adding the egg, this is when you would add it. Turn your mixer on a low speed (on my Kitchen Aid it’s a 2) and mix for about a minute until fairly well combined. You’ll probably have a bit of a butter ring around the edge.
Time to knead!
Now, about 1/2 cup at a time, add in the dry flour. Mix (again on setting 2 for my mixer) until fully incorporated, and then add another 1/2 cup and repeat. Occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue this until the dough is cleaning the sides of the bowl for you. This video shows what “cleaning the sides of the bowl” looks like.
Let this mix for about 5 minutes. Then add the smallest amount of water back in (think about a tsp at a time). Let mix more until it doesn’t appear wet and sticky. Repeat that 2-3 times. The dough will take in more water after this initial 5 minutes of kneading. Stop adding water when you think “if I add more, it’s going to begin to start to stick again.” Let the mixer run for another 3-5 minutes.
Grease a large glass bowl (I use a little cold expeller pressed olive oil.) Put a little of the oil on the counter. Take the dough out and form it into a ball on the counter with your hands. Put it int he glass bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Put the bowl somewhere warm and let it proof rise for an hour. We don’t use our microwave, but have found that it makes an excellent built in dough proofer.
After about an hour the dough should have doubled. Depending on your elevation, room temperature, humidity…etc, etc. etc. it might be a little more or less. After an hour mine looks like this:
Punch the dough down. Oil the counter again (if needed) and knead the dough by hand for a minute or two (mostly to try to remove any bubbles). Divide the dough in half. This will make two 2 lb loafs. If you have a kitchen scale put a plate on top and zero it out. Put the dough on the plate to compare the two half to make sure they are nearly equal in weight. Form your loaf shape. A good beginner technique is to flatten you dough out into a rectangular(ish) shape where the narrow width is the same as the length of your loaf pan and then roll it up length wise. I use a 9 x 5 x 2.75 (2 lb) loaf pan. I found these silicone coated loaf pans and LOVE them. They are coated in a silicone coating somewhere that makes them nonstick without all of the chemicals found in most (or all?) nonstick coatings. If you have non coated loaf pans you might want to use some butter and grease the inside of your loaf pan. Once the loaf is formed put the loaves in your pans.
Preheat oven to 400°. Cover again with a kitchen towel and back into the microwave. Let these rise until the dough just crests the top of the loaf pan (they will continue to rise A LOT in the oven). This will take between 30 minutes to an hour so check regularly. It’s time to stop letting them rise when they look like this:
Put these in the oven and reset the oven to 350°. Bake for about 40-50 minutes. Use a thermometer with a probe this digital cooking thermometer to check internal temperature. We’re looking for 180°. Remove loaves from oven and place on a cooling rack. Notice the rise difference from entering the oven to leaving the oven.
Let these cool completely (this time, this is where I went to bed. When I woke up they turned right out and fell onto the cooling rack (with no greasing the loaf pans!)). That’s it! You’re done! Get a serrated bread knife and cut it as thin or thick as you want. Make sure it is completely cool before cutting. Warm bread will be too soft and you’ll tear the slices up. You have got to be patient if you want it to slice. If you want to tear it off by the fist full then dive right in as soon as they’re cool enough to touch!
I’ve had this last easily over a week, maybe two, before it seemed too old/dry to eat as is (still toasts great at that point though.) Spread with some homemade butter and you’re good to go!
*EDIT – We are now soaking the flour for a full 24 hours and are seeing noticeable improvements in the bread.