Baking is one of the most therapeutic tasks ever. It is a test of patience, determination and sound judgement. And the results are absolutely thrilling. When you see that perfectly risen golden loaf come out of the oven, you know it has been a job well done.
This whole-wheat loaf post has taken me almost a year to get to a point where I am satisfied with it. No kidding. It is easy to work with all-purpose flour. But it is harder to develop the gluten needed for the perfect rise with whole-wheat flour. I don’t mind adding a fraction of APF to help things along. But I have tried this with 100% whole-wheat flour as well. This recipe is simple enough to work any way. So you can choose the ratio of APF and wheat flours to use.
But let’s start at the beginning. It all begins with getting rid of your fear of working with yeast. I always use active dry yeast and proof it in warm water before using it in a bread recipe. Proofing is an important and very fun step. When you can see the water becoming frothy and bubbling up, you know the yeast is going to do its job. If that doesn’t happen, one of two things might be to blame. Either your water was too hot that it killed the yeast (the perfect temperature is around 110 deg.F, like warm bath water), or the yeast has expired and you may need a fresh batch.
The next important step is of course kneading the dough till it is smooth and pliable. A mixer with the dough hook attachment makes your job easier, but feel free to get your hands in there and work it to your satisfaction. This particular recipe only requires you to knead the dough once. Once the dough has risen, it is time to shape it. A whole-wheat loaf works best when the dough is tautly folded in thirds. Pinch the seams closed and place it in the pan for another very short rise. Then you can score the top, add any toppings you like to use like rolled oats (pictured here), pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds and bake till done. You can use a thermometer to see if the dough has baked perfectly, but the old-fashioned way of knocking the loaf works quite well. If you hear a hollow knocking sound, the loaf is done.
Somehow, the bread baking bug hits me on moody, rainy days. What better way to spend a rainy evening than with a warm loaf of homemade bread and some hot tea?! This one was a more rustic loaf I baked a while back with 100% wheat flour.
Read on for the recipe and you can make your homemade whole-wheat sandwich loaf without any of the processed sugar and other objectionable ingredients found in commercial bread.
- Water - 1½ cups, very warm (around 110 deg.F)
- Active dry yeast - 2¼ tsp
- Honey - 2 tbsp
- Whole-wheat flour - 2½ cups
- All-purpose flour - 1 - 1½ cups, plus extra for dusting
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Oil - 3 tbsp (vegetable or canola oil)
- Rolled oats - 2 tbsp (optional)
- Roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds - 2 tbsp (optional)
- Stir the honey into the water. Add yeast and rest for 8-10 minutes. The water should be frothy and have a distinct yeasty smell. If this doesn't happen, either the water was too hot or cold, or you may need a fresh batch of yeast.
- In a large mixing bowl, add whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Add salt and oil and mix lightly with your fingers.
- Tip in the yeast water and mix together to form a dough. Add more flour till the dough comes together. I ended up using 4 cups of dough in all.
- Once you are able to gather the dough with your hands, dump it onto a clean work surface lightly dusted with flour. Knead well with your hands for 8-10 minutes, till the dough is soft, smooth and pliable. If dough is too sticky to work with, dust a little bit of flour, a tablespoonful at a time, and keep kneading.
- Clean out the mixing bowl and coat lightly with oil. Place the dough in it, and then turn the dough over, so that all sides of the dough are greased. (This is done to prevent the dough from drying out while letting it to rise).
- Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest in a warm place till dough is almost doubled in size, at least an hour.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375 deg.F. Lightly grease a 13" loaf pan with oil and set aside.
- Tip the risen dough out on a lightly dusted work surface. Pat it into a rectangle as wide as the loaf pan (13" here). The length doesn't really matter. Fold the dough into thirds from the bottom and top, so that they overlap like an envelop. Pinch the seams closed with your fingers.
- Transfer the shaped loaf to the pan, seam side down. Cover with the kitchen towel and allow to rest for 20-30 more minutes.
- Make score marks on top of the risen dough. Add any toppings like rolled oats or seeds if desired. Bake for 30-35 minutes or till dough is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
- Remove from oven and cool in pan for a few minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool slightly before slicing with a serrated knife. Completely cooled loaf can be stored on the counter-top lightly covered with a clean kitchen towel.
2. The prep time given here does not reflect dough rise times.
3. If you want to, you can brush the top of the loaf with an egg wash before baking.
And, there you have it – the perfect loaf of whole-wheat sandwich bread.
This honey wheat loaf is perfect for PB&J sandwiches, for buttered toasts, egg sandwiches and more.
Here are some recipes for you to try along with your homemade bread.
- Homemade strawberry jam
- Peach vanilla jam
- Dried apricots jam
- Mint-chili-garlic compound butter
- Chimichurri sauce spread
- Indian spiced cranberry relish (thokku)
- Avocado and egg toast
- BBQ chicken panini
- Pav bhaji and bread (Indian spiced mashed vegetables and buttered bread)
Do you bake your own bread? If you are a seasoned baker or a first-timer, do give this recipe a try.
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