I don't often do whole wheat bread. I am picky. I like a moist bread with a good whole wheat nutty flavor and with a soft crumb that slices well. That takes a little time - not really more work, just more time. There are a few tricks to getting the bread just the way I like it without turning it into a whole wheat brick. It takes science.
I love science.
I am going to be teaching my 13 year old daughter the science of cooking for her science (home school) class next year.Here is some of what I will be doing. Tell me what you think.
Making bread is basic. Every culture on earth has some kind of bread. In the USA, most people buy their bread. You can get squishy bread, heavy bread, almost any kind you want. We are going to concentrate on yeast breads. Artisan breads use very little yeast, but they taste so good. These breads are usually fermented with the little bit of yeast, the process taking a couple of days. Not hard, but I usually make a "quick" yeast bread. This type of bread uses more yeast, shortening the time.
Yeast is one of the common factors. It works by converting sugars to ethyl alcohol and releasing carbon dioxide gas (the byproduct). It is the carbon dioxide which makes the bread rise.
During this fermentation process, the gluten in the wheat relaxes and becomes more supple and elastic. While this is happening, the carbon dioxide from the yeast is blowing air into the elastic dough like a balloon. That is where you get the tiny "bubbles" in bread. Each time the bread dough rises, you get a different elasticity and bubbles. Even if you punch down the dough, effectively popping those bubbles, the yeast will continue to work and make more. This happens even in the oven until the heat of the oven kills the yeast (yep, it's alive) - this last rise in the oven is called the "spring".
The lighter the flour (meaning how much of the actual grain bran was removed) the easier it is for the yeast to inflate the dough. With whole wheat dough, there are some tricks to help this process along.
One of the tricks is to use a little bit of white flour. I know, it is not 100% whole wheat, but it is still good. Another trick is to soak the whole wheat flour in the milk for at least 8 hours. This is what the artisan bread makers do. We aren't going to do that this time.
One trick I do is to turn the dough during it's first rising. This removes large gas bubbles and helps the yeast to ferment the dough more evenly. I also make a shallow slash in the top of the dough right before sticking it in the oven. Have you noticed the "slits" cut in most artisan breads? This makes it easier for the dough to spring in the oven.
We also cover the dough while it is rising. The reason we do this is to not let the surface of the dough make a crust in the air. If it makes a crust, the job of the yeast is thwarted. It can't rise to it's full potential.
Whole Wheat Bread
1 Tablespoon dry yeast (1 package)
1 can evaporated milk plus enough water to make 2 cups
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup molasses OR honey OR brown sugar
1/2 cup oil plus more for oiling the bowl
1 cup oatmeal
2 cups white flour
5 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) salt
1 Tablespoon butter, melted (optional)
Combine the milk, water, and molasses in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast a stir just to barely combine. Let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes. You should see a bubbly concoction in your bowl. This means that your yeast is alive and hard at work. If it isn't bubbly, start over.
Add the remaining ingredients, except butter, to the yeast mixture. Using a dough hook, knead until the dough forms a ball and leaves the sides of the bowl.
If you are kneading by hand, add the oil, oatmeal, salt and half of the flours. Mix.
Turn out your dough onto a floured surface. Add the flours, kneading the whole time, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Put the dough into an oiled large bowl. Flip the dough so there is oil on both sides of the dough. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes. It should double in size.
Remove the plastic wrap and punch down the dough. With a rubber spatula, fold the dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward the middle. Turn the bowl and do it again. You are going to do this 8 times.
Cover the dough with the plastic and let it rise again for about 30 minutes.
Grease 2 loaf pans. Punch down the dough and divide it in half.
Press half of the dough into a rectangle and roll it into a loaf. Put it in the pan.
Cover the loaf pans with plastic wrap and let them rise again. You want them to rise about 1 inch over the edge of you pan, about 20 minutes.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
When your dough has risen, make a shallow slit in the top (this is totally optional, it will be wonderful without it.)
Brush the slit with a bit of the melted butter.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when gently tapped (the loaves should register 200 degrees if you want to take its internal temperature.) Brush the tops of your loaves with the remaining butter.
Remove loaves form the pans and let cool to room temperature.
This will keep (wrapped) for about 3 days. If you won't finish 2 loaves of bread in 3 days - not a problem in my house - wrap one of the loaves in plastic and foil and freeze it.