Friday, January 18, 2019

whole Wheat Bread

My daughter and I make the bread for our family. Because there are ten of us, a loaf at a time doesn’t feed us as much as we might like. We bake three loaves at a time. Also, because the first whole wheat recipe that we tried -and liked!- which made enough for us produced three loaves.

We have a grain mill for grinding the wheat berries into flour. When I was looking for one, the main thing I looked for was the fineness of the flour. I wanted to have flour that wasn’t overheated, as some machines do, but I also wanted to use the whole wheat in regular recipes. If you’ve seen the usual flour in bags sold in U.S. stores that is labeled whole wheat, you’ll have noticed the coarseness of it compared to regular all purpose flour. The first whole wheat flour I came across that didn’t have that  coarseness was the King Arthur white whole wheat. I baked bread with that before I purchased the mill.

Using freshly ground flours is supposed to have added nutritional and financial benefits, sure, but we do it for the flavor. I was raised on my Mom’s homemade bread, and I have the privilege of passing this blessing on to my children.

We used that original recipe for quite some time. I have have been looking, but haven’t found the original to link to. We added some ingredients beyond the original flour, water, yeast, salt, honey to help the bread be more sliceable for sandwiches. A family friend says it’s cake.

3 Loaves WW Bread

First take:
3 cups water
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon yeast
5 cups flour (freshly ground, whole wheat)

Mix those so that everything is just mixed together. Set a timer for 30 minutes and let that yeast wake up and the wheat flour start to soften and absorb the water.

Next add:
1/3 cup honey
3 eggs (we use farm fresh from the chickens in our yard)
2 tablespoons of a fat (I usually pick an oil, my daughter prefers melted butter)
4 cups flour (also freshly ground)
1 tablespoon salt (can halve this, but any less and you get that odd flat, sweet flavor)

Now we mix it all together and knead for ten minutes. If you have a large capacity mixer with a dough hook, then you can set a timer and let it do the work for you. Otherwise, this is a bit of a workout, and whole wheat bread dough is tackier than regular. Adding extra flour will make it too dense, hard to rise. It will get to a point where it sticks together instead of to you, but I just knead and knead, then use the bench scraper to get the rest off my fingers.

Cover, one of my lids fits over my mixer bowl. A wet towel or plastic wrap (but use a piece that will fit across three bread pans so you can reuse it for the final rise).Let rise until close to doubled. I aim for one hour to ninety minutes, depending on the temperature of the room. If it’s a cold morning, it might take two hours. Living in the north has its challenges. Just set a timer and after the first hour, check it about each half hour.

Next, I grab the scale. You can just eyeball it, but it’s a good way to train your eye. I take that dough from the bowl and put the bowl on the scale to set the bowl to zero (tare). Weigh the dough (grams are a little easier to divide by three) and divide the dough in equal-ish thirds. Traditionally, they should get a ten minute rest now while you oil or butter the bread pans. Then, form the loaves. To do this, I stretch -don’t squish- the dough into a square about the length of the bread pan. Then, roll it up, putting the seam down in the pan. Cover again and proof.

Here’s the trick with whole wheat: never over proof the dough! Proof? That’s another word for rising, don’t over-rise (raise?) the dough! The aim is to let the dough get about 80% of its potential size without going past that... How? Let it rise until the top is just an inch or two above the top of the bread pan. Again with the timing thing.

In the summer, it’s often warm enough that this only takes an half an hour, so I start the oven
preheating right away. Winter usually take 60-90 minutes. Right now, my oven is broken, kaput, out of commission, so I light the barbecue right away. I have one of those round cookers with a 24” grill. I light the lump charcoal in a chimney to get it going quickly, give it ten minutes and empty the chimney into the barbecue, adding more coal if needed. Set the deflector, which is basically a bread stone, and a grill above it, and let it warm up to 400°F. This barbecue needs to have the airflow choked down to keep it from overheating. I’ve found that leaving the bottom air intake 1-2 inches open and the top spinner about an inch open works great.

Just before it goes in the cooker, be it oven or barbecue, brush the tops with liquid. In a professional oven, there are jets of steam during the first few minutes to help with “oven spring.” At home, we can set a pan in the bottom to warm up with the oven, and maybe get too hot... then toss water into that... maybe not so safe? Enclose the bread, like in a roasting pan with a lid (Dutch ovens work great for sourdough and other round loaves). Or, we can use a wash: water or milk brushed or spritzed onto the risen dough so that it can steam away during baking to allow the bread to achieve that oven spring.

Aiming for 385°-400°F, the bread bakes for 25-40 minutes. Glass, light or dark thin metal, and thick cast iron all have somewhat different requirements. Aim for a deeper golden crust. I have never used a thermometer to check, but bread is baked when the center hits 200°F (190° without the enrichments; butter, eggs, milk).

Let the bread rest as long as you can before slicing into it. I try for 30 minutes minimum. We easily polish off the first loaf right away. I hope yours is as fantastic!