How to Make Whole Wheat Bread

Whole Wheat Bread

Is there anything that says hearth and home and peace more than a warm loaf of bread fresh from the oven? At least for me, there is nothing finer.

I know that an increasing number of people are finding that they are gluten intolerant, as well as an increasing number of people who are choosing to not consume gluten. I’m sorry for those who, by no choice of their own, cannot eat gluten. Food allergies can be miserable.

However, since I as yet am not intolerant of gluten, I am providing for you my favorite basic recipe for whole wheat bread. I buy whole wheat and then grind it into flour myself at home with an electric grain mill. My wheat of preference is hard white winter wheat. It has a milder flavor than red wheat and makes a beautiful loaf of bread. You do not have to grind your own wheat. Grocery stores or specialty food stores generally stock whole wheat flour. Often it is made from hard red winter wheat, but increasingly, stores are stocking flour made from hard white winter wheat as well.

Bread made from hard red winter wheat is probably the whole wheat bread with which most people are familiar. It makes a darker, hearty loaf; dense and rustic, with a distinctive flavor. On the other hand, hard white winter wheat makes a lighter loaf, with a finer texture. The flavor is more subtle than bread made with hard red winter wheat; more like “white bread”. It is my personal wheat of preference for making 100% whole wheat bread.

Making a good loaf of bread involves more than just having a good recipe. It takes a bit of practice to understand when enough flour has been added, or when the the dough has been kneaded ‘enough’, or even how to tell when the loaf is ready for the oven. It sounds intimidating to a beginner. My first loaves of bread…well…they were good learning experiences. Valuable learning experiences. Bread is often one of those things that just simply takes some practice. So, if your first loaves are not what you’d hoped, keep on working at it, you’ll figure it out. I promise. One day things will just click and you will have your ‘Ah ha!’ moment.

The whole wheat bread recipe below is designed to be used in a large capacity electric mixer, such as a Bosch, and makes four loaves of bread. A stand mixer, such as a Kitchenaid, can only handle ingredients for two loaves of bread. You know what to do, right? Yes! Cut the recipe in half. Good job.

How to Make Whole Wheat Bread, a Tutorial

The tutorial pictures for this post are fairly extensive; about 40 of them. So, don’t tell me that I don’t love you.

Whole Wheat Bread
 As you can see, this flour, made from hard white winter wheat, is fairly light in color. I use the finest setting on my wheat grinder because I prefer a very fine flour. If you don’t have a wheat grinder, not to worry. You have choices! You can buy whole wheat flour at your grocery store. Most grocery stores carry whole wheat flour ground from hard red winter wheat. However, some grocery stores are now carrying whole wheat flour made from hard white winter wheat. The white wheat makes a milder tasting whole wheat bread and a lovely, tender loaf of bread. *Visit the hard white winter wheat link in the “Learn More About It” section at the end of this tutorial.
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Whole Wheat Bread
 While you are getting everything set up, proof the yeast in 1 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar. The sugar gives the yeast a little food to help it grow faster, but only a pinch. Any more than a pinch can slow the yeast down. Getting the temperature of the water just right is crucial to proofing yeast. Water that is too hot will kill the yeast; too cool and the yeast won’t activate. The perfect water temperature is 105-110 degrees F. If you are just learning about bread making, place a thermometer under some warm running water and adjust the water as needed until it is the right temperature. Put your hand or wrist under the water, too, so that you can learn how the correct water temperature should feel.
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I use “the wrist method” for checking water temperature. If the water feels comfortably warm on the anterior portion of my wrist, then it is the right temperature for proofing the yeast. The “anterior” of your wrist is the part where you would test the temperature of milk in a baby bottle…turn your hand so that the palm is facing up–yeah, now you see the correct part of your wrist. It’s the soft, tender part where there are lots of good nerve endings for testing water temperature.
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Often bread recipes call for the dry yeast to be added with the flour, but I still like to proof my yeast first. It is a habit that I started long ago when I had poor results from the addition of dry yeast to some bread I was making. The bread was ruined because it did not rise well. Since that time, I have never been willing to commit all of my ingredients to a possible yeast failure. I realize that I am in a minority with this ‘archaic’ practice of proofing the yeast, but it’s just the way I do things.
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Whole Wheat Bread
So, while the yeast is doing the happy dance, add most of the rest of the ingredients to the mixer bowl. Start with the remaining three cups of warm water. Make sure it is warm. Cold water will slow things down too much and hot water may destroy the yeast when it is added to the liquid ingredients.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Now add the salt to the bowl.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Wo. Today the yeast was having a fiesta (better than a siesta…I hate it when the yeast takes a siesta…won’t rise, just sits there being all lazy). Sooooo, I had to add it to the bowl, pronto, or else it would have spilled out onto the counter top.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Bread
I like to use honey in my bread for a couple of reasons. First of all, it adds a nice flavor to the bread. Secondly, it makes a softer loaf.  As you can see from this picture, my honey has started to crystallize. No problem. This happens all the time and is easily remedied. Tip: Put the honey container in a pot of hot water and keep the water just below the boiling point by heating it over low heat on your stove. Every now and then pick up the honey container with a hot pad and swirl the honey around in the container. This helps to redistribute the liquified honey and the crystallized honey and helps the crystals to dissolve better. P.S. I have also zapped small amounts of honey in the microwave to decrystallize it, but the water bath method is much better and safer. The microwave causes hot spots in the honey making it much easier for you to burn your little self. You have been warned.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Now add the oil. A quarter cup of oil may sound like a lot of oil, but let’s do some math. 1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons. That means that each LOAF of bread has 1 tablespoon of oil in it. I cut each loaf into about 12 generous slices, so that means that each slice has 1/4 TEASPOON of oil. Still too much oil per slice? No problem–reduce the overall amount of oil to 2 tablespoons and then each slice will only have 1/8 teaspoon of oil per slice.

Whole Wheat BreadNow, sprinkle 5 cups of whole wheat flour over the wet ingredients. /

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Whole Wheat Bread
Add the vital wheat gluten. Vital wheat gluten gives a nice boost to the elasticity of the dough. An analogy would be: gluten is to bread as spinach is to Popeye. 😉 Often, flours are low in protein, which is not a good thing, because protein gives doughs and breads their structure. Kind of like our bodies–we are made of proteins, head to toe. We’d be dysfunctional without it. The same goes for bread. Gluten is a protein which gives structure and elasticity to yeast doughs, and helps to give a tender, moist crumb and chewiness to finished yeast dough products. Farther down in this post are pictures of what gluten does for the dough. *For a short, well done article on vital wheat gluten, visit the “Learn More About It” link at the end of this tutorial.
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Whole Wheat Bread
the dough enhancer…Dough enhancer is a nice, but not necessary addition to whole wheat bread. Most dough enhancers contain whey, tofu powder, citric acid, soy lecithin, sea salt, corn starch and yeast. The essentials of a dough enhancer are protein, acid, starch and sugar. To tell you the truth, if I had to choose between adding gluten and adding dough enhancer, I’d go with the gluten. However, since I have easy access to both products at most of my local grocery stores, I use both of them. They each bring something to the party, albeit gluten brings a bigger present. *Visit the “Learn More About It” link at the end of this tutorial for some great information on the function of a dough enhancer.
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Whole Wheat Bread
and the non-instant powdered milk.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Bread
Put the lid on the mixer (if your mixer has a lid) and turn the mixer on a medium setting. Mix for about 7-10 minutes until the ingredients are smooth and well blended.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Add another cup of flour and allow the mixer to work it into the dough. This will be cup #6.  Add cup #7 and again allow the mixer to incorporate the flour into the dough. You’ll need to increase the speed of the mixer so that it can handle the increasing heaviness of the dough.
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Whole Wheat Bread
This is what my dough looks like after 7 cups of flour.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Bread
When you get to cup #8, add it about 1/2 cup at a time, allowing the mixer to to work the flour into the dough. You will notice that the dough is beginning to stick to itself and is forming a central mass, but it is also still sticking to the sides of the bowl. Keep adding the flour about 1/2 cup at a time for cup #9 and cup #10 (if needed).  At some magical point, usually between cups 9 and 10, the dough will leave or clean the sides of the bowl. This is the signal that the dough has enough flour in it. STOP adding flour and allow the mixer to knead the dough for another ten minutes. Make sure to keep the lid on the bowl–I have it off in these photos so that I could take pictures of the kneading process.
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So, while the dough is kneading, heat your oven to about 150 degrees F. Newer ovens may only go as low as 170 degrees. Once the oven has heated. Turn it off, but leave the door closed.

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Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Bread
While the oven is heating and the dough is kneading, prepare the baking pans. The pans will need to be greased. I usually just spray them with a cooking spray, then spread the spray around evenly with a paper towel.

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It is necessary for the dough to knead until it has become smooth and elastic. You will be able to see fine bubbles just barely below the surface of the dough. When you pull a portion of the dough it will be very stretchy if it has been kneaded enough. Tearing instead of stretching indicates that the dough needs to be kneaded (don’t we all) some more. See how the dough thins out in the middle when I gently pull it? This indicates that the gluten has been well worked in this dough and the proteins have formed stretchy little strands, perfectly designed to hold onto gas bubbles formed by the fermenting yeast.  The following pictures are just for fun to show the characteristics of well developed gluten in this bread dough. Sometimes before I form the bread into loaves I like to take a minute or two to play with the dough. I try to see how thin I can get it without it breaking. Today when I tried to remove the lid from the mixing bowl the dough stretched like sheer curtains between the lid and bowl. It was so cool.
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Bread

 Isn’t it amazing??????

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Alrighty. Time to get back to work.

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Oil your hands and lightly oil your work surface. Alternatively, you can lightly flour your work surface, but I have found that lightly oiling the work surface is better for handling the dough.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Turn the dough out onto the work surface.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Gather the dough into a large ball. Turn it over and then over again so that the dough picks up a very light coating of oil.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Slice the large ball of dough into fourths of approximately the same size. I use a kitchen scale so that I can get each fourth as close to the same weight as possible. Shape into four balls.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Knead each ball of dough a few times to work out any large gas bubbles from the yeast.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Then, shape the dough into a loaf shape. This dough was very soft and pliable, easy to shape.
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Whole Wheat Bread
I prefer to make the loaf shape as long as the interior of the pan.  As the loaf rises, it gets support from all sides of the pan.
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Whole Wheat Bread
Open the oven and place the pans side by side allowing a little room between each pan. The bread pans should not be touching the edges of the oven.

/Whole Wheat BreadHeat the oven to 150-dgrees F (as low as 120-degrees F if your oven can be set that low). Some ovens cannot be set any lower than 170-degrees F, so simply turn off the oven before it reaches the 170-degree F. The point is to have a warm oven, not hot, just warm. After the oven has warmed, turn it off. Place a damp kitchen towel (preferably not terry cloth) over the loaves of bread. Close the oven door. Turn on the oven light, which will help to keep a warm environment for the bread to rise.

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Whole Wheat Bread
When the loves have doubled in bulk they will be about 1 1/2-inches above the top of the pan. They are now ready for baking. Leave the bread in the oven and turn the oven on to 350-degrees F. The bread only takes about 25-30 minutes to bake, maybe even less, so keep an eye on it. When the bread is done, the color will be golden brown.
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/Whole Wheat BreadWhole Wheat BreadTake the bread out of the oven, remove it from the oven and place each loaf on a wire rack to cool. While the bread is still hot, rub butter over the top of each loaf, if desired.

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Whole Wheat Bread
Here’s a Tip: I’ll share a little trick I learned to help keep the bread stay moist and tender while it is cooling. Using the same damp towel that was draped over the bread while it was rising, place the still damp towel over and around the loaves while they are cooling. If the towel is no longer damp, simply moisten it again, wring out the water well, and place the towel over the bread. As soon as the bread has cooled, place each loaf in a plastic bag and tie securely closed.  If you’d prefer, you can slice the loaves prior to putting them in the bags. Any loaves of bread that you will no be using within a day or two can be wrapped and frozen. Remove from freezer as needed. The frozen bread can be removed by the slices as needed or the whole loaf can removed and defrosted for use.

I hope that you enjoy your delicious homemade bread.

Whole Wheat Bread

Like warm, tender, sweet, homemade dinner rolls? Of course you do!

For a GREAT roll recipe with step-by-step instructions see my Paradise Dinner Roll recipe, which is sort of a King’s Hawaiian Roll knock-off…except BETTER!

Learn More About It:

 

100% Whole Wheat Bread

Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 loaves

This recipe is designed to be made in high capacity mixer such as a Bosch. If using a stand mixer such as a Kitchenaid, please halve the ingredients stated in the recipe. Recipe by Terri @ that's some good cookin'

Ingredients

  • 4 cups warm water, divided
  • 3 tablespoons instant yeast (I use SAF instant yeast)
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2-4 tablespoons oil (I use 4 tablespoons canola oil)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2/3 cup non-instant powdered milk
  • 3-4 tablespoons dough enhancer
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 8-10 cups whole wheat flour

Instructions

  1. Stir yeast into 1 cup of warm water with a pinch of sugar. Allow yeast to activate. Watch carefully because the yeast can get very active very quickly.
  2. While the yeast is activating, pour the remaining 3 cups of warm water in the mixing bowl of your mixer. Add the honey, oil, and salt.
  3. Pour the activated yeast in the bowl with the other liquid ingredients.
  4. Sprinkle 5 cups of the whole wheat flour over the liquid ingredients.
  5. Sprinkle the powdered milk, dough enhancer, and vital wheat gluten over the flour.
  6. Put the dough hook in place and toggle the control of the mixer a few times to mix the ingredients.
  7. Then, turn mixer on to medium power and allow the machine to work the dough for about 7-10 minutes.
  8. After the dough looks smooth and the ingredients are well incorporated, add cup #6 of flour. Allow the mixer to incorporate the flour into the dough, then add cup #7 of flour, again allowing the mixer to incorporate the flour.
  9. The dough will start getting thicker and heavier, add #8 cup of flour 1/2 cup at a time and allow mixer to incorporate the flour. The dough will be much heavier and will require a higher setting on your mixer.
  10. Cups #9 and #10 need to be added in half cups also. However, probably somewhere between cups 9 and 10 you will notice that the dough is no longer clinging to the edges of the bowl. When you see this happen, stop adding flour to the dough. Put the lid on the bowl and allow the mixer to continue to knead the dough for another 10 minutes.
  11. After ten minutes, check the dough. It should look smooth and elastic. It will be tacky, but it should not be sticky. There's a difference. Sticky dough clings to your fingers indicating that it is too wet and may need a little bit more flour. A standard for telling if the dough has enough flour in it is to take two floured fingers and stick them down into the dough. If your fingers come out clean with no dough sticking to them, then your dough does not need any more flour.
  12. A smooth elastic dough will have tiny air bubbles just under the surface. Additionally, if you try to gently pull a small pinch of dough from the main body of dough it will stretch away from the dough. If it snaps or tears away, your dough requires more kneading.
  13. Once the dough is ready, lightly oil your hands and the work surface. Turn the dough out onto the oiled work surface and shape into a ball. Turn the ball of dough over and then over again to pick up a very light coating of oil.
  14. Cut the ball of dough into fourths. Try to make them as evenly weighted as possible. I use a kitchen scale for this task. Gather each fourth into a ball and allow to sit on counter while you prep the baking pans.
  15. Preheat the oven between 150-170 degrees F. Spray each bread pan (I use an 8-inch bread pan) with cooking spray. Take a paper towel and use it to wipe the cooking spray evenly around the interior of each pan.
  16. Knead each dough ball a few times to work out gas bubbles from the yeast. Form each dough ball into a loaf shape and transfer them to the bread pans.
  17. Turn off the oven and place the pans inside the oven for the dough to rise. Using a damp kitchen towel, place the towel over the dough while it rises. This will keep the dough from drying out.
  18. Once the dough has doubled in bulk and has risen about 1 1/2-inches above the top of the pan, turn the oven on to 350-degrees. Yes, you should leave the bread in the oven during the heating up process, this will be a part of the cooking time. The bread should be ready in about 30 minutes, maybe even sooner. Check on it after 20 minutes to see how things are progressing. The bread is ready when it turns golden brown.
  19. Remove the bread from the oven, take out of the pans and place on a wire rack. If desired, the tops of the bread can be buttered at this time. Additionally, I have a trick that I like to use to help the crusts stay soft while the bread is cooling. I take the same damp towel that I used to cover the bread when it was rising and use it to cover the bread while it is cooling. The moisture from the towel and the heat from the bread help to make a great environment for having soft bread crusts.
  20. Place the bread in plastic bags as soon as it is cool. Bread that is not going to be used within a couple of days can be frozen for future use. Some people like to slice the bread all at once so that everything is ready to go when its time to make sandwiches or toast. Also, at least in my family, there are those whose knife skills leave a lot to be desired, so a more skilled person is assigned (or chooses) to do all of the slicing! (I wonder who THAT might be?)
http://tsgcookin.com/2012/01/100-whole-wheat-bread/

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