Sunday, February 8, 2009

Recipes | Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Here's my recipe for sandwich bread. I decided to start making my own sometime around Christmas and haven't bought bread since. I had some flops, but this version is working well and tastes great. I had some criteria for it:

- It had to be 100% whole wheat. A lot of sandwich bread recipes are half white. A lot of whole wheat bread flour is half white. I say no.

- It had to taste yummy. Obviously.

- It had to be moist and rise well. Many of my early attempts met the first two requirements but didn't rise much.

This is what I came up with. It's a variation of this recipe. I'm making this as detailed as possible, to give beginner bread makers confidence. I'll give you the how to first, and then explain it later. With footnotes. Eeeexcellent.

3 cups warm water
2 packages or 4.4 tsp active dry yeast*
1/3 cup honey
6Tbs vital wheat gluten**
4 cups whole wheat flour***

3Tbs butter, melted (you can also use olive oil)
1/3 cup honey
1 tbs salt
3-5 cups whole wheat flour

1) Get a big bowl and add 3 cups of warm water. Not hot, you'll kill the yeast, feel it on your wrist. Add the yeast, 1/3 cup honey, 6 Tbsp of gluten and 4 cups of flour. Stir to combine. It will look something like this:

2) Cover it with a damp tea towel**** and let it rise in a warm place for about half an hour or until big and bubbly. My warm place is next to my radiator. You can also put it in the oven with the light on. If it's cold it'll take the yeast a longer time to get to work.

Big and bubbly:

3) Mix in the 3 tbsp melted butter 1/3 cup of honey and salt. Here's where it gets tricky if you've never worked with yeast. You need to add the right amount of flour. Start with 2 cups and start kneading it in. Keep adding flour a bit at a time as you go until it is still a bit moist but not too sticky. You will figure this out with a bit of practice. Some people turn the bread out onto a floured surface to knead. I don't know why. I just knead in the bowl. If you've never kneaded bread...I dunno, look it up on youtube? Pretty much you just keep pushing it around and folding it over. This might take...10 minutes? You will be done kneading when the bread feels smooth and elastic. So they say. You'll notice that it feels different.

Another way to tell is to take a bit of dough and stretch it into a square between your fingers. If you can make a little window transparent enough to see light through without the dough breaking, it's done. Try doing this with one hand and taking a picture with the other hand. I dare you.

4) Either wash your bowl or switch bowls at this point. Put a bit of olive oil in the bottom of the bowl and grease it. Then put the dough in and give it a turn before flipping it over so the greased side is up. This helps prevent it getting a skin as it rises.

5) Cover with a warm, moist towel again and let it get back to rising. It rises until doubled. Or until you poke it with your finger and it the hole doesn't fill back in.

6) Divide into three equal parts. Take each part one at a time and throw it repeatedly onto the counter/table as hard as you can. This is good fun. And great for working out your anger issues. Oh, and for getting out air bubbles.

7) Preheat oven to 350.

8) Grease***** three loaf pans. Use steel. You'll hate yourself if you use glass. Trust me. Form three loafs. You kinda flatten the bread, then fold/roll the sides over to make a loaf shape. Pinch the bottom together and put it in the pan.

9)Cover and rise again, until the dough is about an inch over the top of the pan. If you over-rise at this point they can collapse in the oven.

10) Bake for 25-30 minutes until nice and brown. Also until the bread sounds hollow when you tap the bottom of the pan. I haven't mastered this. The hollow sound I mean, but that's what they say. (I hijaked a third to make cinnamon buns...there should be three loaves)

11) Turn the loafs out onto a cooling rack and wait until cool to slice. I always end up cutting the crusts off and eating them hot because I love them sooooo much. But if you wait it's easier to slice. Apparently cutting into it too early disrupts the loaf structure. So don't be like me (but it's soooo good).

12) Enjoy! I recommend pre-slicing and freezing two loafs as the shelf life is shorter than store bought bread. Because we didn't add any weird chemicals.


* I buy my yeast in a jar and keep it in the freezer so that it stays good for longer.

** Vital wheat gluten is extra protein. Whole wheat flour has less protein than white. This is why it doesn't rise as well. The gluten helps the yeast along and makes it rise better. I get an inch more rise at least with the gluten and a fluffier texture. Cheating? Kind of. But so is yeast if you think about it. I buy mine at the health food store and keep it in the fridge. Add 2 Tbsp per loaf. My mom swears by using vinegar, by the way. I can't make it work...I've heard that it works better with sugar and I prefer honey.

*** Your flour is very important. As in, don't buy a huge bag until you know it works for you. It has to do with the grind, and the type of wheat and a bunch of things. Here is what I use and love. It's what my mom and gramma both swear by, and they are more knowledgeable than me by far in these matters. We get it from Cosco.

**** You should have a tea towel just for bread, cause it can get oil stained and such. Some people swear by potato sacks (which you can buy at Canadian don't need to get potatoes :P) and some people use plastic wrap. But I say boooo to plastic.

***** You can use Pam. But I think Pam is for weenies. It's only fat free if you spray for 1/3 of a second? And has propellant? Aerosol? Use olive oil with a pastry brush. Barely takes any. Or use your butter wrapper. That's what it's for.

That's all! (and maybe too much, but what can you do?) My main recommendation is not to be scared, just give it a go. If you fail...well...try to eat it while it's still warm. Even doorstop worthy bread is good with butter when it's still warm. Let me know if you try it!