Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Homemade Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread

I've been posting my "Sunday Suppers" almost every Sunday for the last couple of months, but that's not the only Sunday project I've been working on. I made it one of my New Year's resolutions to make my own bread this year - and to perfect a whole wheat bread.

I've never really had a problem making white sandwich bread, or even using 1/2 white flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour - but 100% whole wheat has eluded me. Sometimes I'd get it mostly right, only to fail on successive attempts even though I was following the same recipe. Most times, it just seemed to turn out much too dense for my liking. Not to mention that it was never tall enough for a sandwich - more like a 1/2 sandwich. Yes, my attempts at whole-wheat bread have been sad to say the least.

That is, until now. After about 4 rounds of tweaks, I've finally come up with what I think is a great whole-wheat sandwhich bread. Just to be sure, I've made in the last 3 Sundays in a row and confirmed that it is reproducible with the same great results. As you can see, it has nice height and a lovely crumb:

One of the unusual things about this recipe (as far my recipes go anyway) is that the flour and water are measured in ounces and grams. I read somewhere that measuring bread ingredients by weight can help you get the right texture and eliminate the humid vs. dry flour issues that often crop up. I think it has turned out to be one of the keys to making this reproducible for me. For this latest loaf (pictured above), I threw in some millet and flax seeds for a little textural interest, and it still turned out just as I expected to. I think I've really found a winner here!

Homemade Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread

520 grams whole wheat flour
1/4 c. nonfat dried milk
2 tsp. rapid rise (or bread machine) yeast
3 Tbsp. sugar (or honey)
2 Tbsp. millet (optional)
1 Tbsp. flax seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp. oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups warm water

Mix together flour, dried milk, yeast, sugar and seeds (if using). Add oil, salt and water and stir just until combined into a shaggy dough. Let sit 20 minutes to allow the flour to soak in the water. (Dough will be sticky - that's OK. Don't add more flour!)
After resting, dump dough out onto a lightly floured board. The dough will still be a little sticky, but you want it that way to keep it from getting too dense. Knead it as best you can for about 5 minutes until dough feels firmer (almost like how gum gets after you chew it for a while). The dough won't get smooth, but you should notice it firm up as the gluten strengthens.
Put the kneaded dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
Punch down dough on your floured board and shape into a rectangle. Roll up the dough, tuck in the ends and place seam side down in a well-greased 8" loaf pan.
Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let sit about 1 hour until dough rises about 1" over the top of the loaf pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove plastic wrap and place bread in oven. Bake 25 minutes, then cover with foil and continue baking 20-25 minutes until cooked through.
Let cool about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges. Let cool another 10 minutes and run knife around the edges as needed to release bread from pan. Cool completely before slicing and storing in an airtight container.

I usually make a loaf and freeze it, pulling out a slice at a time as I need it. 30 seconds in the microwave and I've got fresh, yummy bread for sandwiches, toast and the occasional midnight munchie!


kathryn said...

Wow, honey! You consistently amaze and astound me with your talent! How does one weigh everything for this endeavor? I have to assume you've gotten yourself a handy-dandy kitchen scale.

For me, I think it would be infinitely easier for me to just move down the block!

ValleyWriter said...

Yup, Kathyrn - a handy dandy digital kitchen scale does the trick. I'm one of those neurotic folks who measures a lot of stuff they eat (how many ounces of meat, nuts, etc.) so I have one anyway.

As for moving down the block - how about next door? There's 2 lovely houses for sale! :-D

Craig Clarke said...

That's a beautiful sandwich bread. And I think it's great how you're treating cooking like a science, looking for "reproducibility" in your experiments. :)

Daily Spud said...

That is some very fine looking sandwich bread! I love 100% wholewheat bread, though whenever I make it, it is generally too dense too qualify as sandwich bread. Time to try again, methinks :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe, VW. I've never made any kind of bread before -- it always seems intimidating when I read recipes -- but this one doesn't. I bet even I could do it. And I would love having fresh, homemade bread available. I'm gonna give it a try!