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How to Bake A 100% Whole Wheat Loaf

The very first bread was a simple loose mixture of crushed whole grains and water, blended into gruel, and then flattened to dry in the sun or baked over a fire. Over the past 6000 years, the loaf has evolved to include everything from nuts and seeds to complex chemicals designed to make bread soft and fluffy with a long shelf life. Bread Comes to Life Scientists have figured out how to remove vitamins and minerals and then add them back in; and inventors have built machinery that can make a loaf without being touched by human hands. Somewhere between these two extremes is the classic handmade whole grain loaf that is both hearty and delicious.

Despite its reputation, it is easy and satisfying to make a fine loaf of100% whole wheat bread. As with anything worth learning, the keys are patience and practice along with a simple understanding of the ingredients and how they work together. Here’s a one-loaf recipe worth trying with all ages, from 3 on up. The ingredients are easy to find, and the technique is simple.

Recipe

1 1/2 cups of water
1/4 cup of honey
1 packet of active dry yeast
1/4 cup of vegetable oil.
Two teaspoons of salt
3 1/2 cups of whole wheat bread flour

Procedure

The water should be lukewarm (body temperature) to help dissolve the honey and support the growth of the yeast. Honey is for flavor and also food for the yeast. Yeast, a living plant cell, is the magical force that gives bread it’s lift and unique aroma. Oil makes for a cake-like texture and helps the bread stay moist. The salt brings out the taste of all the ingredients.

Stir IngredientsCombine the ingredients, one at a time, in a large bowl – stirring them together in the order presented – finally adding the flour one cup at a time and keeping a half cup aside until the dough is ready to knead on the table top.

Blend with a spoon and/or your hands until it begins to form a lump. Then lightly dust the table top with some of the remaining flour, turn the mound out of the bowl, and let it rest for 10 minutes so the flour can more fully absorb the water. Dust hands with a little of the extra flour and begin kneading as follows: (1) gently push the dough away from you so that it flattens out, (2) give it a quarter turn and (3) fold it in half toward you. Think of it as push, turn, and fold. Repeat the process as many as 100 times, dusting your hands and the table to prevent the dough from sticking. The key here is to make sure the dough stays moist knead doughand soft – so add just enough flour during the kneading to keep the dough from becoming stiff and dry. Some bakers prefer to use a little vegetable oil instead of flour during the kneading. When the kneading is done, the dough will be soft and tender like the lobe of your ear. Pour a little oil into the mixing bowl, and roll the kneaded dough inside the bowl so that it is coated with the oil. Cover the bowl with a dishcloth or plastic wrap, and let it double in size in a corner of the kitchen where there are no drafts.


Punch the Dough Down

After about an hour, punch it down in the bowl to release the carbon dioxide made by the yeast. Turn it back onto the table top and knead it another 25 to 50 times to further develop the gluten and fully release the carbon dioxide. Shape it into a ball, and press it into a greased standard metal bread pan (8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches). Cover it with a cloth, and let it rise until it’s about a half inch over the brim of the pan. Bake it at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. To know if it is done, remove it from the pan and tap the bottom. A clear hollow sound means it’s fully baked. Set it on a wire rack and let it cool. It is actually still baking until it reaches room temperature. But in this case, temptation has its rewards.

Once you begin making your own bread, you will find countless recipes as well as answers to all of your questions either from your own experience or from other bakers and the hundreds of books written on the subject. Whatever recipe you use and however the bread turns out, baking a loaf of homemade bread is a wonderful combination of simplicity, artistry, and nutrition as well a unique way of partaking in the history of humanity. When you have gained confidence, double the recipe. Giving a loaf to a neighbor or friend is a most precious gift of caring and love.

Slice bread

 


©2004-2008, George Levenson

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