Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Happy Medium

These are the results of my (seemingly) endless efforts to bake a decent loaf of whole wheat bread. Since replacing just one cup of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour does not maketh a loaf of bread whole wheat I started by using only whole wheat flour.
We suffered through numerous loaves that were either too hard, too rough, or as the children called it too healthy before I came to the conclusion that all purpose flour was required (or kneaded, get it?). I did not experiment using bread flour as I hardly ever have it on hand.
The magic ratio, for me, was 3:2 of whole wheat flour:all purpose flour. The resulting loaf is gorgeous and it slices perfectly.
Making a PB&J using home made bread for the children's lunch boxes is such a joy!
2 cups (16 oz) warm water, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet of yeast)
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoons vital wheat gluten (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt

In a large bowl pour one cup of warm water (between 105-110F) and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let it bubble, about 5-6 minutes. If this mixture doesn't bubble, you'll have to start over with another packet of yeast. Sorry!
Stir in the second cup of warm water and two cups of all purpose flour and set aside for about ten minutes.

Add the whole wheat flour, wheat gluten (if using), salt, sugar, and the oil. Stir till just combined. The dough will be very sticky but that is okay. Set aside the dough for another ten minutes.

Knead the dough by hand or using the hook attachment of a stand mixer till the dough is no longer sticky; about 10-11 minutes. If the dough seems too sticky even after kneading for 6-7 minutes add just a bit of flour at a time, no more than a teaspoon at a time. When the dough is smooth, form it into a ball.

Oil the inside of the large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover the bowl and set it in a warm place or a warm oven. I usually set the oven on 'warm' as I start mixing the dough and turn it off before I start adding in the whole wheat flour etc. The oven by them is warm enough.

In about two hours the dough should double in size.

Sprinkle a bit of flour on your work surface and turn out the dough. Lightly knead the dough for about a minute. Divide the dough into two and shape each half into a rectangular log. When forming a loaf, stretch the top and tuck it under the loaf. Stretch as much as you can without tearing the surface.
Let the loaves rest for about 15-20 minutes.

While the loaves of dough rest, preheat the oven to 400F.
Place the dough into lightly oiled loaf pans and score the tops with a serrated knife. Three slashes per loaf should suffice.
Place the loaves on the middle rack of the oven and then reduce the oven temperature to 375F.
Spritz the inside of the oven with water. About 7-8 spritzes should be enough. This creates steam which helps keep the loaves soft.

Bake the loaves for about 30-35 minutes or till the top of the loaves turn a golden brown. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. If they don't, put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Remove the loaves from the pans and set them on a cooling rack.
Cool completely before slicing. Not an easy task, I know.

Notes: Replace one cup of water with a cup of milk (2% or whole) for a more tender and slightly richer loaf.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to me the.best.cooker@gmail.com or tweet @cooker_baker. Thanks for stopping by.
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