Saturday, March 2, 2013

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

This is my favorite sandwich bread. Rather, it was my favorite until my tummy decided to punish me if I ate grain. But true to the name of this blog, I continue to cook (and bake) what they (my family or our guests) love. So today I made two loaves of this yummy bread. My girls couldn't wait for it to come out of the oven.

I start by grinding white spring wheat at the finest setting. You don't have to ;) just look for a finely ground white/golden whole wheat flour like Prairie Gold. If you have red winter wheat flour, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of vital wheat gluten to get a better rise.

This bread uses a pre-dough sponge to achieve a soft even crumb and substantial rise. Most but not all of the ingredients are mixed together and then left to rest, acting like an extra rise to fully activate the yeast and to soften some of the bran in the whole grain flour. Even finely ground, the bran is still more coarse than refined white flour and can make developing the gluten structure more difficult. This is why many whole grain recipes depend on added vital wheat gluten. I prefer to work with the dough instead of adding more gluten. So many people are sensitive to gluten, I see no reason to purposely add more unless absolutely necessary.

After the sponge has been allowed to rest, slowly mix in the remaining flour. I use my stand mixer to knead the dough for me. If you don't have a mixer capable of kneading dense moist dough, you can mix in most of the flour with a heavy spoon and then add flour while kneading to achieve the correct texture. The dough should be elastic and moist to the touch but not sticky.

Very sticky!

 Add 1/4c flour & continue kneading


Once the dough has reached this point (approximately 3-4 minutes of kneading with a stand mixer & dough hook or 8-10 minutes of kneading by hand) you will transfer the dough to a well greased bowl.

Turn the dough to cover it in oil (prevents the dough from drying and forming a skin) and cover with a clean tea towel. Set it in a warm place to rise for at least an hour and a half, up to two hours. I set a timer do I don't forget :)

When this first rise is over, turn on your oven to 350*F. Oil a standard size bread pan very thoroughly. Turn the dough out onto the counter and gently shape it into a loaf. You want to eliminate any large air bubbles without removing all of the small air bubbles. Place the loaf into the prepared pan, cover, and allow to rise an additional 30-40 minutes. If you worked the dough too much, it may take up to an hour for the dough to raise sufficiently. My batch today had developed a dry skin during the first rise, so I kneaded it for 10-15 stokes to mix the drier dough back in. I then let it rise for an hour, until the top of the dough was 1-2" above the edge of the bread pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. I test for doneness by inserting a bread knife nearly all the way into the loaf. If the knife comes out clean, the bread is done.

I missed an air bubble in this loaf - thankfully it only affected two slices:

I hope you enjoy this bread as much as my family does!

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
(makes 1 loaf)

1.5 cups warm water
2 Tbsp coconut oil (1oz)
3 Tbsp honey (2oz)
1 tsp unrefined salt
2 tsp dry yeast
3.5-4 cups whole wheat flour

1. Start by making a sponge. Measure coconut oil and honey into mixing bowl. Add very warm water and mix to melt coconut oil and dissolve honey. Check that the water is no warmer than comfortable bath temperature, approx 105*F. Add the salt, yeast, and 1.5cups of flour. Mix well. Sprinkle another half cup of flour over this sponge and then cover the whole bowl/mixer with a clean tea towel. Let rest for 30 minutes until bubbly.

2. Mix in the remaining flour, half a cup at a time. You want a moist but not sticky dough that holds it's shape without being stiff or dry. The dough will spring back slowly when you touch it. Kneading, after incorporating flour, will take 2-3 minutes in a stand mixer or 8-10 minutes by hand.

3. Generously oil a large bowl. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to evenly distribute oil across dough. Cover bowl with tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 1.5-2 hours. The dough should have doubled in size.

4. Generously oil a standard loaf pan. Form dough into a loaf. Place in pan, cover, and let rise again for another 30-45 minutes until doubled. Dough should be at least one inch above rim of pan. Do not let the dough rise too far, it may collapse while cooling. Preheat oven to 350*F during this final rise.

5. Bake at 350*F for 30-35 minutes. Check for doneness as described above. Lay pan on side on cooling rack. After 5 minutes switch to other side. After another 5 minutes, run knife around sides of loaf and gently remove from pan. Ideally, let bread cool completely before cutting for best quality.

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