Our next adventure in bread baking is wheat bread. One of my favorite things to eat is warm wheat bread with honey drizzled on it. The combination of the hearty wheat and sweet honey flavors are mingled to make a wondrous flavor on the tongue. Wheat bread has a different scent to it when it is baking than white bread does. White bread gives off a nice yeasty scent, while wheat has a stronger wheaty scent that fills the air. Wheat bread also tends to be a more filling bread, so one slice will fill you up pretty well.
Making wheat bread isn’t that different from making white bread. The main difference is that you are adding in whole wheat flour as well as all-purpose white flour. And so, our adventure in baking wheat bread begins…
The first thing you should do is read over the whole recipe so you have an idea as to what utensils you are going to need, what ingredients are used and what the basic process is going to be while making the bread. It is best to be prepared so there aren’t any surprises while in the process of baking.
Sprinkle the yeast on 1/4 cup of warm water and stir to dissolve.
Dissolve the brown sugar and salt in the 2 1/2 cups of warm water. Add the shortening and stir until it is melted. I had to heat mine in the microwave for about a minute to get the shortening to totally dissolve.
Add the whole wheat flour, 1 cup of the all-purpose flour and the yeast to the warm water mixture. Beat thoroughly to mix well.
Stir in remaining all-purpose flour to make a dough that leaves the side of the bowl. I kneaded my dough with Thor until it wasn’t sticky any more and was smooth and elastic. I took the dough out of the bowl and covered it with a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes; in the meantime, I cleaned out the bowl and rubbed some canola oil in it. After the 10 minutes was up, I kneaded the dough by hand for a little bit and worked it into a ball shape. I then placed it in the oiled bowl, put a towel over it and set it in a warm place to rise. Take note that wheat bread can take longer to rise; so don’t be surprised if it isn’t doubled in size in an hour.
You will remember that all yeast bread recipes tell you to punch down the dough after it has risen. Well, it’s not just something that is said and means something else. They actually mean for you to punch the dough! Not just once, but as many times as it takes to get the air out of the dough. As you can see from the pictures above, that when you punch down the dough it should leave a defined shape in the dough.
I decided to finally show just how crazy I am by taking a picture to show how I divide my dough in half. I actually weigh out the whole ball of dough and then divide that weight in half for making my 2 loaves of bread. I will admit that even though the 2 balls of dough weigh the same I still don’t get totally even sized loaves of bread. It just goes to show that rising bread dough has a mind of its own.
One of these days I will need to look and see if I can find the instructions, I once saw, on how to “properly” shape your dough into a loaf shape. What the process involves is kneading the bread one more time to help it rise better and to make a firmer loaf of bread. I tend to just work the bread a bit and stretch it and fold and shape it into the basic shape of the loaf pan. I put the dough in the bottom of the pan and gently press on it till the dough fills in the corners. Cover the pans with a towel and put in a warm place to rise.
I’m sure many of you were wondering if I just paced around the kitchen while I impatiently waited for the dough to rise; this is not the case. I use this downtime to clean up around the kitchen and do other things around the house. This time I was also preparing a chicken marinade for our dinner. While the bread was in the oven, baking, I was busy helping my fiance grill chicken for dinner. We had planned on having fresh wheat bread with our dinner, and as the rise times took longer than expected, dinner was later than usual.
This is why the picture of the finished bread is shown with part of a loaf being already gone. We were very excited about having the fresh wheat bread with our dinner that we cut into it right out of the oven. We didn’t even wait for it to cool down first. And let me tell you, cutting hot bread is not that easy. But the cookbook is nice and has an explanation on how to cut warm bread.
To Slice Warm Bread
Lay the fragrant, hot loaf on its side on bread board. Cut in neat slices with an electric knife.
Source: Homemade Bread 1969; page 14
I don’t have an electric knife, so I just used a bread knife to slice the bread, but I will admit that slicing it while it is on its side really is very helpful. It keeps the top of the bread from squishing flat. The only thing I can add to this is that it is really better to just be patient and wait for the bread to cool before cutting it. It will prevent unnecessarily scorched fingertips.
Today’s recipe can be found here: Whole Wheat Bread