This was originally just supposed to be a recipe to put under the "Recipes" category. Bam. Check mark. Done. Move onto the next baking project. But sometimes you get knocked down a peg and realize as much as you like to bake, you're not a prodigal baker by any means. I was humbled this past Saturday when I attempted this whole wheat sandwich bread.
Not terrible for my first try. But let's be honest here. I was expecting light, fluffy whole wheat bread with a nutty flavor, perfect for making my turkey sandwiches for lunch. Up there, that is neither light nor fluffy. We're talking dense bread. An okay flavor, but not incredible. Not to mention, pretty ugly. The one on the left there has some sort of tumor growing out of it's side, and the one on the right just looks like a butternut squash to me. Just, no.
I could just dismiss this whole thing by saying that the recipe was bogus, that the authors had no clue what they were talking about. But realistically, I've got a lot to learn about my little yeast friends and the art of bread baking.
So here is a new series I'm adding to the blog that I have so comedically named "Breadventures." It will be just a more focused series of posts about my attempts at baking bread. I'll try my best to analyze what went wrong, although disclaimer, I'm no bread expert. Heck, I'm not even a baking expert. If you have any ideas on what went wrong, feel free to chime in on the comments and help me out!
The first problem with this bread: not enough moisture. I think it may have been too much flour at the very beginning, when you make your yeast-water combination and then add milk, honey, and flour, etc. It just seemed so dry, not sticky like all the recipes say! Regardless, I moved on and hoped for the best.
The second problem was the kneading. I definitely did not knead the dough long enough, which resulted in a very dense bread. I did a little reading on this, and found that the point of kneading the dough is to expand the gliadin and glutenin proteins in the flour so that it forms strands of gluten. When the dough doesn't have this expansion, it cannot hold the CO2 that forms when the bread is baking, so the loaf will collapse and turn out very heavy. A lot of recipes recommend using bread flour instead of all purpose and whole wheat flour because it is higher in protein.
As a side note, kneading is tough work! I was so tired by the end of the process. I'm going to have to start lifting weights or something, because I see myself kneading plenty more dough in the future.
I think those were the main two issues with the dough this time around. As a result, my dough seemed dry almost the whole time I was working with it, and it didn't rise nearly as well as bread dough should. However, I still came out with two decent loaves of bread! They reminded me a lot of those loaves of bread we baked back in middle school when we played Oregon Trail as a class. I totally remember this. My team died in the snow pass. Do you remember how your team died? Let's be real, no one wins at Oregon Trail.
Still tasted pretty good with a smear of peanut butter! Until next time everyone!
Whole wheat bread
1 cup warm (not hot) water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
2 and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
Pour the water into the bowl of a standing mixer and sprinkle the yeast over top. Let this stand for a few minutes until the yeast has dissolved. Stir in the milk, honey, and oil.
Add two cups of all-purpose flour and the salt, and stir to combine the ingredients. Add the rest of the all-purpose and whole wheat flours. Stir to form a shaggy dough. Let this stand for 20 minutes to give the flour time to absorb the liquid.
Using the dough hook attachment on a standing mixer, knead the dough for 8-9 minutes. Alternatively, knead the dough by hand against the counter. If the dough is bubble-gum sticky against the sides of the bowl or the counter, add extra flour a tablespoon at a time until it is no longer sticky. The dough is kneaded when it is smooth, feels slightly tacky, forms a ball without sagging, and springs back when poked.
Clean out the mixing bowl and film it with a little oil. Form the dough into a ball and turn it in the bowl to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm spot until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. This dough won't double quite as dramatically as other recipes, but the dough should look visibly puffed.
Sprinkle a little flour on the counter and turn the dough out on top. Divide the dough in two and shape each half into a loose ball. Let the balls rest for 10 minutes.
Grease two loaf pans or film them with non-stick cooking spray. Shape each ball of dough into a loaf (see this tutorial for step-by-step instructions) and transfer to the loaf pans. It's important that the surface of the loaves be stretched taut; this helps them rise and prevents an overly-dense interior. Let the loaves rise a second time until they start to dome over the edge of the pan, 30-40 minutes.
Heat the oven to 425°F about halfway through the second rise.
Slash the tops of the loaves with a serrated knife and put them in the oven. Immediately turn down the heat to 375°F and bake for 30-35 minutes. Finished loaves will be dark golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove the loaves from the pans and let them cool completely before slicing.
Loaves will keep at room temperature for several days. Loaves can also be wrapped in foil and plastic, and frozen for up to three months.