Successful Whole Wheat Bread Baking

By: Crystal Miller

Have you tried to make whole wheat bread but found the results less than appealing? Perhaps you weren't sure if the loaf should be eaten or used as a door stop! Don't despair; whole wheat bread baking success is something you can achieve. Perhaps some of my tips and hints will get you started on the right path. The results of your efforts will not only be better nutrition for your family but it will be something that they will love to eat.

The first thing to consider for successful bread is the type of wheat you will use. There are basically 2 types of wheat, 'hard' and 'soft'. Each one is used for baking but only the hard is used for bread or any baking done with yeast. The 'soft' wheat, commonly called 'pastry flour' is used for quick breads. If you are using flour (as apposed to grinding the whole wheat grain), make sure the package says "Best for Bread" or "Bread Flour" or something of this nature. For the absolute best quality and taste, freshly ground wheat is the ideal choice. But when I started baking I did not have a grinder or access to one and bought many, many bags of whole wheat flour from the health food store.

Another secret that I have learned to make a soft textured whole wheat bread is to add a little gluten flour (this is also referred to as Vital Wheat Gluten) to the bread. Gluten is a protein normally found in flour. This helps give your bread elasticity and helps it to rise much better than it would without it. If you add gluten flour (usually found in health food stores) to you bread you will need to add about 2 to 3 T per loaf.

Yeast is another crucial aspect to bread baking. If you don't bake a lot and then one day discover an older opened jar of yeast in the cupboard and use it, well you may end up with a baking failure. Only use fresh yeast as it does have a useful shelf life. If you buy your yeast in a jar or bag from a warehouse store (like Costco or Sam's Club), then make sure to store the opened package in your refrigerator or freezer for best results. If you are not sure your yeast is working simply test it before you begin baking. This will save you a lot of frustration and cost of ingredients. To test your yeast put about  cup of nicely warm water in a bowl and sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of yeast over this. You can also sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of sugar in as this will help the yeast. Wait 5 to 10 minutes. By this time the yeast should be nice and bubbly in the bowl. If it is not, toss the yeast because it has gotten to old. One last comment on yeast, if you store it in the freezer make sure to take it out a few hours ahead of the time you will use it so it can warm up.

Temperature is very important. When you add your liquid (some recipes call for water others call for milk) to the yeast it must be warm enough to make the yeast react but not too warm or it will kill the yeast. So what is the proper temperature for yeast? It is about 100 to 110 degrees. Cooler temps will cause the bread to rise very slowly. I don't use a thermometer to test the temperatures of my yeast. I run the water from the faucet over my wrist and wait until it feels a little more than comfortably warm to me. When your bread is rising it also needs to stay warm. Set it in a draft free area. I let mine rise in the oven. You can turn your oven on for just a few minutes to slightly warm it, then turn it off (very important!) when you can feel the first bit of heat and let your loaves rise in there. If you don't have a good standard recipe to try then perhaps you would like to use mine. This is the recipe I always use to make my family's bread.

Delicious Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

In a stand up type mixer such as a Kitchen Aid combine water, yeast and honey. Let this sit for about 5 minutes or until the yeast is nice and bubbly. Add oil, salt, gluten flour and 3 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Knead this with your mixer and continue to add more flour until the dough does not stick to the side of the bowl and does not feel sticky to the touch. Knead for another 7 to 8 minutes.

When dough has finished kneading let it sit in the mixer bowl and rise until doubled in volume. This usually takes about 45 minutes. When it has finished rising, turn on your mixer and knead again for a few more minutes to get all the air bubbles out. Remove from mixer and divide the dough into 2 pieces and shape into loaves and put in bread pans that have been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Let the loaves rise until they are about 1 inch above the rim of the bread pan. Bake at 350 for approx. 30 minutes or until golden brown.

The last thing I would like to say is that bread baking is an art. It takes time to get a feel for it, to know when the ingredients are just right and to know what it takes to have great success. I have been baking bread for my family for many years. So I know it is an art that greatly improves with time and experience!

© 2004 Crystal Miller

Crystal Miller is the mother of 8 children and enjoys her God given role as wife, homemaker and mother! She has a small cookbook available in both book form and e-book on baking breads, quick breads and desserts with whole foods. You can find information on her homemaking and country living website, The Family Homestead She also has a free monthly newsletter, Homestead Happenings available.

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