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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 ¼ 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 a bit.

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
makes 2 loaves
Crystal Miller

2 cups warm water
1 T yeast
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup oil
2 t. salt
1/3 cup gluten
5 to 7 cups whole wheat flour, freshly ground if possible
(I use Hard White Wheat)

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 ½ to 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!

Copyright: Crystal Miller, 2004

About the Author Crystal Miller ( ) is a mother of 8
children and enjoys her God given role as wife, homemaker
and mother! She loves to bake with whole grains and real
food! She has a new cookbook available called: The Family
Homestead Kitchen, Volume, 1 ‘Yeast Breads, Quick Breads and
Desserts’. Crystal has a homemaking and country living web
site called The Family Homestead  and has a free monthly
newsletter called Homestead Happenings. You will find sign
up information on her website.