Wheat Sandwich Bread

Could Chris Kimball overcome the two biggest problem plaguing most whole-wheat breads: bitterness and dense texture? His new (March 2011 recipe) claims to have solved both. The trick: soak the wheat flour in milk for up-to 24 hours. Not only does this soften the wheat-flour’s hard bran (which inhibits gluten development), but it also converts some of the starch into sugar (resulting in a less-bitter loaf). The result: the texture was perfect; not too dense and not Wonder-like. Unfortunately, my goal of making a better, kid-friendly, whole-wheat sandwich bread was undone my the inclusion of wheat-germ.

Great adult-friendly nutty flavor. My kids didn't like the complex flavors.

Unfortunately, I discovered that the boys don’t like the wheat germ’s nutty flavor. But for an adult, it is better than most store-bought wheat bread, and without all the preservatives.

Rating: 3-1/2-stars.
Cost: $1 each loaf.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 10:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I baked it over the past 2 days are given below:

Prepare the Biga (8 hours to 24 hours before baking):

2 cups bread flour (11 ounces)
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees) (8 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

  1. Heat 1 cup of water in microwave for 35 seconds to 100-110 degrees. Add yeast and let hydrate for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the 2 cups of flour to a large bowl, add water/yeast, and stir for about 1 minutes with wooden spoon until no dry flour remains. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let stand at room temperature overnight.

Prepare the Soaker (8 hours to 24 hours before baking):

3 cups whole-wheat flour (16 1/2 ounces)
1/2-cup wheat germ
2-cups whole milk (16 ounces)

  1. Add whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, and milk into a large bowl. Stir with wooden spoon for about 1 minute.
  2. Place dough on a lightly floured counter and knead for 3 minutes.
  3. Return the soaker to same bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare the Dough:

1/4 cup honey
4 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Additional flour for dusting work surface

  1. Rip soaker into 1″-pieces and put in bowl of stand mixer. Add biga, honey, salt, yeast, butter, and vegetable oil. Using a dough hook, mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase the mixer’s speed to medium and knead for 10 minutes.
  2. Put dough on lightly floured counter and knead by hand for 1 additional minute. Shape into a ball and place in lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise for 45 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Gently deflate the dough by pressing down on center.
  4. Use an oiled spatula to fold dough over itself; lift and fold edge of dough toward middle. Turn the bowl 90 degrees; and fold again. Keep turning and folding the dough for a total of 8 folds.
  5. Cover again and let rise until it has doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
  6. Adjust two oven racks to the middle and lowest positions. Put a baking stone on the middle rack. Pre-heat to 400-degrees. Spray two 8-1/2″ by 4-1/2″ loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.
  7. Turn dough out onto a well-floured counter and divide dough into 2 pieces.
  8. Working with one ball at a time, pat into an 8″ x 17″ rectangle. Roll the dough into firm 8″-long cylinder. Pinch the seam closed, and put into prepared loaf pan seam-side down. Lightly press into corners. Repeat with second dough ball. Cover both loaves with plastic wrap; let rise for between 60 and 90 minutes until doubled in size. The top of loaves should have risen 1″ over the lip of he pan.
  9. Place an empty heat-proof pan on the bottom oven rack. Boil 2 cups of on stovetop.
  10. Use a serrated knife to make a 1/4″-deep slash down center of each loaf. Pour the boiling water into empty pan and put loaves on baking stone. Reduce oven to 350-degrees. Bake for 45 minutes until internal temperature registers 200 degrees; rotating the loaves halfway through baking for an even crust.
  11. Transfer loaf pans to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Turn loafs out of pans and return to wire racks; allowing to cool for 2 hours to room temperature.

3 Responses to Wheat Sandwich Bread

  1. Jennifer says:

    Great article! I just made this bread today and it was wonderful. I was a bit disheartened that I had to add 6 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons of oil. I wonder how much of a difference it would make to either substitute these items with something else or cut down the amounts. What do you think?

  2. Janice says:

    Waste of ingredients.

  3. C says:

    I liked the texture. The flavor was surprising — more flavorful and very different from store-bought whole wheat sandwich loaves.

    I seem to be adapting quickly, though, as I’ve eaten at least half of a mini-loaf in the past 12 hours.

    The dough always seemed very wet and sticky, although I haven’t made many yeast breads.

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