Flour, water, yeast, salt, fat and something for the yeast to eat – the basic building blocks for a loaf of American-style bread. But of course, the proportions of each element are important, too. This Honey Whole Wheat Bread Recipe provides that. It yields two, soft-crust loaves, and is perfect for the bread machine.
I’ve talked about the benefits of whole-wheat versus white flour (see Baking With Whole Wheat Flour here). Baking with whole wheat flour introduces a few challenges if you’re used to using all-purpose flour.
Whole wheat flour contains germ and bran which soak up a lot more water than typical flour. If you see a recipe using it that doesn’t use more liquid than you’re used to (especially on Pinterest, the cornucopia of crappy recipes), you might want to look further. Typically, regular whole wheat flour will take about 5 more teaspoons of water per cup of flour. You may need even more if you’re in a dry climate like Denver. With practice, you’ll recognize the feel of a properly hydrated loaf. (Well . . . unless you’re using a bread machine, then you really are dependent upon a good recipe.)
Whole wheat flour is heavier and more dense than all-purpose flour. Because of this, the bread can have a harder time rising (the bubbles formed by the yeast have to do a lot more work lifting that heavier dough.) When the recipe calls for your dough to “double in size”, pay attention. You may need to let it rise a bit longer than you are used to. And learn to test your dough (see the great article from King Arthur flour here).
And finally, a nicely risen loaf of bread depends on the gluten network that forms during kneading. With whole wheat flour, the bran and germ present in the dough can cut and tear at these gluten strands, making it harder for them to form that network. One way around this is to add some regular all-purpose flour to replace the whole wheat. But if you’re committed to using 100% whole wheat, I recommend adding gluten to the recipe.
I assume that if you’re even looking at a whole wheat recipe, you have no issues with gluten sensitivity, as it will be present in spades no matter what you do.
Practice makes perfect, and that’s nowhere truer than in bread making. You need to refine your recipe to your climate (dry versus humid), your preferred flour (coarse or fine-ground whole wheat, and the technique for making it “whole wheat), and your proofing temperature (on a counter, in a pre-heated oven, or in a proofing station). So, keep track of what you used and make adjustments as you go. It won’t take long for you to refine your own whole wheat bread recipe to perfection.
Whole Wheat Bread with Honey
- 4 1/2 cups 100% Whole Wheat Flour I use King Arthur
- 1 1/2 cups Warm Water Approaching, but below 110F
- 1/3 cup Oil Olive oil if you have it. But other vegetable oil will work.
- 1/3 cup Honey Avoid organic or unpasteurized honey in bread baking as it can have a negative impact on the yeast. Rinse your measure with water before adding the honey and it will drop right out.
- 1 tsp Gluten Optional. But to get a good rise, you really do need it.
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1 tbsp Yeast
- In a medium bowl, mix water and yeast and let sit for a few minutes while you measure out the flour mixture.
- In a large bowl (or bowl of your stand mixer), whisk together the flour, gluten and salt.
- Add the oil and honey to the water and yeast. If you rinse your measure with water first, the oil and honey will pour right out.
- Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the liquid mixture. If kneading by hand, start pulling in the outside flour into the well to moisten, then knead until smooth and elastic. You will probably need to add additional water, about 1 tsp at a time. If using a dough hook, let the hook do it’s work for about the same length of time. See video on how to know when you’ve kneaded enough here.
- Place the kneaded dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl, rolling once to coat. Cover with wrap or a towel and let rise in a place with a consistent, relatively warm temperature, away from drafts. It needs to double in size, which will take about an hour at 68F room temperature.
- Remove the dough from the bowl (no need to “punch down”, shaping will do that). Slice the dough into two equal portions and gently shape into loaves (see video here.)
- Cover with oiled wrap and let the loaves rise again. The dome of the risen loaves should be about 1 knuckle-height above the edge of your loaf pan.
- Bake the loaves at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes. To test, you can actually remove a loaf from the pan, tap on the bottom and listen for a hollow sound. If it sounds too dull, put it back in for 3-4 minutes or so.