Baking with Whole Wheat Flour – Baby Steps

Hey there.
So I’ve spent the day writing (YAY), making candles (YAY), and baking more bread for our household use.
My life is so hard, I know. πŸ˜‰
Having read Cooked a couple of weeks ago, and having, as a result, been “suffering” feelings of inadequacy in the cooking-from-scratch department, and having found a medium-sized bag of whole wheat flour – advertised as “perfect for muffins” and so, in theory at least, a grind that is closer to “pastry/soft” than “bread/hard” flour – on at half-price when I hit up the grocery store last week, I have decided to start adding (some) whole wheat flour to my dialy bread recipe.
My first batch was 1/4 whole wheat to 3/4 polished/white flour. Today’s batch (batch #2) was 3/8 whole wheat to 5/8 polished/white flour. I think there’s a reasonable chance that I could up it to half and half and still get a tasty, flavourful, easy-rising loaf of bread using my current method (which is basically “make a wet dough” that can be stirred rather than kneaded, and use “quick rising” (fine grind) dried yeast in the mix).
I confess that I was really worried that my attempts at even partially whole-wheat bread would turn out dense, heavy, and kind of bitter. But, so far, this is working.
Part of it, I suspect, is that my whole wheat flour has the bran part – which is apparent kind of sharp and, as such, tends to pop the bubbles that make the bread rise – ground relatively fine, which makes for fewer bubble-popping problems in the dough. I think. The other part, maaaaaaaaaaaaybe, is that I mix the whole-wheat flour in with the yeast and sugar and warm water, rather than adding it, dry, to the mix along with the white flour. In theory, this is a way of pre-soaking the bran (and getting the yeasty digestion started earlier on it, too) before the whole business really starts becoming “dough”.
I’m really liking the results. I mean, beyond the Hearty Hippie Righteousness of putting whole-grain anything into my bread, the bread actually tastes good which was NOT the case the last time I tried to bake with whole wheat flour.
Maybe this is because I’m adding a tiny bit of extra salt to the dough. Or maybe it’s because – in the intervening ten years – I’ve learned to brush the tops of my just-out-of-the-oven bread with some butter in order to keep the crust from becoming a hard-to-cut-through shell. Or maybe it’s because I bake bread (and other stuff, but in this case bread) often enough that my flour doesn’t have time to, uhm, go rancid(?) on me, and my yeast doesn’t have time to get “old” or “tired out” beofre I use it (and thus has fairly vigourous levening powers when it gets used).
Regardless, it’s going over well with The Wife (and The Parrot, who probably shouldn’t be fed as much bread as I give her) and tastes good with savoury things (like as the base for a pulled-pork sandwich or as toast-with-marmite) and sweet things (toast with apple butter is particularly awesome – have yet to try it with something more “delicate” like cocoa-infused strawberry-balsamic jam, but I’ll get to it eventually).
It’s nice to think, too, that I’m getting something more than just calories (maybe even the odd mineral here and there!) from this bit of home-baking that makes up so much of my day-to-day diet.
I’m definitely not at the 100% Whole Wheat bread-baking stage of this game, and may never (or not) opt to bake things like cakes and tea-biscuits with whole wheat flour. But it’s a step. And it may be followed by another step. Who knows where this will lead? πŸ˜‰
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

One response to “Baking with Whole Wheat Flour – Baby Steps

  1. My wife bakes with whole-wheat flour all the time, and she frequently adds in oats, too. Something you can try to achieve a smoother texture with your whole wheat flour is to run it through a sieve or a strainer. This will remove the larger bits in the mix and leave you with a much finer melange. Also, whole-wheat flour is heavier than white flour, so you’re going to need extra rising agent. Good luck!

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