Whole Wheat Bread That Doesn’t Suck

whole wheat bread
After many, many unsuccessful attempts, success!
So, OK, if you follow any of the food news about azodicarbonamide in bread. If you don’t, just know it’s completely safe… in the USA. Most other countries ban its use in food products, and the FDA even admits it causes cancer in female rats. NPR takes an objective look at the chemical (used as a dough conditioner) that the makers of yoga mats also use in the manufacturing process.

How unhealthy is azodicarbonamide? In all honesty, I don’t know. I forgot to get my chemistry degree in college, and I know all too well how article after article about all the things that can kill you has a tendency to make you want to go get a Happy Meal, head to the beach, and lather up with baby oil while drinking gallons of diet soda mixed with moonshine. 

I also know baking bread isn’t like making a time machine; we shouldn’t need 1.21 gigawatts and laboratory-grade plutonium to turn yeast, flour and water into bread. That, coupled with the meditative effects baking has on me, prompted me to search for a bread recipe to replace the four dollar, store-bought, potentially carcinogenic loaf of bread.

The thing is, gluten is a fickle master, and while I have no problem making white bread, I actually don’t eat white bread. I prefer whole wheat, which is a cruel master. After several failed attempts – which were harder on all my test subjects than they ever were on me – I think I’ve found a recipe that works pretty damn well. I’ve adapted it from the King Arthur Flour web site.

1 packet active dry yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
1 to 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water (this will vary depending on humidity)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup molasses (honey or maple syrup should work)
3 1/2 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup nonfat dried milk
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Combine all of the ingredients; stir until dough pulls away from bowl.

Let the dough rest for 20 minutes. According to King Arthur, “this gives the flour a chance to absorb some of the liquid, and the bran to soften.” Since my chief complaint about most recipes I’ve tried is tough, chewy, overly dense loaves, this step is crucial.

Oil a glass cutting board (or other non-porous surface) and knead the bread for five minutes. Do not knead too long. Once the dough turns into a smooth ball, stop. If it starts to get stretchy, you’ve gone too far.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover the bowl with a towel. It will rise (don’t expect it to double); it should look puffy, and this can take anywhere from one and two hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Oil a loaf pan (I sprat mine with cooking spray) and shape the dough to fit. Put the dough in the pan and cover it loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

Allow the dough to rise until the center of the dough goes about one inch above the pan rim. In my Florida kitchen, I let the dough rise for three hours, although that was more a convention of us going out to get oysters than anything else.

Bake in a 350º oven for 45 minutes. After 20 minutes, ten the pan with aluminum foil. This, according to King Arthur, prevents over-browning.

King Arthur also promises the finished loaf will register 190º. Mine never went above 180º, and that was after an hour.

Cool on a wire rack; do not slice until completely cool. Store in a freezer-safe bag, because whatever you don’t use in the first few days can be frozen before it goes bad (no chemicals means the bread has no preservatives, which means it won’t have a Twinkie-like shelf life).

This is the only whole wheat bread I’ve made that tastes like bread, and good bread at that.

If one loaf yields 16 slices, here’s the nutritional information for one slice (courtesy, again, of King Arthur):

Calories: 150
Fat: 3.5 g
Sodium: 200 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 24 g
     Dietary Fiber: 3 g
     Sugars: 5 g
Protein: 5 g

For those of you following Weight Watchers, one slice costs 4 PointsPlus, but as with most whole wheat breads, it’s filling enough that you can cut a slice in half and make a fine sandwich. 
Enjoy!
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