Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Whole Wheat bread

Key to making whole wheat bread is to first get to know the high hydration requirements of whole wheat flour and secondly giving up the attraction for fancy shapes that white bread can be made into. When it comes to whole wheat bread, taste, texture and most importantly health are the highlights. If you want a golden glossy 5 strand braided wreath bread, please stick to white bread (it will look pretty on one's coffin as they say "the whiter your bread, the sooner you're dead!"). There is not much shaping possible with this bread.
This is the second post for whole wheat bread. This one is different in that it is a little lighter as there are no potatoes and I also found this was closer to the store bought wheat bread as regards the crumb and the ease of slicing.
For a small little loaf that can be polished off by two people at breakfast you will need:
- 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
- 5/6 cup of water *
- 1/6 cup of olive oil * (any liquid fat is fine, be healthy and choose a good kind)
- 3/4 tsp dry yeast
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- Salt
- Spices/nuts/seeds ** (optional add-ons)
- 1 Tbsp White flour i.e. maida - for handling the sticky dough. Lesser you use the better, although no more than 1 Tbsp.

(*The weird water to oil proportions are because I had to write in some numbers. The basis is 1 1/2 cup flour to 1 cup fluid (oil+water). Easy measuring is explained below)

Getting started. Warm roughly 1/4 - 1/3 cup of water. You should be able to hold your finger in the water comfortably (60 degrees C precisely). Add the warm water to the yeast and sugar, stir and keep side while you measure out the whole wheat flour in a large bowl. Add the salt and add-ons if using.

** Digression: Whole wheat flour uses the whole wheat berry i.e. the bran and the germ that contains oil is also ground into the flour. This oil is what gives the bread a more full nutty taste when fresh but is also responsible for the slightly bitter taste associated with whole wheat bread. The oil in the germ turns rancid due to contact with water. The bitter taste is very mild and does not at all mean that the bread is going bad. It can be felt only when eating the bread plain without toasting and if you are very discerning of such mild changes in taste. However, bitterness is bitterness and most whole wheat bread recipes contain some additives to mask it (I know of a recipe that uses orange juice!). Choose wisely at most one or two additives from each of these two groups.
Spices: (dry) oregano, thyme, rosemary, black pepper, crushed garlic.
Nuts/seeds: Sunflower kernels, watermelon seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame, walnuts. I used caraway (ajwain) + sesame in this one.

Back to the bread; your yeast should be frothy and bubbly by now. Pour it into your cup measure and add more water well above ¾ of the cup but not full. Then top up the cup to the brim with olive oil. This will get you close to the 5/6 water to 1/6 oil ratio. Pour the brimming cup of fluid into the dry ingredients and mix until all wet. Knead with the dough hook attachments on your and mixer for about 7-10 minutes. I don’t recommend hand kneading; it gets very sticky and you will waste a lot trying to clean your hands and hand kneading requires a good 20-25mins of kneading.
If you have made white bread before don’t expect the same smooth, springy dough. It is going to be a shaggy dough and definitely avoid attempting a paning test; it won’t pass. Scrape the sides of the bowl and the dough hooks to gather the dough to the center and keep covered to rise. There is no additional kneading on the counter top to make a ball, it can rise as such in the bowl.

In an hour or two your dough should have risen to double its volume. Grease your loafpan and keep ready. I find vegetable shortening (vanaspati/dalda) is the best for greasing. It’s horrible to taste and unhealthy to eat but excellent for greasing. It does not get into the bread. You can find it remaining in the pan once the loaf is out. Using a rubber spatula deflate the dough and gather it to the middle of the bowl. Heavily flour your counter top/kneading surface and your hands using some of the 1 Tbsp white flour. Turn out the dough onto your counter top and sprinkle on top some of the white flour. With as few as 6 to 10 light strokes pat it smooth and shape it into a log. Remember; do not work the white flour into the dough. It is supposed to remain at the surface to prevent sticking (to your hands and the counter). Plop the shaped log into your prepared loafpan and give it a shake for the log to settle in snuggly. Let rise another 30-40 minutes and bake at 180 degrees C for 35-40 minutes. Knocking on the bottom of the pan should produce a hollow sound. Remove from pan and slice when cooled completely.

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