At last a loaf recipe, for everyday toast and sandwiches, that is made only with whole wheat flour! The process is quite traditional and the hands-on work is not much. The crumb is soft and delicious, and it's the perfect bread to have sliced and frozen at all times.
My experience with 100% whole wheat bread is that it was hard to create a soft crumb. They usually ended up being too dense and tight. That is because this type of flour is much heavier and doesn't have as much gluten as its white counterpart. Well, this recipe comes along to put an end to that!
I'm not much of a big breakfast eater but I do love freshly made toast in the morning with my coffee. And that bread needs to be more nutritious than the regular white type. I also make this easy rye sandwich bread recipe or the popular whole wheat mountain bread, but they now hold second and third places to this recipe today.
Why this recipe works
- Crumb. It's soft but has structure, not too dense and heavy as many breads that don't contain white flour.
- Easy. It can be made by hand or with a stand mixer (both options are in the recipe card). And even though it has a sponge, it's a straight dough bread and that means that you mix and knead the dough, let it rise, form, let it rise again, and bake it. Different from overnight (or retarded) doughs that need to rest in the refrigerator.
- Flavor. It has a clean, balanced wheat flavor, not too coarse and just a whiff of sweetness from the honey.
- Versatile. It can be made in loaf pans and also as individual rolls, similar to the Whole wheat Oatmeal bread recipe. And it freezes wonderfully!
They are few, easy to get and you probably have them all in your kitchen right now.
- Yeast - I use dry (active dry or instant) because it keeps very well for a long time when stored in the refrigerator. You can also use fresh yeast. This recipe works with all of them.
- Whole wheat flour - superfine or fine is the type you want to achieve a fine, tender crumb.
- Oil - any type works. I use organic sunflower or olive oil. Melted butter also can be used.
- Honey - it works really well with whole wheat. But sugar can be used also.
- Liquid - milk (any type, regular or low-fat) and water.
- Salt - I like to use kosher, but you can use table salt or even sea salt.
How to make this bread
This is a yeast bread that requires making a sponge first. It takes little time: just a minute to mix and then 10 more minutes to activate.
Mixing the dough
- Sponge: you simply need to mix some of the flour, a little honey, the yeast and liquid to make a shaggy, wet mixture. Images 1 and 2
- The dough: the sponge gets the yeast going and then you add the rest of the ingredients to it. One after the other as specified in the recipe card (at the end of the post). Then it's a matter of mixing first, until it's thick and you can't incorporate any more flour with the spoon, and then kneading. Images 3 to 6
- By hand: you need about 10 minutes and some arm muscle. Doughs with only whole wheat flour, even if it's superfine, are heavier to knead than regular white bread.
- Stand mixer: this is a great way to make bread often if you don't want to knead by hand. Simply use the dough hook for about 7-8 minutes at medium speed. The dough will form a ball and leave the sides of the bowl.
- When is the dough ready: this is the trickiest part of most bread making recipes that use yeast. As usual, practice makes perfect, but in the meantime, you have to make sure the dough is not dry (see image 7, below). That dough needs a little more water, a tablespoon or two, before being ready to rest and proof.
- Proofing the dough: this is the part were you put it in a bowl and let it double in size. It allows the dough to rest and the yeast to do its thing. After it's doubled, you have to punch it down (image 8) to allow the gas that formed to escape.
Shaping the dough
- Make a rectangle the width of the pan you're going to use.
- Start rolling it from the long side, similar to when making cinnamon rolls. Make sure to seal it before making the next roll (image 9). This will prevent air bubbles from forming as much as possible during baking and creating holes in the crumb.
- Cover the bottom of the pan with oats (image 10), polenta, or some extra whole wheat flour. This will prevent it from sticking.
- After you place it in the pan, press it down with your hand (image 11). This will help in making the loaf as even as possible.
My top tips
- Yeast: if the sponge doesn't bubble and/or puff up in some way, that means that it's not working, so don't go ahead with the rest of the recipe because the bread will not rise. Buy new yeast and start again.
- Resting time: it's important to let the yeast do its job and double the size of the bread dough. The place where you put the bowl has to be tempered, that is mild temperature. If it's too hot it will rise too quickly and if it's too cold will not rise as much as it should. Both situations are not good. I sometimes put it inside the turned-off microwave or wrap the bowl in a blanket or sweater (yes I do) when the kitchen is too cold.
- Kneading: make sure the dough is kneaded until soft and smooth, yet slightly sticky. This is fine because after the first rise it will lose most of its stickiness. Make sure you knead 10 minutes by hand or about 8 minutes in the stand mixer because the gluten needs to develop for the bread to rise as it should.
- Storing: this bread keeps well for a week in the refrigerator and for a month in the freezer. In both cases make sure it's well wrapped so that it doesn't dry out quickly. If freezing, I highly recommend slicing it first. That way you can make fresh toast whenever you want. Otherwise, you will have to defrost the whole bread.
Related recipes you might like:
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For the sponge:
- ½ cup water, warm
- 3 teaspoons dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 cup fine whole wheat flour
For the dough:
- 1 cup milk, warm
- 1 cup water, warm
- ¼ cup runny honey
- 4 tablespoons oil, or melted butter
- 4-5 cups whole wheat superfine flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
For the sponge:
- By hand: in a bowl put the warm water, flour, honey, yeast, and mix a little.
- Leave 10 minutes. It will bubble and become spongy. If it doesn’t don’t go any further because it means the yeast is not working.
- Stand mixer: mix the sponge in the mixer bowl directly.
For the dough:
- Stir the sponge and add the milk, honey, oil, 2 cups of the flour, and mix a little.
- Add the salt and half of the warm water.
- Mix well and add flour until it becomes a heavy mixture, adding the rest of the water as needed. You might not use all the liquid, maybe a tablespoon or two less. The batter will be thick but soft, it will not be floury.
- By hand: turn onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 8-10 minutes. It will be a little sticky but add flour only if necessary.
- Stand mixer: attach the dough hook and knead for about 8 minutes at medium speed, adding extra flour only if needed, if the dough is not pulling out from the sides after 5-6 minutes.
- Put in an oiled or greased bowl, turn so that the entire surface is greased, cover, and let rise until it doubles in volume in a draft-free, tempered place.
- Transfer the dough to a clean countertop and punch down lightly to let out the gas.
- Divide the dough into two parts and sprinkle two loaf pans with oats or polenta.
- Form into logs, rolling the dough (as for cinnamon rolls) but making sure to press the edges with each roll to ensure there are no (or very few) air holes when the bread is baked. There is a video with the step-by-step in the post above, showing how-to from the loaves.
- Put the formed logs in the prepared pans, cover, and leave to rise until doubled, about 30-40 minutes. Being all whole wheat, this bread will rise very, very little in the oven so allow it to rise well this last time.
- Turn the oven to 350°F/180°C about 15 minutes before baking.
- Bake loaves for about 50 minutes, or until golden brown, dry and bottoms sound hollow when lightly tapped.
- Let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.
if the sponge doesn't bubble and/or puff up in some way, that means that it's not working, so don't go ahead with the rest of the recipe because the bread will not rise. Buy new yeast and start again.
Resting time: it's important to let the yeast do its job and double the size of the bread dough. The place where you put the bowl has to be tempered, that is mild temperature. If it's too hot it will rise too quickly and if it's too cold will not rise as much as it should. Both situations are not good. I sometimes put it inside the turned-off microwave or wrap the bowl in a blanket or sweater (yes I do) when the kitchen is too cold.
Kneading: make sure the dough is kneaded until soft and smooth, yet slightly sticky. This is fine because after the first rise it will lose most of its stickiness. Make sure you knead 10 minutes by hand or about 8 minutes in the stand mixer because the gluten needs to develop for the bread to rise as it should.
Storing: this bread keeps well for a week in the refrigerator and for a month in the freezer. In both cases make sure it's well wrapped so that it doesn't dry out quickly. If freezing, I highly recommend slicing it first. That way you can make fresh toast whenever you want. Otherwise, you will have to defrost the whole bread.
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 45
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: International
Keywords: whole wheat bread