A yeasted bread recipe for everyday toast and sandwiches 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.
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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. This 100% whole wheat sandwich bread is exactly that.
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, 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 as individual rolls, similar to the Whole wheat Oatmeal bread recipe. And it freezes wonderfully!
- Types of yeast: besides active-dry yeast, you can use instant yeast (¾ of the amount given for active-dry) and add it to the flour, then add the water. Or fresh yeast (3 teaspoons) that you crumble and mix with the water first.
- Whole wheat flour: superfine or fine is the type you want to achieve a fine, tender crumb. You can find it online like 365 organic whole wheat flour.
- 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 also be used.
- Liquid: milk (any type, regular or low-fat) and water.
- Salt: I like to use kosher salt when baking. But regular table salt works just fine.
How to make whole wheat 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 and kneading
- By hand: you need about 10 minutes and some arm muscle. Doughs with only whole wheat flour, even 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. 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.
Sponge: you simply need to mix some of the flour, a little honey, yeast, and liquid to make a shaggy, wet mixture.
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.
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. That dough needs a little more water, a tablespoon, before being ready to rest and proof.
Vintage Kitchen tip: always err on a wetter dough rather than a dry one. By wetter, I mean that you add an extra tablespoon of water because you're not sure, not an extra half cup. The dough must be supple and manageable.
Proofing the dough: this is the part where 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 must punch it down to allow the gas that formed to escape.
Form the loaf: make a rectangle with the dough that's the width of the pan. Start rolling it from the long side (similar to cinnamon rolls), sealing it before making the next roll. 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, polenta, or whole wheat flour. This will prevent it from sticking.
- Stand mixer: this is a super handy small appliance for making bread if you don't want to knead it by hand. I use the Kitchen Aid Artisan mini mixer or the Kitchen Aid Artisan classic mixer, depending on the amount of bread dough I make.
- Dough scraper: it's a life savor when kneading by hand to scrape the pieces of dough stuck to the counter. And it's great to handle and cut the dough when mixing and forming the loaves.
- Organization: read the recipe first and ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier.
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer(like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- 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 for 10 minutes by hand or for about 8 minutes in the stand mixer because the gluten needs to develop for the bread to rise as it should.
- Storing: the 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.
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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