A few years ago, Grant asked me what we would do if we ever needed to rely on using the wheat we have stored in our basement?
Me: What do you mean? I would make wheat bread.
Grant: Do we have a wheat grinder? How would we grind the wheat?
Me: WHAT?? You have to grind the wheat?
Uhhhh. I was raised on RICE. I didn’t know you had to grind the wheat. I have stored wheat for… going on 25 years. Up until just a few years ago, I had never opened a can of the wheat, EV-er. Are you wondering how this piece of information escaped me for so long?? Me too.
So, Grant bought a wheat grinder for me a couple of years ago.
And this year in January, I was asked to teach a class on bread making. Wheat bread. I’ve made a loaf here and there over the years. With what wheat, you say? I just bought wheat flour in the grocery store. It never occurred to me to (hello)open one of your 200 cans of wheat and grind up some fresh wheat flour. So I set out to learn all I could about wheat bread. I am still not an expert, but I did learn a thing or two about cooking with wheat. And now, I AM an expert at using my handy dandy Blendtec Wheat Grinder (a Utah based company).
Oatmeal Wheat Bread
2 cups whole milk
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking) plus additional for topping
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 cups whole-wheat flour
About 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
Vegetable oil for oiling bowl
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
2 8×4 loaf pans
Heat milk in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling, then remove pan from heat and stir in oats. Let stand, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cooled to warm.
Stir together water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon honey in a small bowl; let stand until foamy, 5 minutes. Stir yeast mixture, melted butter, and remaining honey into cooled oatmeal.
Stir together whole-wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add oat mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead with floured hands, adding just enough of remaining unbleached flour to keep from sticking, until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes (dough will be slightly sticky). If using a mixer, or Kitchenaid, use dough hook and mix for about 10 minutes until dough forms a ball and all flour is mixed in. Add up to 1 cup of additional flour if needed. Transfer to an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel; let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 hour.
Lightly grease loaf pans. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times to remove air. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a loaf, then place 1 loaf in each pan, seam side down, tucking ends gently to fit. Cover loaf pans loosely with a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Put oven rack in lower half of oven and preheat to 375°F. Lightly brush tops of loaves with some of egg wash and sprinkle with oats, then bake until bread is golden about 30 minutes. Remove bread from pans and transfer to a rack to cool.
-I tried both hard red and hard white wheat while experimenting. If you have not cooked with wheat before, try using the hard white wheat. It’s mild in flavor and texture, and I think a bit easier to use if you are trying to convert your family from white to wheat flour. It has the same nutritive benefit as hard red wheat.
-This recipe is a good one to use if you are just starting out using wheat. Since the recipe has 2 cups of white flour, it is mild in flavor and texture.
-I found this handy bit of info on the internet, a few faq’s about baking with wheat:
FAQs on Whole Wheat Bread Baking
Why doesn’t my bread rise very well?
Well the answer to this question has a few different possibilities. One is expectation! If you have done a lot of baking with white flour you will feel your whole wheat bread is not rising well. In fact, whole wheat breads don’t rise as much due to the lack of gluten in the flour.
-Adding gluten flour to your bread will help this. If you have used or read my bread recipe you will see I add gluten flour to my bread in order to get it to rise better. About 1/3 cup of gluten flour added to any 2 loaf whole wheat bread recipe should show an improvement.
-Another possibility with bread not rising well is our dated or improperly stored yeast. Check to make sure your yeast is good. You can do a simple check by putting a teaspoon of yeast into a small bowl, add a pinch of sugar and a couple of tablespoons of very warm water, mix and wait a few minutes. The mixture should bubble and foam. If it does not, it may be too old. Make sure you store your yeast in the fridge or freezer to keep it fresh.
-Kneading is another problem, or lack of kneading I should say. If you don’t knead the bread enough it will not rise well. You should knead your bread, a 12 to 15 minutes by hand, 7 to 10 minutes with a Kitchen aid type mixer or 4 to 5 minutes with a Bosch type mixer.
This is what happens when you don’t knead your bread long enough…see loaf on left.
-Using the wrong whole wheat flour can also cause bread rising difficulties. Make sure you are using whole wheat BREAD flour. This may also be called “hard winter wheat”, or “hard red wheat” or “Hard white wheat”. The other type of whole wheat flour is “soft white wheat”, a.k.a., “pastry flour”. Soft white wheat does not have the protein needed to develop the gluten and therefore your bread won’t do as well with this type of flour. Save pastry flour for quick breads, it does beautifully with those.
Why does my bread come out flat on top or collapse?
-This question is fairly easy to answer. My first guess would be that your bread has over risen. When I am making my bread I allow it rise about 1 inch above the top of the bread pans. Wheat breads under good circumstances, i.e., not too cool in the kitchen, not to hot or humid, etc.. will take anywhere from 30 to 34 minutes on the final rising. It can take longer or shorter if any of the above conditions apply.
-If you find your bread is collapsing during baking then it could mean your oven temperature is too low. This will cause the dough to keep rising as it is baking and then to fall before it has gotten hot enough to set. Use a thermometer to check and verify that your oven is correct.
Why are my whole wheat breads so heavy?
-I have found that if I want a nice soft whole wheat bread to serve to my family then I have to add gluten flour. If you are adding gluten flour but still find that your bread dough is heavy, make sure you are kneading long enough and make sure you are using the proper flour.
What is gluten flour?
-Gluten flour also referred to as “vital wheat gluten” and should not be confused with a dough enhancer. Gluten is an important feature in making whole wheat breads. Gluten flour comes from wheat flour. It is the protein that is found in flour. This is what will give your bread a nice soft texture, not commonly found with whole wheat breads. Using gluten is what will often make the difference between a nice loaf of bread and a door stop!