Homemade bread is one of those things I still marvel at. Especially whole wheat bread. When I was a kid, we ate plenty of whole wheat bread but it was always slices of pliable, airy bread from the supermarket. By the time I was in high school, my parents would buy baguettes and sourdough batards from the bakery down the street from our house, but whole wheat bread was always Milton's or Orowheat.
So perhaps that explains homemade wheat bread's enduring mystique, at least in my eyes. I've made French boules and baguettes and I have my heart set on making this sometime in the not-too-distant future, but recently I've been thinking about whole wheat bread. Something a bit denser, a bit more wholesome than the white breads I've made before. I poked around through my copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and found a recipe for 100% whole wheat sandwich bread and decided that it would mark my foray into wheat breads.
The way this bread smelled while it was baking- hot and sweet and milky- won me over from the start. It didn't expand in the oven as much as I expected- it remained a tapered loaf rather than a rectangular one- and it was denser than I had anticipated. But we ate slices warm from the oven, slathered with sweet butter, and it was difficult to imagine how it could be much better.
It's exciting to discover something you've eaten your whole life in a new form. I'll continue experimenting- I'm very curious about this buttermilk oatmeal bread, for example- but I'm fairly sure this recipe is one I'll be making again.
Adapted from 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread from Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois' Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Makes three 1 1/2-lb loaves (I made a half recipe)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp salt
1/2 cup honey
5-tbsp neutral-flavored oil plus more to grease loaf pan (I used grape seed)
6 2/3 whole wheat flour
Mis the yeast, salt, honey and oil with the milk and water in a large bowl. Mix in the whole wheat flour using a wooden spoon.
Cover (not airtight) and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, approximately 2-3 hours. You can either use the dough immediately or refrigerate in a closed container and use over the next 5 days.
When ready to bake, lightly grease a 9x5x3-inch nonstick loaf pan. Scoop out a 1 1/2lb handful of dough and shape into a ball. Drop the ball into the prepared loaf pan.
Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Flour the top of the loaf and slash the top using a serrated knife.
20 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350F with an empty broiler sheet on a shelf that won't interfere with the great. Place the loaf on a rack near the center of the oven and pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray. Bake loaf for 50-60 minutes, or until brown and firm.